Saturday, October 17, 2009

Learning and Growing--Landscape Painting, Part I

Occasionally, I will repeat a post or two that were well-received for the sake of my newer readers. I know that few of you will go back to read all previous postings. Also, frankly, this is a crazy busy time for me, and this helps me keep on my twice a week posting schedule. Today's entry is the first of two about this scene on Little Pottsburg Creek. Please excuse me, fellow bloggers if I am not able to visit and comment on all of your wonderful blogs as often as I would like for the next few weeks. I'll be back full-force before too long.

Landscape painting is a balancing act and requires priority setting and focus. I have written about balancing life goals and projects before, and have realized that a similar balancing process goes into the decisions involved in painting.
Few, if any, painters copy what they see in exact detail. We must discern what aspects of a particular scene drew us in and feature them. Other aspects need to recede in importance or even be left out. Sometimes an element needs to be moved or added for the sake of the composition. However, such changes require restraint. If a weathered barn is surrounded by purple wildflowers except for a trash pile in my sight line, filling that area with similar or compatible plants or a glimpse of bare earth is an acceptable adjustment to enhance the overall scene. However, it wouldn't make sense to paint a profusion of tropical passion flowers or cacti instead. The integrity of the location matters. Now I know that some lovely landscape paintings are completely "made up" by the painter from some combination of memories and a desire to create a scene that looks a particular way. I have done that myself, with fairly good results.
However, the "made up" places, at least when I paint them, do not resonate with the same depth as those based on an actual location. If I have truly been there, have seen, heard, tasted, smelled and touched the natural elements, I believe the truth of that experience shows in the art work. Yet, I do not paint simply what I see with my eyes or experience with my other physical senses. The painting arises out of my personal response to a natural place.
Holding the real and the "ideal" mental vision in tension to produce an interesting painting of an observed scene is infinitely rewarding. Sometimes this is quite difficult and requires extensive adjustment along the way--at other times, the process flows more easily. Wrestling with the balance of light and dark tones, with the way colors appear under variations in natural light, and with the arrangement of shapes and elements is a deeply moving, uniquely personal, creative experience.
The scene in the photo above is near our home. It's no place special--definitely not on anyone's sight-seeing itinerary--just a wide bend in Little Pottsburg Creek. Chunks of old concrete jostle the rocks and mussel beds in the muddy shallows, and trash lies half-submerged in the water. Still, something in the scene drew my attention. So I carefully recorded details mentally, snapped a few photos, and went home to figure out what the appeal was. If I tried to capture the feeling I had experienced in this everyday North Florida location, what would I paint? The result was an excellent learning exercise for me, which I will show you in my next post.
Question of the day: If you painted, drew, or more carefully photographed this creek bend, what would you feature?


  1. Goodness Mary! You ask some daunting questions at times! LOL I think what appeals to me in this photograph (and I do so love water scenes) is the framing of the page by the overhanging tree branches and the tree to the right. I also like the dark rock out in the water and the simple curves of the shoreline. I'm not much good at filtering. LOLOL

  2. I liked the curve of the shoreline, too, Autumn. I liked the rocks on the shore as well, although some of them are actually broken pieces of concrete. Needless to say, I didn't paint them as concrete :>} Also, hate to say this, but the "dark rock" (if I remember correctly) is an old tire, half-submerged. More LOL. This is one of those scenes that I prettied up in the painting.

  3. Ah well...I'd have turned that old tire into a rock! LOLOL

  4. You and me both! Well, as it turned out, I left it out so that it didn't detract from the focal area.

  5. I noticed the flat "rocks" at first and recognized concrete. Someone dumped it there. Ugh! The curving shoreline, trees and odd glow to the shoreline grass appeals to me a lot.

  6. You have a good eye, troutbirder, and I second your Ugh. I also was attracted to the curving shoreline and the reddish grasses. We have an amazing variety of marsh grasses in North Florida--the range of textures and colors are an inspiration. Thanks for weighing in on this scene.