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
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.


I appreciate all kind comments on my art and poetry.