Thursday, November 8, 2012
I See Shapes
Recently Barbara Muir and I were chatting, and she asked me how I went about painting trees...I got to thinking about it. I dont draw much...but I do notice shapes. Pretty much anything I paint, it is the shapes that speak to me first. Are they angular, or soft? Do they have incidentents at the edges, do they flow together or are they isolated? It's not only tree shapes...but shapes of large expanses...shapes of clouds, shapes of shadows. These things pretty much determine whether I'll be interested enough to start a painting. After shapes it is light that I notice. Is it fleeting? Is it brilliant or subdued? The light determines my values and my palette.
It's the same when I'm painting the outdoor landscape en plein air, as it is when I'm working in my studio. I first look for interesting shapes and values, and then wonder about creating a painting from them. Usually it's not representation I'm after, so to speak; it's a mood, a feeling, a response to what I'm viewing.
I've been looking at the plein-air 'starts' I did on my Vermont trip last week. I was struck by how clearly evident this is in all of them. They are begun with that principle of shape-making first. I will develop them further to clarify their intent after the initial block-in has dried, and after I contemplate them a little. But the abstract shapes are the bare bones, and what everything else gets built on. If I dont like the bones, i dont go further. If I like the bones, i really get into developing the idea!
All three were painted while experiencing unsettled weather conditions. Hurricane Sandy was wrecking havoc elsewhere, but we were lucky to only get high winds and rain.