Just the Way You Are

Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are is a favorite — both to listen and to play. Back in the 1980s this was one of the most-requested songs whenever I entertained friends or performed music. This lovely tune came quickly to mind recently as I finished the fifth of my “hot pink gessoed” index cards. Remember, in an earlier post I said you’d be seeing the last in the series? Yes, indeed. Here it is;

As always I feel compelled to offer the usual disclaimer. The photo is not good.  I think, though, that you can get a feeling of the rich warm colors.

By this point, I had learned a bit about working with that hot “bubble gum” pink undertone, so I knew how to create the shimmering orange skies. I was working again with a painting from Charles Warren Eaton as my inspiration. For the record, here is his painting:

Obviously there are significant differences between his painting and mine — for good reason. First, as I was working on the hot pink gesso, any attempt at a golden, yellow sky was destined for failure. I was satisfied to create a lovely orange sky. Second, although I had been looking forward to painting those trees and branches, once I’d laid in the background area and put in the foreground colors, I shook my head. Nope, I wasn’t going to add the trees, I decided.

I looked at the little painting, smiled, and said, “I like you just the way you are.” Cue Billy Joel.

I know, I know… compared to Eaton’s landscape, mine is woefully simple, dull, and lacking any real interest. Fine. I don’t care. I liked my little landscape, so I set it aside, just the way it was. I’d had fun painting it, I’d trusted my own artistic judgment, and — right or wrong — I liked what I had accomplished.

But then I made another decision. When I completed the first ten landscapes in my 31-day project, all inspired by works of George Inness, I painted a larger canvas panel as a tribute to Inness. So, having now finished a series of works inspired by  Charles Warren Eaton, shouldn’t I also do a tribute to him?

Yes, of course, and why not re-visit Autumn Meadow and paint it with the trees? So, that’s what I did, ony this time, I wasn’t working with a hot pink gessoed surface, and this time I wasn’t thinking about Eaton’s warm, autumn colors. This time I was painting with colors I love, drawing inspiration from his composition, and creating a painting that was a tribute both to Eaton and to my own developing style.

Dead Trees in a Summer Meadow

Admittedly, my painting is nothing like anything Charles Warren Eaton ever painted. The only similarity is that both paintings have trees, and yes, I’m still working on how to paint delicate, thin lines to create all those delicate, thin branches. I’m getting better, but I still have a long way to go before I get there.

My painting, I suppose, makes no sense really. It’s definitely not autumn in this painting, and it’s obviously not winter. Most of the landscape appears lush and green — quite summery — but then there are the stark, bare trees. Dead trees, I guess. Standing in the middle of a summer meadow.

And, you know what…? I like this painting, too. Just the way it is. I like it because it shows that I am learning to create depth and distance. I like it because I captured a bit of light — and a bit of mood, I think — on the trunks of the trees. I like the sky. I like that I’m learning to create subtle color changes with my brushstrokes.

What would Eaton think of my tribute? Well, I’d like to think he might smile, and maybe he’d remark that he’d never seen a scene quite like it before. But I hope he would also be honored, that he would be pleased to know that his art is inspiring new artists, that we still study his paintings today, learn about his life, and hope in some way to carry on his legacy.


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