Change is Good (Part II)

In my last post I explained how I go about making changes to a previously completed painting that may need some minor tweaking to improve it. Today’s post deals with more drastic measures. This still life isn’t really that old, but almost since its completion I felt I wanted to do something different to the background. Both the shawl on the left and the angles on the right bothered me, as did the color combinations as they related to the foreground. All of these elements served to distract more than enhance the still life arrangement. 

Still life, version I

Still life, version I

So, after sanding, scraping and oiling out (as described in my previous post) my first thought was to create a very simple dark background, which is a classical approach to still life painting employed by a lot of painters through the ages. I also got rid of the awkward angle in the lower right portion of the table cloth, and carried the horizon line straight across.

Still life, version II

Still life, version II

I actually liked these changes, though without the background distractions it really brought out how evenly divided the painting was by the bottle of forsythias, making for not-so-interesting negative space on either side, only accentuated by the plain dark ground. The dark color also really brought out the remaining texture underneath, even when the paint layer was built up. So, I decided to play with it a bit, knowing I could always come back to the simple dark background if I really wanted to.

“Forsythia and Delft Blue”, Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young (click the image for details)

“Forsythia and Delft Blue”, Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young (click the image for details)

What I arrived upon felt to me to be both whimsical and old world at once. It almost reminds me of an antique screen or stage set of a decorative painted sky. The “clouds” served to break up the background space, and the softer, happier palette made me feel happier too. It can be a little scary to make these kind of changes but I’ve come around to the idea that  if the painting is nagging on me, the benefit of change can outweigh the risk. Have I ever “ruined” a painting doing this? Yes indeed. Occasionally my over-zealous scraping can poke a hole straight through the painting. Other times my changes may fail to satisfy me and I end up scrapping the whole thing entirely. But if I’m not satisfied with the painting as it is, it’s probably worth risking it. In any case, if I’m lucky, I have miles of canvas to go before I’m done. 

Upcoming show, demo, and more

Too many irons in the fire makes Jen a lame blogger. However, I hope you'll still welcome this post and the news I have to share. First off, I announced some of this in my last newsletter, but if you don't subscribe to that, I'm pleased to announce that I have been invited to be the Featured Artist at Cabell Gallery in Lexington, Virginia. The gallery will hold an opening reception from 5:00 - 7:30 PM, this Friday, June 2nd. I will be in attendance, and it would be so, so great to see some friendly faces there. Here is one of the new pieces I just brought down there for the show:

"The Nubians", Oil on linen, 16x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"The Nubians", Oil on linen, 16x12" ©Jennifer E Young

If I happen to miss you at the art opening on Friday, I'll also be painting alongside other Gallery Flux artists on Sunday during the Rassawek Spring Jubilee at Rassawek Vineyards. I painted with Gallery Flux during this event last year and it was loads of fun. They'll have music, food, a variety of demonstrations from animals to art, and of course, wine! The event runs throughout the weekend, but I will be there on Sunday, June 4th, at 11 a.m. Here are a couple of pieces I did at last year's event. Come by and see them at the Gallery Flux display, plus whatever else I create at the event this year.

Lastly, the garage conversion is done and I am finally moving into my permanent studio space. It's been quite a process and I admit pretty stressful trying to get ready for a show with no real studio space to work in, but Hallelujah! It's all a thing of the past now. I did not post progress pictures as promised because I was too overwhelmed with everything that's been going on, but I'll have some images of the final space to share by next week if not before.

Life in the Meadow; Start to Finish

Today I thought I'd share the  progressive steps for my newest painting of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. (My usual disclaimers and apologies about the quality of these in-progress photos apply due to lighting conditions in my temporary work space.) This view is near the little B&B where we have stayed on a couple of occasions while visiting Bedford, Virginia.

I'm starting as usual with a sepia-toned sketch thinned with Gamsol to work out the main elements of my composition. This is very loose and general, but it helps me to determine placement. At this early stage I am not overly obsessed with exactness of the forms. Unlike with watercolor, in oil painting I like to carve and refine shapes as I go along. 

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In the next steps I concentrate on massing in areas in the shadow family. This doesn't take too long because in contrast to my prior painting of the Blue Ridge which was predominantly in shadow, this new painting is predominantly sunlit, with a light source that is nearly overhead.

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Next steps are massing in the meadow and the rest of the tree shapes, as well as the distant mountains

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Followed by the sky

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With the canvas nearly covered I work out the finer details of my primary focal area (the horses). 

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At the final stages I add some suggestions of wildflowers to the field. I also add highlights and soften edges here and there, until I achieve the illusion of depth and light I'm after. 

Voila! The final: 

"Life in the Meadow", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer Young

"Life in the Meadow", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer Young

Last Light on the Orchard

We are in mid-construction here trying to convert the garage to my new studio space, so I am staying close by and working in the studio, as time and interruptions permit. I am preparing for a June show at the Cabell Gallery in Lexington, Virginia as well, which is proving a challenge in my chaotic state. Nonetheless, I'm  having a bit of fun mining my photos from various plein air trips I have made to the mountains in last few years.

One most memorable trip was a beautiful long weekend trek I made solo to Crozet, Virginia. I stayed in a sweet little country cabin and explored the area with my paint kit. The orchards and wildflowers were blooming and I was in heaven. The plein air pieces I did during that trip have long since sold but through my reference photos and photos of the work I did there I developed this large studio piece:

"Last Light on the Orchard", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

"Last Light on the Orchard", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

A few years ago I had worked out a 30x40" painting of this same scene, but I really wanted to try this again now that my style and color sense has evolved. I rather prefer the 24x36" format to accentuate those long slivers of sunlight that are spilling across the mountains and the grass, righ before the sun takes its leave for the day.

A new start in 2017

Happy New Year everyone! Yes I know that's a bit late, but we are trying hard to shake off the fun and lazy days of winter break and get back in the routine of waking up early to report to work and school. Since my daughter was home on break, I gave up on the idea that I'd get any real work done and took that time off leading up to Christmas to devote to family. As much as I love painting, I had such a sweet time hanging with my daughter.

Nevertheless, there is a time and a season, and now I'm back to work and it's time for some art! We are settling into winter in Virginia, and it's prime time for hibernating and lot more work in the studio. I have done a lot of small works this past summer and fall, so I'm upping the scale for a while inside.  I'm starting out by picking back up with the James River Park theme.  This is a 24x30" piece of the section of the park known as Pony Pasture. I painted a small piece at roughly the same location in the fall, though this new view is what I saw when I turned my head to the left.

jamesriver_wip1_jenniferyoung

I like this idea of peeking out at the river through the trees. We will see if what I have in my mind can be successfully executed on canvas.

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One of my favorite things about locations along the river banks are the trees. Years of the water's ebb and flow at the river's edge has left many of the tree roots bare. Roots stretch out like tentacles clutching the land, and yet these large trees manage to hang on.