This week’s lesson seems to be that each finished painting — if any are ever finished since I’ve noticed that I see ways to improve and tweak and change everything I’ve done — is the result of at least three paintings.
I had an idea of painting the simple beauty of trees surrounded by snow, and pulled out a photo from last winter in the woods between the house and the nursery area, looking toward Angie’s fields. I looked hard at the photo, at the color of the shadows in the snow, the snow in sun, the trees with subtle variations, the distance that starts to get hazy. I started on the trees and kept with several until it was clear I was way way off on the colors. They started reading as insipid brown things, and in truth they are grey with colors.
So start over on the trees. Make them quite grey, even black in the darkest shadows, with lighter highlights. Better, but still off. The background was way too flat, everything felt wooden. I find I try to replicate what I see and head to details at the expense of the feeling of the piece, which I think is why one paints rather than photographs. How does it feel. Well, this felt too wooden and flat, not with the calm sparkle the scene holds in my mind. And I think that blue on the shadows in the woods is too dark, the yellow spots looking like a dog had been visiting the area.
I also realized that the highlights on the trees had to echo the highlights in the snow: it’s the same color of the sunlight, just on a different surface.
So take three is where I am resting on this piece. Better, more complex background, more energy in the tree trunks, a change in the color of the snow. More sparkle. Not exactly like the photo. But that’s not the point. Just one of those winter vignettes that makes me happy. I expect today (snow has just started) the woods will return to something like this state.
I had a few paintings I’ve done on this adventure in painting that I began to realize I hated and didn’t even want to try to paint over them and make something of them. So this week also had an adventure in scraping down old paintings and then painting them over with opaque white so I can re-use the canvas.