Thursday, October 6, 2016

Starting Fall

    Trestle Bridge, Arnold's Neck, oil on canvas, 9x12

     This Post intends to introduce various aspects of  painting problems and steps towards their solution.  Those enrolled in my current course, "Gesture and Color in Impressionist Painting" may benefit from some of the discussion and examples here.
    The first example is the plein-air sketch above.  I have always been fascinated with the view of this trestle bridge which sees the Acela scream over it.  The view has considerable interest for me because of the small cove at Arnold's Neck (Warwick, RI) which is most interesting at low tide, when the purplish mud appears and numerous waterfowl gather.  In this particular sketch I attempted to resolve issues from many a prior sketch.  Some of the problems of the earlier sketches were compositional-- I centered the bridge on the canvas, for example. Most of the others showed a scattered focus among the interesting elements in the outdoor scene before me.  Was the painting about the waterfowl, a small white boat docked nearby, a couple of buildings on the shore, the low tide itself, or the bridge itself?.  Clearly, I needed to work on the very first phase of plein-air painting:  scene selection and simplification.  From the painted sketch above, there is still more work to be done. In this case, shaping the muddy areas including puddles to lead the eye more effectively to the area of interest--the bridge.  Additionally, the waterfowl can be dispersed in such a way as to again lead the eye.
   Another approach is to begin a new sketch which de-emphasizes the foreground low tide area.  One such approach is the following which produces more of a sky painting:

    Trestle Bridge at Arnold's Neck, oil on wood, 8x10

       During the past week I decided to do tree studies , a subject that becomes increasingly important as autumn begins and even more so as the transition to winter begins.  This first oil sketch, done at Goddard Park in Warwick, RI, had as its stars two trees, one a type of cedar and the one behind it possibly a beech tree:

    Tree Study, oil on canvas, 11x14

    The trees were indeed on a sloping hill.  In the grass I suggested a path that wound between the two trees.  The path was an afterthought, an answer to the question of how one could turn a study into a painting.  I worked this idea into a second sketch done a couple of days ago:

   Tree Study (no. 2), oil on linen, 8x10

    That sketch needs more work in defining middle ground and background elements, but does suggest that this could become an interesting painting with the suggestion of two or three figures in the middle ground.

   As a note in technique, both the tree studies were begun with an acrylic underpainting in brown and white to lock in values.

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