Thursday, January 21, 2016

Changing the Focus of a Painting

The Joe-Pye Weed

Here is a pastel painting that I started near the end of 2015 and the focal area of the painting was intended to be the Joe-Pye Weed. I love painting rivers or creeks and rocks so that was why I chose the photo to work from. As I was painting, the tree in the upper slight right was becoming the focal point because of the vivid yellow-green color... where the sunlight was hitting the tree. As I worked on the rocks, they started taking on the role of the "focal point." What gives here? Why can't I stick to the point of the river and rocks?

I set it aside for a few days, and when I came back to the painting, I knew the weeds growing on the sandy spit sticking out from the rocks should be my focal point... those beautiful Joe-Pye Weed flowers, the mass of purple flowers, at the top. No matter what colors and values and temperature I tried, I couldn't make it work for me. Okay, let it sit more. Go on to other paintings.

That painting sat there for a couple of months.... taunting me to do something to take it from soft and quiet, to becoming a "painting." I just didn't know what I wanted ... so my mantra is to "do nothing" if you don't know what to do.

Serendipity happened ... I did a small demonstration painting for a student this past week of a beautiful dogwood tree as it had turned to the ruby reds and rust colors against a backdrop of green... North Georgia mountains greens and early morning atmosphere. After the student left, I had the thought of why not change my "Joe-Pye" painting to have something more concrete like this dogwood color scheme?

Here is the demo painting. Ruby reds, dark burgundy, burnt oranges to play against the greens and blues of early fall. Even the dried grasses were wonderfully warm colors supporting the focal area of the "Ruby Dogwood" trees.

Below is what I transformed the above painting into and I have put the first one next to it so you can see the differences without scrolling back to the top. It is probably not finished even yet, but it is "becoming" something more.

You can even see where I created a different grouping of background trees... by brushing off the pastel which created a soft effect, and then enhancing that with more neutral greens, adding some ruby and burnt oranges, and... my favorite ... sky holes to see through!

I don't give up on a piece when I see it has some wonderful "parts"... but those parts did not make a whole painting to me. It now seems to be getting closer to being a painting... about my feeling for what this scene could become! I still have the Joe-Pye Weed flowers, and maybe more of a story in this painting about how fall progresses.

Take the time to really look at what the painting is becoming, and is it where you want it to be. What is the painting about? Ask yourself important questions. I've been told I need to sit on my stool and think about what I am trying to accomplish. I am doing that more... thank you my friend and mentor, Duane Wakeham!

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