Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning and Growing--Landscape Painting, Part II

Part II of a pair of posts "back by popular demand" (see previous post for an explanation) appears today.
This painting, based on the photo in my previous post, emerged slowly. As I worked, my priorities for focus and scope changed in ways I would not have predicted. I will spare you a long description of all the twists and turns of the creative process, but will mention some of the insights and adjustments I made along the way.
First, I assembled all the reference photos taken at this bend in Little Pottsburg Creek--wider panoramas and close-up details as well as the main photo. I recalled the mild, still air, the musky, but not unpleasant, smell of the flat, muddy bank, and the colors that had danced in the sunlight and softened in shadow. I decided to incorporate some elements from other photos and to use a horizontal layout showing a greater expanse of water and some tall grasses in the foreground.
My first instinct was that the soft reddish grasses on the right would be my focal point. My husband viewed some of my thumbnail sketches along the way and was drawn instead to the taller grasses in the left foreground. Being torn among various interesting elements, I painted an adequate, but unfocused scene--too much competition for attention. My subsequent efforts to improve the composition and balance were unsuccessful, and I set the canvas aside for awhile to rest my mind by working on a small floral piece.
My painting mentor, Linda Blondheim (see her web site for beautiful paintings), suggested that she found the reddish grasses interesting as a texture contrast to the rocks I had indicated (but not featured) in the foreground. That was the trigger I needed to complete the painting--featuring an area of varied textures. Without fully realizing it, I had been captivated by the multiple textures in the scene as well, from the placid water to the jagged rocks and both soft and sharp-edged grasses. The texture contrasts on the right side of the painting, from foreground to mid-ground became the focal point, while other areas became less detailed in order to let them recede in importance. There's that matter of balance again, which keeps emerging as a theme in recent posts.
Another artist would have painted quite a different rendering. Your answer to the last post's question regarding what you would feature in this scene might be radically different as well--and wonderful in its own way. I have often heard that one must be able to truly see in order to paint. Along my creative journey, the opposite has more often been the case for me--that painting is a vehicle to enhanced seeing of what is around me. Every painting in process is a growing and learning experience to treasure.
Question of the day: What pursuit or activity is your growing edge?


  1. Hi Mary,
    Often, leaving the canvas and coming back to it does offer new perspective!! You've done lovely work here!
    Being able to see is a wonderful thing for an artist .... for me it's been being able to feel!

  2. I think the grasses on the left balance the tree on the right so nicely. Very lovely and calming view of this shot, Mary! Growing edges, huh? Hmmm...for me, just the keeping on with watercolors, reading what I can, and visiting these blogs has helped and inspired me tremendously!

  3. another beautiful painting!
    my growing edge is in photography. :)

  4. Nice work Mary. Thanks for the mention.

  5. Good point, Manon--being able to feel is an indispensable part of the creative process. And on the other hand, being creative enhances our depth of feeling. Thank you for your visit and your helpful thoughts.

    I appreciate your response to the painting, Autumn--and to the question. You are an inspiration to all of us.

    Thank you for stopping in and for your kinds words, Cher. Your photography is terrific, and I am sure you see yourself growing over time in your art.

    You are most welcome, Linda--you mean so much to me, both as an art mentor and as a friend. Thank you for your encouragement.

  6. I like it! It brings out the explorer in me. Vaguely mysterious, the shoreline grass, the distant dark woods. I'd take my puppy there for a walk, bring my camera ( a new hobby ) and if I do see something intriguing.... do a blog about it. :)

  7. Hey Mary...beautiful painting. The colors are fantastic and I feel like I would be there...:)

  8. Troutbirder, it is very cool and encouraging that you see this painting as a place you would like to explore. I am very grateful for your interest and for the poetic details in your response.

    It's super to hear from you, Megha! Thank you for your kind comments.

  9. It's a beautiful painting Mary! You've captured the serenity of the scene brilliantly; the jagged rocks , the soft ripples tickling the shore and the rustle of the grass. Excellent!
    I love doing landscapes myself , though for sometime have not indulged in it as the digital work is keeping me busy. But nothing like painting the marvels of nature!
    Take care .

  10. What a lovely comment, Sadia--thank you for your reflections. Receiving feedback from other artists (especially you, with your amazing, vibrant work) is tremendously encouraging.