Above is a location that I painted last week. It is near the village of Sugar Hill in the whiote Mountains of New Hampshire. I painted here because Banks gallery of New London is doing a show in Sugar hill at one of those big old wooden resort hotels from the 19th century and wanted some local images.
The first thing I did was to throw a little tone on the white panel to back off the white a little bit. Then I began drawing with my brush.
I knew that the problem facing me was that the landscape was so broad and I wanted as much of it as I could get. Placement of the various elements on the canvas was going to be tricky and I wanted to be sure to get that right before going on. I knew I was going to have to simplify and decrease the breadth of almost every passage because my canvas was 18 x 24. If I was working 18 x 54 I would not have had to do that, but then I would have needed to lay down to paint it.
Here I am putting down the mass drawing in raw umber and a little thinner. I don't want to use any white as that will end my ability to shove it around with a rag on the canvas. It was pretty warm and the paint was very thin and my panel somewhat absorbent, so it was flash drying, which I like.
I am starting to add some color now with a number 12 (thats big) nylon brush. I have been fooling around with some nylon brushes lately. They are softer than the bristle and give a different sort of a mark. I think I like them for lay ins as I can draw with their edges and they lay very thin paint nicely too. I am moving fairly quickly here. I have a pretty complete monochrome drawing so it is easier to work it up in color now.
I am dtill doing all of this with that one big #12 brush. Well almost all anyway, I used a #4 bristle here and there, such as in the drawing of those birch trees and to lay the color on them in the next stage below.
Here is what I brought home, after an hour or so refining it in the studio. I made a few improvements, for instance the birches along that pathway on the left were dead, so I resurrected them by putting some wispy leaves art there top. I was thinking about Corot as I did that. I emphasized the golden rod because I love that stuff. It has a great color and takes the painting into late summer as that is when it blooms. I was still unhappy with the water and the negative shape at 6 o clock formed to the left of that little bush. It seemed too regular and geometric.
Here is the painting after I have reworked the water to get a different and I hope more refined reflection and ripple pattern. I also reworked that little foreground bush. Since the deadline for the show isn't till next week, I will stick the painting onto the shelf that runs along one side of my studio and look at it for a few days to see if anything about it bugs me. If not, its done and off to the show it goes!
Deb asked me this is the comments.
How do you balance the need to sell a few paintings here and there and thus to "produce", with the burning conviction that nothing you "produce" is really worthwhile, and the time would be better spent studying and practicing? Its almost like my artistic life is divided into the financial constraints of needing to have stuff "out there" to sell on one hand, and the need for personal growth and spiritual connection with the art on the other.
Is it better to disappear from the gallery scene for awhile and retreat to learn and grow? And then, what do we do for groceries?
Well first of all, Ya gotta eat! I have had the good fortune of being able to paint what I wanted and for the most part people wanted to buy it. Of course I always wanted to be a landscape painter. If I had wanted to float sharks in formalin, I would have starved. Who'd want that?
There have been periods in my life where I got to go to figure drawing groups routinely and that is what I recommend you do. Find or start a figure group at the local art center and draw figures one or two nights a week. There is no better training.
If you can leave the gallery scene and just study and not have to eat snowballs all winter it might be good to do some workshops or find a good atelier nearby (for you its Ingebretson studios) and do some additional study. I have had a few times in my life when I took some time out for that. I took several months off and studied anatomy at the Art Students League one winter.
But, for me the need to make a living has been a force for the good in my art. All of my heroes painted for a living. Virtually all of my life I have been doing one landscape after another, always trying to make them better. Tying my survival to that result has made me a very motivated worker. I don't buy that idea of the artist being ruined by the need to make money at their art. That is a romantic notion best left behind when leaving art school. You don't have a problem with the Rolling Stones making a living do you? How about Frank Loyd Wright, Kathryn Hepburn or Mark Twain?
I have known very few painters who became REALLY good who were wealthy. Fredrick Leighton and a few others come to mind, but more often the wealthy become dabblers and self indulgent purveyors of obscure claptrap that no one finds enjoyable or interesting. Almost all of them are spared the nasty and unpleasant feedback the real world offers to an artist. That feedback is useful and corrective though unpleasant.
Many of the artists I have known worked their entire careers until retirement in the graphic arts, when they retired, sometimes as early as 55, they were never the equal of their brothers who had done it every day since high school. They just never caught up on that 30 year head start their competition had. I am not saying that retiring to paint is wrong or will be unfruitful or unfulfilling, but you don't think you could retire at that age and learn to be a concert violinist or a thoracic surgeon do you? Painting is just as hard as those things. People take it way to lightly. When I am working and some well meaning passer by says, ""that looks so relaxing", I want to tear their arms and legs off.
I guess I have done it again, I try to be so nice, and then I end up exposing the harsh truths that are perhaps usually unspoken as they are.......harsh. Tomorrow I will do a post about two cuddly, heartwarming cartoon bunnys with big happy smiles and little calico aprons. Maybe I can find a picture of some nice wax fruit.