My goal as an artist is to always be open to learning... and to risk new pursuits ... to make me think and work... "outside of the box". It is sometimes a long reach of faith... and imagination to work completely in "the dark"... without the safety net created applying my usual rituals... "ploughing" in the same fields... guided by the same team. On this occasion... I really stepped into darkness when I painted an entire 36x48 inch gallery wrap canvas with a coating of acrylic ivory black as an under tone. Even my wife was confounded by my actions.
So began a much different approach to creating a large canvas... "turning on the lights"... changing night into day... a real live... in my face... Genesis! I will say that right from the first mark... with white chalk on that blackboard space... I experienced an epiphany of sorts... a sense of creative power that had visited "Me" only on a very few occasions before. And that feeling of power and energy never left "Me" ... from start to finish on this work. All of my synapses seemed to be firing simultaneously... I could hardly pry myself away from the easel over the four day period that it took to fully complete the canvas.
There were so many personal things from my own life drawn into its structure and making. Firstly... the site is White's Falls, Muskoka ... a very sacred and special place for my family. Deb, the two lads and I had spent so many hours together there.... fishing, hiking, wiener roasting, exploring and sketching... in all seasons. We even enjoyed our New Year's Day dinner there at the fire pit... on the last occasion... in a full blown blizzard under a tarp... drying snowsuits, mittens, socks and boots over a roaring fire. This is indeed a place of many memories... a sacred, spiritual place for "Me"... forever. A landscape that needed to be painted and recorded!
I kept the drawing part of the process very loose... limiting expression only to basic curves and lines... a map really. The entire activity took only a matter of minutes with the resulting drawing leaving "Me" with a feeling that I remembered fondly... akin to my being at the head of my very first class... chalk in hand... and in charge... full of purpose learning to be passed on... or so I hoped! I liked the direction right from the start!
I began the lay in process... deciding to pitch into the sky area first... the applying a generally similar lightest yellow light in the whole sky area and then moved quickly into applying patches of various green foliage values to the background area of the canvas. Next, I lightly established the vague presence and suggestion of the rock outcroppings in the painting.The greens were then introduced slowly into the reflections in the middle ground water area... finally tying that into the foreground area foliage.
At this point, most of the canvas had been worked on to some degree. I decided to add a few more highlights to the rocks... grasses and introduced a few orangish trees to break up the vast amount of green. My next step was to create some individual forms to represent specifically placed fir trees... massing them as I felt a need to create a unifying rhythm within the painting. Note how some of the black is intentionally left to form line and crevice. Colour is compartmentalized carefully to preserve this intent.
I then directed my attention fully to the foreground which had been ignored really to this point. I had used a digital image blown up to 10x8 inches as a reference along with a small pen and ink sketch that I had hastily laid into a sketchbook a year prior to doing this painting. I knew even then... that some day I would make this exact painting. The scarlet maple so attracted my attention on that day... as the sun retreated and we prepared to depart. It dominated the scene... even beyond the beauty and strength of the fading sunlight. It was exhilarating when the reds and oranges were gingerly added... and reached almost raw-from-the-tube alla prima application to the leaves. The complimentary colours really worked well together to create a very strong foreground image.
I played around with the "muddle" of dead juniper branches that were present... but didn't really help the compositional flow that I had envisioned. So... I improvised... "let it all hang out"... just like a jazz group loves to do when they "jam". The result was again pleasing... and seemed to contribute to the direction that I was hoping for. Much of the rest of the remaining two days was devoted to that "push-and-pull... adjusting of values and hue... "tweaking" areas with darks and lights... to enhance and create sparkle and finesse. The last focus was on remaining "black holes" that remained here and there around the canvas. I did not not want opaque blackness appearing dominantly... so I added darker values... but with colour... in the shadowed areas.
As the final painting session was coming to an end... and I was in the process of resurfacing from the subconscious level that one visits ("The Flow" takes "Me" there)... I became aware of the music that Deb had been listening to. Strange how the Universe speaks! The raspy, plaintive voice of a "regular" songbird in our studio ... Bonny Raitt was in the midst of one of our favourites...The Dimming of the Day. All the world was right! Mission accomplished! From darkness into the light... and back. The end of a great day... and a great learning experience!
"You" might want to give this one a try... on a dreary... no direction kind of day... that we all suffer... from time to time! Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul !
Good Painting to All !
PS Do Google....Boonie Raitt and get an earful and soul full o' Dimming of the Day!