It’s a Mystery to Me

When I decided to do my 31-Day Index Card Landscape Project as a way of studying tonalism, I planned the month out carefully. I ordered the materials I needed. I prepped my first 5 cards with gesso in anticipation of December 1, and because I wanted to make the project as simple and accessible as possible, I chose the artists whose works I would be using for inspiration: George Inness, Charles Warren Eaton, and Dwight William Tryon. These three were among the best-known tonalists. I felt I could learn a lot by drawing inspiration from a trio of different artists, seeing slight differences in their styles, and noting their color palettes. I did, indeed, learn a lot.

But, I digress.

My objective was to make the project convenient. I wanted to come to the studio each morning and quickly complete each day’s work. That consisted in viewing an inspirational reference photo, making a rough pencil sketch on an index card, jotting down a few notes, and then taking that index card along with my own ideas and inspirations, and using that information to create my painting for that day.

What I didn’t want was to spend time each morning browsing for reference photos, having to make decisions about which painting to use, or getting side-tracked with online searches. So, to be certain I was as well prepared as possible, I spent an afternoon viewing and choosing the 31 different paintings I would use. I chose the first ten from George Inness. The second were paintings by Charles Eaton. And the final series — 11, not 10 — came from Dwight William Tryon.

Each afternoon, I would usually go to my December Project file folder on the computer and pull up the next day’s painting, just to get a quick look at what I’d be working with. Priming the pump, you might call it. Getting a few thoughts gathered up for my subconsious to take hold of. I had each painting numbered, but not named, and this proved problematic. Many times I wanted to look more closely at a landscape. The images I had saved to the computer were small; sometimes it was difficult to see the scene clearly.

For the most part, my project worked as it should. I enjoyed it immensely, and I truly have learned from the experience. But two paintings remain mysteries. They are from my last series, inspired by landscapes of Tryon. But try as I might, I wasn’t able to find information about these paintings. Even as I re-traced my online footsteps, I could not even find the art sites where I downloaded the two images.

Both are somewhat dark and somewhat mysterious in their own right, and that was what I wanted to convey in my interpretation of the two paintings.

From Day 29


From Day 30


Of all the paintings I’ve done in this project, these two are my favorites. I like the almost ghostly color palette, especially in the second landscape. I like the sense of mystery I feel about them, and I was very pleased that even in a tiny 3 x 5 painting, I was able to capture — at least in part — what I was thinking and feeling.

Now, only one painting remains, and you’ll be seeing it tomorrow. As I’ve done many times as I’ve worked on this project, I will once again recommend this “index card” project as an excellent way to study a particular art style, study the work of a particular artist, or simply to develop a habit of painting — or drawing — daily.

While my paintings for these two days are mysteries to me, one thing is very clear. This project has been highly rewarding, definitely one of the best art experiences I’ve ever had.


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