A couple years ago I created a painting which was in my eyes very successful. It was my favourite because of the easy way the paint went down in thin layers and abstract patterns, resulting in an image which was familiar and recognizable as a seascape. It sold last year and so I haven’t had it as a reference for the work anymore.
I’ve been practicing plein air and studio landscape painting for a while now and am just starting to feel glimpses of ability come through. The ability to do what I set out to do.
I started Last Light (below) Monday evening after work, but I had been contemplating the reference and how to approach it for about a week. Gestating. The sky set in very quickly and thinly. I had to ignore my brain telling me to layer more colour and paint thicker because it was coming out so well in a thin application. I do love being able to see the grain of the wood under the paint. The next evening’s session started and the sky still worked for me so I began in on the water, thinking it would be the first of a few sessions.
The water was a bit of a leap of faith as I tried to figure out how to put grey and pink together while wet and again I the paint laid down as thin layers. Alternating grey and pink short strokes was the trick. Side by side and sometimes over top, the colours blended and stayed apart, creating variety and similarity.
When it came to the foreground waves, I thought I wanted the paint to be thicker there because water I’ve painted in the past was thick and gooey and I loved it. I laid down the under-painting by following the abstract patterns of waves and foam with a leap of faith. And I kept doing that with the various colours of the scene, stepping back every so often to see what was happening. It was progressing well.
And then the paint started to go down slightly thicker, with a dash of very thick paint on the tops of waves where the water is more frothy. And that was it! Just enough thick on thin. I listened to my husband who warned me not to over paint. And it was done in one session.
It was all a very abstract going down and when you look closely it IS just patterns of colour. Standing back from it it looks much tighter and controlled.
And that’s what I love. The tension within the paint and the tension in viewing the painting.
Now the trick is to keep painting like this regardless of the subject matter. Thin when it works, loose patterns of colour, thick when you need that emphasis of colour, texture and drama. The thick paint is the fun part but if it’s all fun, it’s too much. And there’s that notion of balance again.
And the other trick is to paint like this en plein air! I need more practice.