Today the Friday class met at Greenwood Farm again, but with a very different prospect in view. We hiked further into the property, until we had a view of the Paine House, silhouetted against the Ipswich salt marshes.
It's a motif, though usually backed up by the ocean, that was used repeatedly by Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910), an American painter. Whittredge traveled a road leading from his early Hudson River School paintings to his later life interest in the French Barbizon painters. Initially he studied in Germany, so he came a very long way indeed.
Whittredge deserves to be better known. In addition to writing an engaging autobiography, he modeled for Emmanuel Leutze, standing in for The Father of Our Country in Leutze's giant canvas of Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Today the task was to paint a back-lit, hazy subject in a situation of strong glaring light. The trick seemed to be to paint the objects in a hazy way, while still having a few strong darks to reinforce the lights.
You can see that the canvas was primed a thin pink, actually a tint of Blockx Jaune Capucine Clair----which, despite its name, is definitely reddish.
This, of course, is just a beginning. Finishing a 16x20, on site, in direct light, is a bit more than I can manage. But also, to the horror of real plein-airistes, I think that most plein air paintings benefit from a time-out, in the studio. Usually I'm then able to re-organize my thoughts, and to refine things without battling changing light, etc.
My real goal is to make a good painting, one that is true to the spirit of the place. This rarely requires a whole catalogue of facts about the scene. Mostly it wants an eye sympathetic to the mystery and poetry of the site.
Should I do more, I expect I'll post it. At the moment, as those of you know who follow the blog, I have a huge backload of paintings begun in class. Perhaps they'll be fodder for good work when it's icy outside. In the meantime, I'm working on a 48"x72" canvas, most definitely NOT outside.
Oh, yeah...when I go back in to sort this out, I'll paint in the apple tree. Don't worry.