Sunday, May 5, 2013

As the Vertical One cooks

Some bits and bobs

As I've been working on the Vertical One (expected to be finished this coming weekend, and off to New York on the 13th or 14th), I've made a good number of changes. Sometimes they are just the repainting of an area to make sure that the value relationships are just.

Some years ago, I was at an exhibition in London and, as always, I bought the catalogue. On looking through the catalogue, though, I realized that the color of the reproductions was not at all what I remembered from the paintings. Since the paintings largely came from private collections, meaning I might never see them again, I thought I better go back through the exhibition with some notepaper, jotting down the ways in which the real paintings varied from the illustrations.
Here's a page of those notes, living forever tucked inside the book.

Not only will you have trouble reading my scribbled notes, but they won't mean much for two reasons: 1) you don't have the illustration to look at, and 2) my way of describing colors for myself is purely mine. You'd have a different nomenclature for various hues and tints. The good thing is that now I have a pretty infallible set of notes, from the immediate experience, to refute the pictures in the catalogue. Thus, the exhibition remains vibrant for me in a way that would be lost if I had only the illustrations to remind me of the paintings.

This ties in, of course, to my instruction to April's workshop students. I suggested that they make notes of color references in order to more effectively paint the scene when they were no longer in front of it. The habit of making notes, in words, will stand you in good stead, both in museums and galleries, and in the field. Try it.

I've been working pretty non-stop on the large vertical.  It's a lot of linen to cover. Chief among the painting left to be done is the definition of leaf masses in the trees, and the separation of tree from tree, hopefully in a subtle way. This part's definitely over my head, actually, and maybe figuratively as well.

Today, I was working on the road, trying to balance the various values, especially in the cast shadows. I remembered that I'd written, on another page of the catalogue notes for the exhibition above, a remark about aerial perspective in shadows receding into the painting. In fact, here's that snippet:

I've been trying to find just the subtle balance between the near shadows (darker) and the farther ones (lighter). But first I needed to see that the general value relationship was correct, before the aerial perspective. For me the easiest way to do that is to drop out all the color, and to check the values in black and white. Doing this keeps the color from influencing me.

To mix a metaphor, the black and white photo shows me that the shadows are all in the same ballpark.

What, by the way, is that sinuous line running down the road

Because the road is such an exercise in strict perspective, there are a lot of converging lines, made more so by the hedges which follow the road. So, to alleviate this, I've added a trickle of water that meanders down the road. This water, it hardly needs be said, is from Johansson's Spring, somewhere on the far side of the hedge, out of sight. The trickle enables me to add a somewhat random, though always downhill, line, complete with darker edges where the water has moistened the adjacent dirt of the road. It also allows me to add some tiny sparkles to the bottom of the painting.

Finally, I found a sheet of drawings I made at the The Museum of Natural History in New York. They were drawn from birds within the dioramas. I'm thinking about adding a swallow, or two, in flight, to relieve the great expanse of green trees in the upper half of the painting. 

As you can readily see, I'm no John James Audubon. But I think there may be enough information to include one or two of the birds in flight. I rather like the bird on the branch, the one with his back turned to us. Maybe he'll find a place, too.

These bird drawings, of course, are like the drawing of the common mullein a few posts ago, reminding us to make sure to draw little bits and bobs whenever we can. 

You never know when you might need a quick hirondelle de cheminée.

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