While my goal seeking and production of new paintings for January kept step with my firm post-Christmas decision to paint steadily... and to paint what my heart desired... I had not been able to get out to paint outdoors. Some health issues and days of gale force winds had put the brakes on that much anticipated and joyful activity.
I must confess that studio painting... though rewarding in many ways, painting indoors fails to provide the spiritual inspiration and incentive that outdoor painting affords me. "... Still waters... they restore my soul..." Not being able to get "out there"... is my version of "the blahs".
I have been working fairly intensely on a new triptych idea... and had arrived at that push n' pull conclusion for that project. Yesterday... Mother Nature provided a highly unexpected and unusual February opportunity to escape to the outdoors. The bluer-than-blue sky... day long sunlight and the +40F temperatures enticed me to pack up my plein air gear right after morning chores and a quick lunch.
I decide to head directly to my "Honey Hole" at Ivy Lea Provincial Park where I knew there would be guaranteed solitude... great scenery and few... if any interlopers to contend with. I took only one canvas... one 12x16 inch canvas which could be used either vertically, or horizontally... depending upon what the landscape revealed to me.
I was able to "one carry" my whole kit deep into the park by reducing it to the barest essentials. I pre-laid my palette in the studio and reduced the brush count to five. I carried my easel in its arm sling and in my lightweight backpack shop toweling, turpentine and kerosene supplies, bungee cords and a beverage. No weight or bulkiness at all!
I discovered... to my surprise and delight... that the usual two to three foot snow cover that one could expect in February in this location was completely absent! Unusually warm recent temperatures and rainfall gave the scene a March aura and appearance. Upsetting on an environmental level... but pleasing to an 'ol painter making his way two to three kilometers towards a selected painting location.
I went directly to a site that I had long wanted to paint at the southernmost tip of the park... facing looking up into Smuggler's Cove at the tip of Virgin Island. I had painted the other end of this island a couple of times before... but the timing to get this view on canvas never materialized. Today would become that day - the light and shadows were perfect!
I realized that given the fact that it was past one-thirty... that the sun and shadows would be very elusive... even fleeting. So I decided to merely aim for a rough lay in to be accomplished by the end of the session. With this much accomplished, there would exist a framework or structural base to work from back in the studio. I would easily be able to fill in the desired level of detail that I wished in a more painterly fashion... minus the pressure of trying to keep up and adjusting values.
The only hitch in the whole day came when a "sneaky" southwest gust of wind toppled my paint box... spilling its contents (including the wet palette) on to the bed of dead white pine needles midway through the session...... Expletives #@%*&...deleted!
At four o'clock... with the sun rapidly disappearing well below the shoreline, the strong light and shadow contrast that so intrigued me earlier at the start was no longer present. So I packed up my gear and headed back ... content and greatly refreshed... high-stepping the two to three kilometers to the car at the highway.
After posting this initial part of this post... and a quick bite of lunch... I will set to work to draw this first plein air sortie to a successful close by day's end.
I leave you with this image... directly as it came from the field.
Stay tuned for the conclusion!...
The sketch reveals the Virgin niche... perched in a protective position overseeing the entry into...or departure from Smuggler's Cove. The current pushed floes of ice in both passages... indicating that the strong river current "has its way"... in both directions.
Ironically... this sacred edifice stands in a very position to have watched whiskey bootleggers coming and going covertly to load and unload their cargoes in the illegal liquor trade that flourished along the whole length of the Saint Lawrence during the Prohibition years.
As promised... I am posting the results of today's studio session this afternoon. I think it is easy to see that the original effort from on site provided the energy and vision necessary to extrapolate upon the elements of the painting to suit my own needs and pleasure.
While it will require an additional short session tomorrow... after the paint has set overnight... to push n' pull the piece to a final conclusion. I wanted to mull over two potential strategies to add just a small touch of interest to the foreground to tidy up the composition.
The Virgin has been enthroned. The magic of the evening light has begun to dim... except on her niche... swaddled radiantly by the rich amber light of dusk. She is the main focus of the painting... and her silence "spoke" volumes to "Me" while I painted.
There is not a drop of Catholic blood in my veins... and yet... I have always been able to "cross over"... and respect the spiritual beliefs of others. We all should worship the same Creator... and be ever grateful of His... or Her blessings bestowed upon us. Faith need not necessarily be found only in a congregation... or prayer offered from a pew. There are many ways to worship... even alone... as I choose to. Just saying...
Back again tomorrow... Stay tuned
Good Painting... to ALL!!!
Plein Air and Studio... in Combination
Less than a decade ago... I spurned the thought of "corrupting" the plein air experience by adding to the painting afterward. I considered plein air painting to be ultimate in value and religiously signed my work in situe... before bringing it inside. Most often... it found its way into into my various galleries who represented me... and then directly into the hands of collectors.
Many of those certainly had the essential merit to be painted and sold in that fashion, but there were a goodly number that would well have profited... and would have seen vast improvement with a second... and even a third look-see in the studio.
Occasionally... the plein gods look favorably upon me... and I am blessed to bring home that "painted itself"... joyful gem that simply appears. That's what fuels my incentive to continue going out to paint.The lure of having the sheer luck... to cast the right place... and come home with "the big one one" in the boat! ... "How sweet it is..." ha ha!!
The natural world is very large and often confusing labyrinth of distractions and details. Often we are drawn down a cul-du-sac and are overwhelmed by these. Often... we simply "bite off more than we can chew" on a given day. Good reasons to set these aside to see them in another light... minus the distractions.
Today's post demonstrates my point exactly. The plein air experience certainly did rev up my juices ... cured my "cabin-studio fever" and jump-started my creative spirit. Mission accomplished. However... as the next two additional posts illustrate clearly... a "rough 'n tumble" spontaneous sketch now possesses the mood and depth which we shoot for in the studio. And yet... there remains the original fresh and painterly quality brought back from the field.
Though I can't say for certain say that the spiritual aspect couldn't have been felt and entered into painting within the studio... I can state with fullest certainty... that the "Faith" aspect which entered into this piece was for certain powered by the actual site and environment. On this one occasion... I came to feel the closeness that many Mary worshipers enjoy... when they deliver their prayers directly to "Her".
I will end today's (lengthy) post with a quote from Robert and Sara Genn's Twice Weekly letter... this week titled: A Walk With Renoir. It struck a great chord within me... and certainly fits with my post today. I highly recommend reading this piece - it certainly is worth checking out for yourself... and subscribing as a regular too... FREE!
"Religion is everywhere, it is in the mind, in the heart, in the love you put into what you do."
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir
I feel that there is a religious cum spiritual component in every painting that I conceive. Each pain ting and sketch is an "article of Faith" and a statement of Gratitude on my part... directed back to my Creator... and out to each of you... who might still have a "grain of mustard seed" of Hope and Faith. The world is a better place when driven by Faith... Hope and Charity!
Plant your seed... so others may learn from your example!
Rich Blessings... and Good Painting... to ALL!!!
"River Angelus, Virgin Island - oil on canvas 16x12 inches