Okay, guys, I can’t lie. I’m proud of this one. And at the same time it makes me sad. It didn’t make me sad until after I’d finished it. No fault of the painting – read on to find out who is to blame… (suspenseful music plays in the background as a soap opera actress lowers her chin because she knows something scandalous)
Back to reality: One of my biggest struggles to overcome in my art is simplification. Most experts affirm that the inability to simplify is one of the most common and seemingly impassible blunders us non-experts make time and time again.
It’s almost like my dirty little word of painting. The driving desire to include every detail my eye captures plein air is one I’ve had to fight. And will likely continue to fight for years to come.
I mean, what seems more natural than to paint everything you see when you’re training is to paint what you see? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
Then it clicked, and I’m sure I got one of those facial expressions that actors get in an ah-ha moment. Not a good actor either – probably D-list. I digress.
As a general principle, we’re taught to paint what we see. While this is of course true, I now find it much more applicable to colors than to composition. And I learned not to take it literally. For example, the general color of grass rarely matches the standard green we see when closing our eyes. A peek outdoors reveals a different value or even hue than what was in our heads. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t manipulate color and paint a more pleasing color than what’s in front of us, but much of the time what draws us into a point of inspiration is the colors.
Here’s what I learned: I didn’t really give a crap about the tree line so much as the foreground grass and the hues in my mountains, despite them having little detail. So I had that ah ha moment and hopefully influenced the viewer to give the same craps through the technique of simplification (I never said I was Shakespeare but hopefully you get the point).
I also broke a few rules because I’m a badass (lying through my teeth on the last part). What rules? The main one is of course the tree, my dear Watson! The theory goes that objects too close to the painting’s edge creates tension and magnetism, drawing focus away from the intended object onto the now magnetized object. I tried to overcome this by using less detail in the tree, despite it being the closest visual object.
Second, I used green to reflect light on the mountains. Not necessarily a rule on that one but not the most conventional choice.
Lastly, I changed my reference photo way more than what is generally recommended.
This was my reference picture, believe it or not. Even the photo would likely be an undesirable one, given the position of the light, but I liked it. And as I said I pretend to be a badass. I took this while driving from my house in Charleston, SC to my parents’ home in Surfside Beach, SC. The photo itself is obviously quite different from the painting, but that’s the great thing about art. It is what you want it to be.
That covers the pride and inspiration. But what about this later sadness I mentioned so casually? It almost sounds stupid just writing it, but it’s because of the reaction my mom had to it. I sent her and Diddy a photo right after the paint dried. Keep in mind that at this point I’m super proud and happy with the piece. She texted me back that I should do more paintings of the ocean or perhaps a European countryside. Ouch.
I know that may sound trivial, but I know my mother’s nuances well and the devil is always in what she doesn’t say. In this case, she didn’t say she liked it.
Being a kid and now middle-aged woman, I’ve always just missed the mark for my mom. So to get that reaction again when it’s to something I was… I AM… really proud of, it cast a shadow.
The great news is that unless you have mother issues too, you hopefully still can appreciate the painting. I know I will, mommy issues be damned.
And that’s a wrap for ‘Pathway’ everyone! Hope you enjoy it!
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