Saturday, June 17, 2017

Aspen Grove in the Morning Light - a Creative Process Blog

Aspen Grove in the Morning Light
28 x 28 watercolor on artists canvas
$1765
Been a while since I posted a creative process blog. Been a while since I finished a painting. I have three unfinished paintings staring at me from the studio work table. And that too may be part of the creative process. We have long heard of composers and their unfinished symphonies or authors and their unfinished novels. Yes, sometimes death interrupts permanently the path to completion. But sometimes the spark of creativity just gets to a stopping point. And you don't know where to take it from there.

Sometimes that stopping point is the sketch book or the photograph I just really wanted to paint so I printed it out and clipped it to the shelf. And so began Aspen Grove in the Morning Light. All artists in New Mexico paint aspens but me. Several years ago I did a small study for a possible painting. It is still up in storage in the box room someplace.  It was at a gallery which closed last year.  So it wasn't bad by my standards. Just not good enough to inspire me to go further.

So finally deciding to do another aspen painting was a leap of faith or boredom. Who knows why an artist decides to revisit a subject, but revisit I did. Side note: one of those unfinished paintings taunting me has aspens in it. But I charged on. I located the old aspen study sketch and enlarged upon it. Made it a whole grove instead of a small stand of aspens, gave it a background and carved a path through the grove to it. Somewhere in this process I decided that was what was wrong with so many aspen paintings; no context. Side note 2: the unfinished painting mentioned above has context.


The sketch with masking

My usual way of beginning the painting is to do the sky. Note 3: I did the sky first on the unfinished aspen painting with context. I started with the ground on this painting as you can see. It was the ground in the photograph pinned to my shelf which made that particular aspen photograph of all the aspen photographs I had taken interesting enough to consider painting it. The ground and the light and shadows on the ground. 


Background roughed in a masking to skyline removed

Aspens seldom comprise a whole forest. They are small groves surrounded by conifer forests most often so part of the background had to reflect that.

Golden crowns filled in and sky hinted at. Masking removed.

So at the above point the painting is "roughed in". I confess I spent a lot of time staring at it and not knowing were I was going from this point. It was in high risk of being another of those unfinished paintings. But I forced myself to move on with working on the tree trunks. I used watercolor pencil and a white watercolor.

At this point I began to like it again

Clearly it was not going to be quickly done. Each aspen trunk became a meditation project. And some of what I mediated on was the background shapes, the direction of the light, the shape of the mountains, the height of the tree trunks, and was I going to ruin it with shadows.


Made the trees taller to support the crowns, added mists in the valley, and hazy clouds in the sky

Getting closer and the shadows didn't ruin it. But they required intensifying the light on the ground and even putting in more color in contrast. I also used a white wash to add distance, push the mountains back. So many little tweaks because I was seeking a sense and not an image. The sense of walking through an aspen grove in the early morning of a fall day.





Week 24 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 162

This is my "How Green is My Valley" week. Late snows and spring rains combined to make everything green.
After several years of drought we have been pulling out of aquifer depletion and moving back to lush meadows and healthy forests.


Day 163
Yes, there is a Black Lake. In fact, it used to cover much of the valley pictured in the photos below.
A meadow which was once a lake is called a cienega. My house is perched on the edge of once was another cienega on the Little Coyote West.

Day 164
The first five photographs featured this week were taken on one day of extraordinary light and clouds over the Black Lake Valley just a few miles south of my house.
This area stood in for Montana during the filming of Lonesome Dove.
But this is New Mexico.


Day 165
This area was settled during the 1762 Homestead Act and combined by the family settling it 160 acres a time into one of the larger ranches in New Mexico. It is still an active ranch though parts of the original holdings have been sold off.

Day 166

The two photographs below are from the Moreno Valley just to the north of my house. It too is very green.
And the wild iris have spilled down the side valleys running through ranch land toward Eagle Nest Lake.


Day 167

Day 168
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are at the heart of all these photographs. I live on the wet side of this mountain range.
Taos, New Mexico is on the other side.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week 23 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 155

This week was about the green. A beautiful fresh green. We have had a very wet spring and it shows. But I still had to do black and white for a couple. The last two are the same photograph. Once in green and the other in black and white. I have debated with myself at times of doing a whole week of doubles like that. And at some time in the post processing I have tried on both looks on a photo.


Day 156

Day 157

Day 158

Day 160

Day 161

Day 162

Monday, June 5, 2017

Week 22 - 2017 in Photographs

Day 148

I was going to open this photo blog with a sentence about this being a week of black and white photography. But that is not entirely true. Day 149, the photograph directly below, is in fact a color photograph. And Day 151 is a sepia treatment. Sepia is a color. As a painter I can say that black and white are also colors. 

This week I decided to focus on the bones of the composition. The tones. The lights and dark. And that is easiest if the brilliant colors, my usual favorites, are stripped or minimized. I used to hate it in college when my instructors forced me to work with black and white film. But that is the bare bones of photography. And a cheaper dark room. And Ansel Adams was the master to follow.

And color film was not that dependable then. And when I got out of college and had to take my black and white film to developers I had no control of the product. I dropped black and white and switched to color slides.

Digital DSLR's have given me the freedom to return to the lessons I learned in college and add a few more. Winter has helped too. I am back in control of the post processing of the image. And my camera is not loaded with a whole roll of color film I have to complete before loading black and white.


Day 149

When I decided to begin again to practice black and white I read lots of articles on it. One tip was to consider black and white from the moment you take the picture as if your camera has only black and white film. Well, that didn't work for me. Except in winter where snow storms erase color.

Another tip was a noisy sky. Not in the photo above, and no sky in the one below.


Day 150

The two photos below have noisy skies. But the last photograph, my favorite in this series, does not. After a winter of playing around with this discipline I have decided it is all about the light. But then photography, color or black and white, is all about the light. And the bones of the composition.  


Day 151

Day 152

Day 153

When I am reviewing my captures on the computer the questions I ask myself are whether color is necessary, and is it a better photograph without that distraction.

Day 154