The Four Seasons

This project was interesting. It’s part of my 100-Day Creative Challenge in learning to add mood and atmosphere to my landscape oil paintings. It goes without saying that the time of year — the season — can play a large part in adding mood and atmosphere.

A few days ago I shared a painting inspired by springtime. I included lots of little white wildflowers, ones that do, indeed, bloom in the spring. Other than that, though, is there anything about the painting that says “this is truly spring”? Let’s take a look at it again.

Spring Wildflowers Oil on 9 x 12 Canvas Panel

Yes, here I’ve included “Spring” in the title, so, of course you know that’s my intention. Beyond that, though, would you have looked at this painting and immediately thought, “Oh, what a lovely spring day!”

I gave this a little thought after I’d finished the painting, and I started wondering, just what is the difference between spring and summer? I looked at the two paintings Carolyn Lewis included in Mood and Atmosphere in Oil Painting, and read what she’d written about each. These were two very different paintings, so in some respects it was difficult to note specific differences.

In her spring painting, she choose flowering trees and used a lot of pinks. In the summer painting — a building with flowers around it — she mentioned sunlight. Hmmm, what can I take from this?

I turned to my own thoughts about the seasons.

For me, spring is soft, pastel, light, and oftentimes hazy. Summer is, as Lewis points out, bright and sunny. Colors are more intense; shadows are stronger. Could I show these differences?

Using a single sheet of canvas paper, I created two paintings — simultaneously. I divided the sheet down the middle and then drew out roughly the same scene on both sides. I painted the springtime sky, then painted the brighter summertime sky. I added pale green trees and bushes in the spring painting, then made those same areas much greener for the summer scene.

Back and forth I went from one to the other, seeing if I could make a real — and believable — difference between the two studies. Here’s the result.

By the way, yes, I know that tree trunk grew a lot between “spring” and “summer” but I wasn’t going for exactness here.

Between these two studies, I definitely prefer summer. I like the deeper, darker colors. To me, spring looks pale by comparison, a bit washed out and unfinished.

But, of course, we have four seasons, so I decided to grab another sheet of canvas paper and again, make two paintings of the same scene.

Again, I know I haven’t painted the tree exactly the same in each season, but that’s all right. Mostly I wanted to explore colors and see if I could create a feeling of each individual season.

It was a good practice project because it made me think a bit. How do we tell the differences between spring and summer, autumn, and winter? Is the sky different? Are the shadows different? These are all ideas I’ll continue to explore in my painting even after I complete “Mood and Atmosphere” and have wrapped up my 100-day adventure.

Here are “the four seasons” all in one image:

And here, for your listening pleasure is Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons“. Enjoy!



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