I really like the subject and composition in this Tuscan vineyard landscape. I have been working on an oil painting of this view since January. But I became attached to too many things in the painting.
Attachment is a deadly thing that kills creativity, unless it is acknowledged and used as a creative force.
Realizing I was attached to something in the painting, I set it across the room and put a clean piece of paper on the drawing table. This did two important things. It acknowledged my attachment issue AND created space to solve it.
Two main issues got solved with this Tuscan Vineyard Landscape
1 – Working with a Diagonal Composition
The first is the slanted mountain repeated twice across the painting. When working with a diagonal composition, a counter-balancing element must lead the eye back to center. Since I didn’t want to give up the hillside, I chose instead to use the vertical cypress trees to bring the eye down. And the buildings to wedge the slanted focus back to center.
Notice how the tree in the foreground anchors your eye back to the signature corner with it’s shadow.
2 – Resolving the Busy-ness
The second element is the subject matter itself. So many buildings and so many trees can get busy very quickly. In the oil painting, I became too enamored with them, and the vineyard itself.
Stopping myself from going in circles on the oil painting was a good thing. Still I was reluctant to give up my attachment to all the details.
Switching gears, I started fresh with the small pastel. Painting from the oil painting, I blocked in the simplest shapes. The smaller scale helped me see only the most dominant shapes.
In the pastel, I attached the buildings in the middle ground together. I also moved the foreground building closer to them. This allows the viewer to see the structures more as a single unit. Do you see how the foreground trees complete the wedge shape of the buildings?
Insights for Life
As usual, solving something on canvas solves something in life. I often don’t see it until I write about it. Both of these issues do have parallels in life. I see how I have solved a slanted life issue by structuring an integrated unit of well-formed compositions. And I see something else too about mitigating busy-ness ~ but that’s a subject for another post!
I’m still transferring my new filter from the pastel to the oil painting. I’ll post it soon.
A thought was murmuring in the back of my mind, but I was ignoring it. When a friend visited, she brought it to the surface.
“The nest doesn’t really show up.” she queried about my pastel of the osprey nest.
“No,” I replied unconcerned.
A day later the thought about my nest is now front and center. If I COULD, how would I highlight it against the deep Ultramarine cloud without it being garish
Pondering, I continued painting other canvases. Could I lighten the cloud? No that won’t work. The intense Ultramarine Blue cloud is what gives the whole painting depth.
Could I highlight the nest? No way, the nest is is shadowed by the cloud. It isn’t out on the point in the light. It’s at the back of the cove, sheltered and safe.
What if I scratch an orange line on the underside of the nest? Can I do it right the first time without messing up the whole painting? Maybe.
Tweaking the Nest
Scanning the pastel palette, I found a gold pastel with a sharp edge. Carefully I rolled it down the left side of the nest and pole. Then added one more mark at the top of the nest ~ just a spark of light reflected up from the sand.
Feeling the light on the beach, I ran the same pastel gently across the shadow side of the sand. Then found a pink highlight and touched it softly just in front of the nest.
Stepping back I found a soft blue pastel for a soft atmospheric mist behind the nest. Careful not to disturb the deep blues, I touched it only on one side.
Now I must say that all of the symbolism of the nest is not lost on me. I get it, or at least I think I do. I am a shy person. My nest is my studio and this website. Tweaking it is what I do. Shining a light on myself is not comfortable. Much better to let light from the landscape around me reflect on my nest.
And my friend? Oh she lives in a tree house!
Now if you want to delve deeper, ask yourself about the osprey. What does she do in her nest? What does she symbolize?
Last week I wrote about my new palette. When twelve large tubes of Charvin oil paint arrived at the studio, I made up a swatch palette of the new colors. Even though some colors are the same, many times they will be different from a different manufacturer.
The Raw Sienna jumped out immediately as very different from my tube or Rembrandt Raw Sienna. Yellower and brighter, the Charvin pigment is less green than Rembrandt tube. I was also anxious to compare the French Yellow Deep with my Gamblin Cadmium Yellow Deep and Medium. Much more transparent than Cadmium colors, yet rich and deep in hue. I like it. It mixes nicely with the greens.
I don’t want to get into too much detail about individual colors here. Rather I want to show you how they impacted the painting on my easel.
I made swatches of each new color, full strength, medium, and tint. I find it helpful to see how a color looks mixed with white to show its mid-range, how it looks as an almost white, and straight from the tube.
Then I headed for the easel. As you can see I’ve already squeezed some of them down pretty well in less than a week! I used that Gray Green (upper left tube) to base coat two large canvases for a tulip garden diptych. More on that later.
Every person has an aura of colors that they are innately drawn to. While these may evolve over time, we ALL know what we like!
Since the late 70s when I began working in pastel, my palette has grown and evolved. Even though I haven’t spent much time with pastels in the last ten years, touching them again is like visiting with my best friend. Instantly, our colors jive and we resonate harmoniously.
My Bridge between Pastels & Oils
So here’s what happened on the easel when we connected! The oil painting I’d been struggling with all month melted like butter on my palette knife. The feeling of Tuscan atmosphere in October transferred from my two pastels into paint.
Side by side, it’s easy to see the close relationship between the two pastels and the oil. Drawing elements are more exposed in one, while painterly blends create light in the other. The oil painting melds these light and grounding elements together.
The funny thing to me is that when doing the two pastels, I thought I was doing two DIFFERENT versions. Yet now they appear very much the same to me.
At first I judged the first pastel to be ‘too disjointed, disconnected.’ When I attempted another try, it felt too linear, the colors too earthy. Howeve, together I felt them sufficient to go back to the oil. In several more painting sessions I brought them together.
Funny to see this detail beside my pastel palette of grays. Unison pastels, painterly mixtures developed by John Hersey, are very different from manufactured pastels. Instead of using white and black to lighten and darken pure pigments ~ Hersey mixes colors like a painter.
Hersey creates his grays by blending complimentary and analogous colors. These grays have color identity and resonance. Even his darks are alive with colorful pigments. The sticks are broad and durable, easily stroked sideways to create wide swaths of stunning color that is full of light.
Light is the word. For a painter the challenge is learning to see the light. When you compare the two details of this painting, you can see light in the dark shadows of the mountain.
In the lights, you see spectral light. Clouds are not white. The are Cobalt Violet, Cadmium Red Deep, Vermillion, and Ultramarine. When mixed to tint strength (as in the palette of pastels above), it takes some practice to see and feel these subtlties.
As in life itself, we are accustomed to seeing bold contrasts of light against dark. Taking time to readjust the senses. Take a breath of fresh air. Letting all the colors in you out ~ after a little bit subtle ones seep in. Looking for light in dark places changes the color of everything ~ even life itself!