|"Summer Clouds" by Mary Lemmenes|
Translating that neighborhood scene to a painting took longer than I had anticipated, but "Summer Clouds" is finally ready to show you. The 18" X 24" acrylic painting, seen on the right, is on gallery wrap canvas and can be hung without a frame--or can be framed if one wishes. The detail photo illustrates some particulars discussed below for readers interested in technical aspects of the work.
The two major challenges in this piece were: to create an interesting foreground and to convey an adequate impression of the cloud formations. First, although our neighborhood street is attractive, I did not want to use a city street and houses as a foreground. So, I imagined, sketched, and sketched again until a composition plan seemed workable. I wanted the clouds to "star" and worked to avoid upstaging them with the foreground. Yet, the foreground seemed to need more than just a vague suggestion of ground and foliage. A single tall, dark loblolly pine on the left (balanced by a birch on the right) is a clear contrast to the bright clouds as well as giving some character to the land (the models for these particular trees live on other streets in our neighborhood). In fact, the area where the pine stands against a bright cloud area emerged as the painting's focal point, which Anthony Whiting taught us in recent painting classes is either the darkest dark next to the lightest light or the brightest color in a painting.
Secondly, painting the clouds as you see them here required gradually building them up in many layers. They cannot be done with a heavy hand (at least, in this style of painting) and yet needed to look as impressive and substantial as they appeared that summer day. They also needed richer color variation and play of lights and darks than we can see in cloud photos.
|Reference Photo, Jacksonville, FL|
The acrylic paint palette for this piece includes: Paynes grey, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, cadmium red light, sap green, yellow ochre, and cadmium yellow light as well as titanium white. When I asked Anthony Whiting for advice as it was nearly finished, he suggested a color mix for the under side of the clouds I never would have dreamed of or tried on my own: alizarin crimson and veridian green--with white as needed. Normally, red and green blends create a brownish neutral or even a rich, true brown (depending on the tones of the original hues), but I was amazed at the warm, rosy purple-grey this blend created. Thanks to Anthony for that! I left some of the shadowed cloud areas of greys and bluish greys I had used originally, but adding some of the new blend (in my view) enriched and enlivened the cloud layers.
Question of the day: Isn't the sky beautiful and miraculous, and isn't the variety in sky scenes across our great land a gift to see?