Looking Back, Moving Forward

Plein Air IPFW

Plein air painting has been frustrating this year.  Why?  I can’t really say.  Did I run out of time? Sometimes, yes. But I was frustrated with other aspects as well.  The issue of green kept coming up.  I remembered a time when I didn’t feel like I needed to make green things green.  What had happened to me?  Is it the nature of plein air painting?  I don’t think so.  We have freedom to use our subject matter as reference only, and we should.  We don’t have to paint what is literally before us.  Having said that, I knew I needed to work this green thing out.

I have written about this before but it is worth repeating.  One of the problems for pastelists is that the greens in foliage don’t match the greens found in pigments.  I always think that my greens are too cool.  Another frustrations was that my paintings were generally too cool, not sexy cool, but blue instead of warm and sunny.

Why would I talk about the paintings that are not working?  Is it a crazy thing to do?  Should I instead have you thinking that I never paint anything badly?  There might be a rule about that somewhere, but I don’t care.  I am sharing all of this with you because I want to encourage you.  Whenever I go through a period such as this, where nothing seems to work out, I don’t quit!  I consider such occasions to be growth spurts.  I may not entirely understand where this is all going, but if I continue to work through this funk, it will turn out beautifully.

So I paint, on paper and in my mind, while asking myself “what-if questions.”  I was very happy with my latest effort.  I am going to continue working with green.  I think it will make me a better painter.  And once I feel that I have nailed it, I’ll question again, “Why do I make green things green?”

I wanted to blog about paintings that were not working, but now that I have had time away from them, and have had the opportunity to look at them again with fresh eyes, I don’t think they are as bad as I originally thought.  I think I mainly rain out of time.  Maybe that is the other moral of my story, “don’t give up too soon?”

1st Attempt of the Season

1st Attempt of the Season

Looking at this now, indoors, I don’t think that it is too bad.  I just need a little bit more time to add more flowers in the foreground.

2nd Attempt

2nd Attempt

This one is OK.  It is just too much green for me.  I think now that what I was trying to do was actually more difficult than I originally thought.  The trees in the background, although very washy, were rather far away from the tree that is almost in the middle.  I just didn’t capture that sense of depth.

3rd Attempt

3rd Attempt

This feels good to me.  Again, I ran out of time, but I like the feeling of it.  This is a painting of a figurine sitting in summer snow.

4th Attempt

4th Attempt

I was standing on a porch.  It had dark wood.  It felt enclosed even though it was open on three sides.    It was just very dark.  The shadow from the porch that was cast on my painting surface affected my color choices.  Because it was so dark, I choose lighter colors to counter balance.  When I took my painting out into the light, I was surprised at how light my colors were.  Again, seeing it several weeks later, it now feels OK.  It holds together well.

5th Attempt

5th Attempt

I enjoyed painting this one a lot.  For one thing, it was NOT supposed to rain that day.  It rained just enough for me to experience painting in the rain.  The sun came out during the last hour and dried everything.  It is no fun to pack away wet stuff.  And… I ran out of time!

6th Attempt

6th Attempt

This photo was taken by a friend of mine, Sue Sells.  I was really happy with this one.  I tried some different techniques.  I think I worked on this piece for 4 or 5 hours.  This was truly the accumulation of all of my previous efforts.  Sometimes you have to look back to see that you were not just spinning your wheels.

 “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”

– Napoleon Hill


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