Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Painter in the Gardens

A Painter in the Gardens
12x16, oil on canvas

This painting has been in the works since September, or so. Actually, this particular scene has been in the works for years. I did a study from life of a friend painting in the Italian Gardens at Maymont Park 5 or so years ago. I took a photo and kept meaning to make it into a larger, tighter painting. Somewhere during those 5 years (probably when I got married and moved) I lost the study. I still remember the day, the weather. It was intermittently overcast, rather hot. The colors were bright. It was late spring. I remember I left my little plastic lawn table (on which I set my palette, paints & brushes) in the gardens and had to come back for it the next day. That's besides the point.

Anyway, this painting took quite the journey to make it to it's final state. Want to see?

First I "drew" the elements on the canvas with burnt umber, rose, a mixture of cool yellow/green and a dark somethingorother color. Oh yes, and titanium white for the trellis. I was having trouble figuring out how to keep the composition from looking lop-sidded with the angles all pointing so sharply in one direction.

Therefore I threw caution to the wind, turned it upside down and applied cerulean blue -- straight from the tube.

Right side up again. Added a few highlights to the vine foliage.

Upside down again and a little permanent rose. Such a great color when you are working toward that bright summer green in a painting... or when painting roses. 

This was one of those moments when I thought adding in the details of the trellis...

...But in vain! I let the painting dry for a few weeks and took some sandpaper to it. The lines in the painting directed your eye to leave the canvas as soon as you looked at it. A good composition keeps your eye roaming around and around inside the rectangle of the painting.

Burnt Sienna & titanium white paint applied to re-build the composition. Originally I thought the figure cannot be situated in the center, but as I played with the positioning of the pillars and the angles of the trellis "roof", bushes and pathway, she ended up looking most "at home" in the center of the composition. It's as if all the foliage, the ground, the trellis and sky are dancing around her. Sort of how I feel when I'm in "my own world" while concentrating on a painting.

And then, I realized the whole painting needed to start out lighter to arrive at the right value in the end. This meant a week of drying time & a wash of white paint.

There were several steps between the last that I forgot to photograph -- I think just some light washes of color. It needed a punch. Bam! Check out those tree tops & sky.

Vine foliage, trellis, pathway & flower bed added here.

Ta-da! Rose bushes, more flowers in the flower bed, painter under the trellis and quite a few glazes of color to unify and deepen. I'm quite happy with the vibrancy of this piece.

Thanks for reading!
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