Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Lay of the Land




View of Naarden by Jacob Van Ruisdael (Image source Wikimedia commons)

Although I have been focused on making collages just lately, I am not immune to the lure of the landscape. Landscape painting has always been my first love, and every now and then I see a place, frame it in my mind, and think to myself, "Wow, that would make a nice painting!", and hope that I'll get around to actually painting it. This time I decided to make the effort to do just that.

Every morning and every evening when I am either taking out or bringing home our sheep, I walk up the rise behind our farm to our back pasture. There is a view of the village of St. Chrysostome from the top of the hill which I find especially appealing. It puts me in mind of some of the landscape paintings of the seventeenth century Dutch masters. The image is dominated by the sky as the horizon line is set low and the spires of the village church are seen in the distance. The overall effect is one of great space and is a reminder that humanity's place in the world is really rather small. Well, at least that's how I see it.
The spires of St. Jean-Chrysostome from my back pasture (photo © the artist)

It felt strange to sit down in front of the easel again. I haven't touched my oil paints for many months. Nevertheless, I am finding the process familiar but also invigoratingly new. Here is the tonal drawing on canvas for my new landscape:

I don't always go to such lengths to establish the general areas of a painting but, as I haven't painted in so long, I dread screwing things up. I decided to be extra careful rather than risk wasting a perfectly good (and expensive) linen canvas.

So much of the painting is taken up by the sky that the sky really requires a great deal of attention. People often look at the sky and see blue, white and a little grey. Careful observation will show that the sky is so much more than that. The photo below shows my efforts in colour mixing for the clouds and sky. Note the ochres, browns and pinks on the paper towel.
This is where I finished today. The painting is blocked in from the darkest areas to midtones and the general colour scheme is established. You can't see the church towers because I haven't put them in yet- there is so much to do before I get down to that level detail. I'll be back at it again tomorrow!

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