My lapse in posting has probably made it seem like I fell off the face of the Earth or something. In fact, I was in Texas last week (which actually did feel a bit like another world to me --just kidding Texans!) I had to slip away unexpectedly to assist my mom, who was just released from the hospital after major surgery. The good news is that she's been doing great, and I'm back home now and back to painting. It's been far too windy and rainy this week to do any plein air work, so I've decided to continue my French landscape series with nice big 40x30" linen canvas in the studio--a vertical painting of an ancient church in ruins among a field of irises.
I started with a monochromatic tonal wash in transparent red oxide:
While this is a representational painting, my approach to the work is in the abstract. My aim at this stage is to express the pattern of lights and darks in a fluid and interesting manner. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember a plein air painting I did of this same site last summer. Even though this larger painting will be of a different view from that location, I will use my plein air painting and my experience from that work to inform this piece.
The finished painting will have a lot of irises in the foreground, but I don't bother drawing them in at this point. My main concern early on is to connect my darks in such a way as to create an interesting underlying armature that will provide a structure for any detail, and also hopefully provide enough interest so as to lead the eye around the canvas.
Painting in this monochromatic, thin wash helps me to develop my overall composition without great commitment. Transparent red oxide is not a highly staining color, so if corrections or changes are desired, any marks I make at this stage can easily be wiped away with a paper towel dipped in solvent (I use Gamsol).
Incidental staining is not really a concern any way, since I usually like a toned canvas. It's sort of like I'm making a grisaille painting and toning my canvas at once. In this instance, I decide to leave the lightest lights (in the sky) mostly completely white, as I will next use the white of the canvas to develop the shape of my clouds:
Basically I'm painting the negative space of the sky with the blue paint mixture. Working on linen is a real pleasure. It makes it really easy to use my paper towels to smudge and wipe away paint so as to refine shapes and create those soft, wispy edges.
After I established the basic cloud pattern, I start to add paint, color and shadow to the white of the clouds. I also begin to develop my darks, and give some definition to my area of interest; the ruins of the old abbey.
Further developments are under way and forthcoming soon....Stay tuned!