Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In the Field

Ninety-six in the Shade

I remembered a painting by Alma-Tadema the other day, which title accords very well with what I've tried to do with this oil sketch from last weekend. The canvas, 16x20, was begun as a demonstration for the monthly Saturday Plein Air Class.

The temperature and the humidity were ferocious, and Alma-Tadema's title "94 degrees in the Shade" (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), exactly expressed the spirit of this spot, almost incandescent with the heat.

In the initial phase, done on site, I just tried to get some of the larger forms in place. I find that an hour of demonstration, and then a subsequent half-hour, don't get me quite as far as I'd like on a 16x20" canvas. The good part is that a painting of this size is much easier to see and to follow for a group of eight to ten students.
For a larger group, such as the Vermont Workshop in June, I demonstrated on a 20x25 canvas. Here's the lay-in, with some color, at the end of Saturday's class.

I hadn't quite figured out how large I wanted the tree to be. In fact it was quite massive. But I was most concerned with two aspects. First, I wanted the painting to be later in the afternoon, really glowing. Second, I promised the students I'd work on the tree's foliage. I'd said that I wanted to have some leaves almost entering the viewer's space, and separated from the dark underside of the leaves on the far side of the tree. I wanted to suggest a deep upward space between the two groups of leaves. And, in a moment of weakness, I promised to show the result.

Ninety-six in the Shade, 2012
Not entirely sure what I'll do next to this painting. There's a lot of refinement needed."theRevenant", a follower of the blog, will no doubt insist I finish this one, too. We'll see.

But it may be too hot to handle. It certainly makes me want some ice water.


  1. Wonderful concept, Donald. It's truly amazing that you can get so much out of so 'little'. On a different note, I 've got the paints on your recommended palette and I'm finding it hard to get used to them, mixes don't seem to come out as expected. Still, it probably needs a bit more experimenting. Your orange on the corn is wonderfully soft.. Cheers. Jon

  2. I am also trying out the Jurney palette and easing the new colours into my paintings. I find your Naples Yellow much yellower than my old Winsor Newton colour. Now I tend to put both on my palette and use them differently but it does let you get away from using cad yellow as a lightener. I am also using the brownish madder a lot more frequently, particularly to tone down my first cut on a green mix. We too had a similar view on our plein air outing but the field was the golden colour to start with. My version doesn't seem to have that wonderful glow. Have to work on it in the studio!

  3. Jon, Give the colors a bit of time. Play with them and they'll surprise you. Bruce: I would often get glaring greens with an intensity that Mother Nature would shun.I discovered that a bit of scumbling over the offending color with a greyed green...made from Holbein Green Gray and a bit of alizarin crimson...would instantly tame the harsh over-green-ness. Try it.