Friday, June 15, 2012

Landscape 911

The Fourth Meeting of The Dead Paintings Society, 1 June 2012

The last session before the Vermont Workshop was spent with a large-ish painting, 22 x 28", which had been declared DOA by its creator.

Discussing the painting, I was perplexed by the bridge (here faintly seen along the horizon). Mis-reading the scale of the scene, I took the bridge to be a quite large structure, seen from a considerable distance. In fact, I was told, it is a much smaller bridge, and not so far away. What I had supposed were treed banks on either side of the bridge are, actually, just an embankment.

I was also a bit troubled by the high hill on the right, and by the trees? bushes? growing thereon. The fact that I didn't know if they were small trees or large bushes was another issue. The water seemed to be going uphill, not just receding from the viewer.

I was reminded of a painting of mine, probably from the late '90s. In mine there was a hill on the right, and water running away, too. I thought I remembered that the brook stayed flat as it receded. So I looked for an image, and came up with one.

For some reason, the recession stays flatter---to my eye.

Anyway, I set to work. I removed the cold, cold blue from the sky, and lowered the hill. Then, not satisfied with the horizon line, I lowered that too. Now I was really in for it, and I changed the palette to a more silvery, greenish color scheme. Thoughts of Holland popped up, and I made a small structure straddling the waterway.
What is it?

Who knows? For me it's just a design element.

I worked out some verticals by planting some trees, and built a house for the Scandanavian (Mr. Johanssen) on the right. Johanssen seems to prefer white houses, and he's always building away in my paintings.
Then the problem arose: whether I wanted the viewer to have easy access to the site, or whether I wished to keep the viewer at a distance. I opted for admittance, and made a purpose-built ricketty bridge.

By now, of course, I was far, far fr0m the original scene. But the new painting seemed pretty cohesive, and it seemed to be happening all on the same day. I darkened some cloud masses, to hint at a possibly occluded sun, and thereby gained some interest for the now larger sky.

Because I'm behind on posting, due to last week's workshop, when we met again today I was able to get the reaction of the original artist. I'm happy to report that the new version passed muster.

Oh---about that pollarded willow, near the center of the painting. Last year Johanssen was a bit over-zealous about cutting it back, and this year it hasn't leafed out. I'll let you know if it recovers, and sprouts again.


  1. Lovely to see a great painting emerge from the mists and especially follow your narrative giving both practical and whimsical reasons for your decisions. I sincerely hope that this continues to be a regular event.

    (By the way. Is there anything remaining of the original painting in the finished work?)

    1. Two more DPS sessions. Then a bit of a break. We will either have a weekly plein air painting class, or a weekly, three-hour plein air demonstration.
      Canvassing (sorry) my students, and others, about next year's workshop locations...probably three in Europe. I expect that two may be back-to-back, with a free week in between. I may shoot for two very disparate locations for the back- to-back. Let me know your ideas. Thomas E., Jon-in-France, and Thomas H. are encouraged to come up with ideas, too, please.Thanks.

    2. Just returned from a few days in the Lot et Garonne and the Gers, and saw dozens of Donald Jurney paintings fly by the car. It is Bastide country and there are dozens of small towns in rolling hills framed by ripening wheat fields (sets off the soft greens so nicely). Great location for a workshop. Tuscany? Overflowing with tourists.

    3. Not much interest, on my part, in Provence or in Tuscany. Did have good time sketching, years ago, in Gascony. Even though my long-term French connection is with le Brionnais, I've drawn 'most everywhere, excepting Champagne. I'm big fan of George Sand's Vallee Noire. One might easily be based in La Chatre. But I keep thinking of places like the Vienna woods...or is it a schnitzel hankering? I expecr you, no matter where the workshops turn out to be, to be in charge of recruiting, from Rennes to Bordeaux. A French student or two would nicely tax my language skills

  2. Fascinating to see true mastery at work. And more! than just technical proficiency. Only the joy stops me weeping (or nbaging muy hand against the wall). ON the other hand I'm not sure what you're asking in the above message, Donald... ?

    1. Jon...just looking for workshop location suggestions on your side of the Great Water. Provence and Tuscany are obvious candidates, but there are other teachers who can do that better. I'd like some suggestions for less-usual places: Dalmatia? Durnstein? Dolomites?