I’m finally back to some oil painting after several months that have been predominated by watercolor work for an upcoming show and magazine article that are in the works. More on that later.
This is the lay-in and some second -day work on a new painting I’ve started. It’s decidedly not a new subject for me; I’ve painted various interpretations of this mountain over the years.
However, I’ve never been entirely through with it as a subject…it’s monumental presence, practically in our community’s backyard, is delightfully transmuted hourly as the sun and the atmosphere play their games across it’s face. Whenever I look at it, I find myself wanting to give it another shot. My goal is to capture the truth of the color in the early morning hours, on the rare, clear sort of day when the entire mountain is visible. I want very much to make this a painting which makes it’s stand on beautifully observed color and shapes.
The two main difficulties in this painting are the speed at which the color in nature changes, and the unusual combinations of pigments required to get the right shades. Combinations of pigments that easily can go dead have to be applied loosely, reds and blues and yellows woven or scrambled together into rather odd scarlet-greens in the lights, and shadow-shapes of violet greys that seem to be equally troublesome to get a handle on.
My solution for all of this is to repeatedly get to work on the painting in the same light and at the same moment of the day, and gradually build the painting in touches of color as best as I can, allowing the truest notes to show through and adjusting the shapes and carving out the form gradually. I’m really not sure how different this is than a portrait approach, in all honesty.
untitled, 20 x 24″ oil on primed linen
I will probably need about eight clear mornings to get a good grip on this, and hopefully the weather will be accommodating for another one or two days this week.
The canvas is a medium linen with a somewhat absorbent oil (lead white) ground that was single primed at least six months ago. It’s taking the paint well.
As an added inspiration, I’ve just re-read Ives Gammell’s “Dennis Miller Bunker”, a wonderful biography of one of my favorite American painters. Revisiting that book, I find myself again connected with the idea of going after the “big look” of nature wholeheartedly; that it’s a worthwhile and precious thing to obtain a beautiful result through a patient and thoughtful impressionism.