Here is another — Day 4 — of my index card paintings for the month. I’m calling this one “Awareness” because that’s what I learned from doing this little 3 x 5 oil painting.
Like the previous paintings I’ve shared from this project, this scene was inspired by a George Inness work. His, of course, has much more detail. I’m simplifying the compositions, trying to put in the most essential elements, studying the colors of the paintings, and looking for the light.
If you want to make a quick comparison for a better understanding of how I’m approaching this project, here is Peace and Plenty by Inness.
My colors are much, much different from those of the original painting. This is intentional. Tonalist artists like Inness used a lot of glazing techniques in their landscapes. These glazes give their works a glowing, almost mystical quality. They add richess and depth to the colors. They unify the colors as well.
With my little index card project, I’m not doing any glazing. Instead, I’m working with a fairly limited palette to keep my colors somewhat unified, and I’m putting my attention on two things: composition and light.
Tonalist composition tends to be simple. For each of my small paintings, I’m focusing on the primary elements in the works I’m using as inspiration. I’m attempting to describe the lay of the land, and to create a sense of background, midground, and foreground.
And I’m looking for light.
Surprisingly, finding — and understanding — the light in the various pictures I’m studying isn’t quite so easy as it might seem. In Peace and Plenty, the light appears to be coming from behind, casting shadows toward the front of the painting.
My efforts to put in places of light are admittedly clunky and chunky. I’m all right with that, because at least I was giving thought to light and shadow. I deliberately made my lights much lighter. I wanted to see them. I wanted them to stand out. I wanted to look at this painting and say, “Yes, see, I added light here.”
I didn’t get it right. But at least I gave it some thought. That’s the first step, you see. Maybe in tomorrow’s painting, I’ll get closer to putting the lights — and the shadows — in all the right places. Or maybe not. Maybe it will take a lot more of these little paintings, and a lot more time studying before I can really use the concepts of lights and darks to add mood and atmosphere to my art. That’s all right, too.
Sometimes we focus too much on achieving specific results when instead we should be giving ourselves credit for awareness. That’s where improvement begins, and I know I’m making progress simply by developing greater awareness.