Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Learning and Growing--Cypress Swamp Work in Progress

I just got back to this cypress swamp piece today after working on a new, larger landscape painting for awhile. I had mentioned in my last post that I was using Linda Blondheim's e-critique service in the early stages of this 8" x 10" study. She was complimentary of the overall composition at the point I showed you last time, but asked, "What do you plan as the focal point?" Even though I was liking it in that form, with the simple pattern of cypress trunks against a soft background, it did need something more to draw the viewer's eye. The reference photos (seen in the previous post), as you may recall, came from our visit to Babcock Wilderness Adventures, a tour of extensive, varied preserve areas near Punta Gorda, on Florida's Gulf Coast.
I experimented, just lightly sketching one or more egrets or other wading birds in various spots in the scene, but they seemed "too much" somehow. I liked the simplicity and relative emptiness of the piece and wanted just a hint of something more. But what? Walking past the pond in our neighborhood just as a frog, turtle (or some critter) put a nose up gave me an interesting idea. Perhaps I could suggest the rich underwater life in this swamp without showing any particular creature by painting in some ripples to suggest that a frog, fish, or maybe even a gator had broken the surface of the otherwise still water. So, here is a start in that direction, which I hope will add a subtle hint of life.
I will continue to texture the nearest cypress trunk to the ripples (right foreground). Now that a subtle center of interest will be there, I will reinforce that with more contrast and texture and will tone down the trunk in the left foreground just a bit to avoid competing. There is also more work to do (as you can see) in developing and filling in the background and in completing the water and reflections. This one is developing slowly, given its relatively small size, but I am completely enjoying the process and am in no hurry. Given that I may paint the scene in a larger format later, I believe that taking care with composition and values now will be well worth it. Even if this is the only version ever, it is providing a pleasant creative journey.
Question of the day: Do you suppose that the tranquility of the cypress swamp I am representing has influenced my mood and pace in this work? The process has not caused any frustration--unlike some other slow-to-fruition works. Thank you, Florida Wilderness.


  1. I do like the ripples as a center of interest, but it's a multifocal point. The concentric rings are a subtle reminder of the impact we have on Florida's environment just by living here or visiting, while at the same time the life forms (trees, animals) and the landscapes they inhabit break our tension like that of the water's surface. It's a very healing piece, Mary.

  2. Wow, W2W, the wisdom and beauty of your comment is truly amazing! Reading it sparked a whole range of thoughts for me--many, many thanks. I appreciate that you find the piece healing and that we share a concern for this very special area. Although that concern is a central impetus for my work, I never would have thought of the concentric rings this way on my own. I needed a creative, insightful writer like you to point the way, and your comment is a true gift.

  3. Mary,

    You are one talented lady. What an interesting blog you have. Your art work is outstanding and your words are interesting. I will return again. All the best to you.


  4. What lovely things to say, Joan! Thanks for your visit; I'm glad you like the blog.

  5. What a great piece Mary! So soft, so peaceful - not at all like the swampland we see in those movies!

  6. Thank you so much, Liz. Yes, the more I see the wide variety of wetlands, the more I appreciate all of them. In our area, we have both salt marshes and fresh water swamps like the one in the photo--and of course, every kind of brackish water wetland between full salt and full fresh.