Unraveling the artistic influences and intentions behind the painting EVENING AND THE ARBUTUS TREE

The time has come to try to write about what happened on the canvas of EVENING AND THE ARBUTUS TREE 36 x 60 inch oil on canvas.

Evening and the Arbutus Tree 36 x 60 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_01_07 018

(Detailed viewing and purchase information available HERE)

We can begin with the first hand experience on the evening of November 10, 2012 and the resulting reference images with the primary one being this one simply called “The Arbutus Tree.”

The Arbutus Tree by Terrill Welch 2012_11_10 036

We can refer back to November 23, 2012 and the early beginnings of this painting, where we can still see parts of the underpainting, and the hard lines of the tree and foreground developing.

Evening and the Arbutus Tree in progress by Terrill Welch 2012_11_23 009

We can examine the six paintings I painted in between this stage and completing the painting on January 4, 2013 for any hints of what was to come.

“Storm Clouds over Strait of Georgia” postcard size oil on paper

Storm Clouds over Strait of Georgia postcard size oil on paper by Terrill Welch 2012_11_29 008

“Evening Thunderclouds over the Strait of Georgia” 20 x 20 inch oil on canvas

Evening Thunderclouds over the Strait of Georiga 20 x 20 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2012_12_20 025

“Reef Bay morning experienced” 14 x 18 inch oil on canvas

Reef Bay morning experienced 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2012_12_20 016

And these three that were painting on the same morning as I returned to work on the larger canvas bringing mostly to completion by the end of the day.

“At the Beach another time” resting 12 x 12 inch oil on canvas

At the Beach another time resting 12 x 12 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_01_02 050

Late December West Coast Sunrise resting 6 x 6 inch oil on gessobord

Late December Westcoast Sunrise resting 6 x 6 inch oil on gessobord by Terrill Welch 2013_01_02 059

Pear Trees in winter first light resting 8 x 10 inch oil on canvas

Pear Trees in winter first light resting 8 x 10 inch oil o canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_01_02 040

We can review my contemporary colleagues whose work is often part of my daily artistic exposure. The list is long with more than 300 in my network but a few may be worthwhile considering in relation to this particular work.

The first of these colleagues being Lena Levin for her skill in using and splitting colours into intricate tensions within her paintings.

Montara Beach 16 x 20 oil on canvas panel by Lena Levin

But there are also Gabriel Boray for his boldness and commitment to exaggeration

The Fields by Gabriel Boray


Saeed with his beautiful grays

Small Streams oil on canvas by Saeed

Shell Rummel and her attention to design so much so that it is now being made into fabric

Water’s Edge by Shell Rummel

as well as,  Holly Friesen for the inclusion of her internal landscape

Shimmer / 54″ x 72″ / acrylic on canvas by Holly Friesen

and Roberta Murray, who is also a photographer, for her companionable desire to capture what we see at a glance.

SW Of Royalties – Acrylic on panel – 11×14″ by Roberta Murray

This is not everyone of course but just a few of my peers whose landscape paintings come to mind.

Yet, there is also my long-term and recent study and musing of historic landscape works by Emily Carr

The Shoreline by Emily Carr

and The Group of Seven

as well as the landscapes of  Edward Hopper

New York, New Haven and Hartford by Edward Hopper

and Gustav Klimt

Farm House with Birch Trees by Gustav Klimt

Of course, it would be impossible not to mention the French Impressionist painters with particular attention to Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro when listing those whose work I spend time digesting.

Yes, we can do this referring, reviewing and examining of influences and though these are all relevant aspect, they are not the nub of importance. What is, I believe, most important is my conscious effort to divorce the impressionist influences of Claude Monet and the other French Impressionist painters that are so predominantly relevant and internalized in my own painting process. This notice of separation was given on or about August 5, 2012.

However, the intention of my work both in painting and photography has not changed.

What is this intention you might ask. It is roughly as follows:

To demonstrate our relationship to our natural environment and the continuity of time. What is the season? What time is it? Where is the sun? Where am I? Where are you? Where shall we meet in this canvas? How is it intended to influence us?  How does it influence us? The underlying tension is that if we do not address this connection and relationship in a deep and profound way in our daily lives, humanity will parish in a spiral of its own self-destruction.

(Reference: art journal March 21, 2012)

If the intention of my work holds then I must define the problem:

I was taught to start a painting from the farthest point from me. In a landscape this is often the sky. Also, I was to establish my darkest value somewhere in the foreground (though I often forget to do this until part way through a painting). Once the composition is blocked in then, when using oils I was told to work from my darkest areas towards my lightest areas while building the whole painting up at the same time. The reverse process was recommended for water colours for obvious reasons. The intent was to paint what was there or what was seen by following the light source with more detail in the foreground and less in the back ground – a rule I break repeatedly. Further, it was recommended to paint into the shadows in search of colour, light and shapes – noting the difference between cast shadows and form shadows.

But what if this isn’t so? What if even cast shadows are part of form – a continuation of the relationship between visual and energetic space of an object? What if Form is more than Shape, more than composition and cast shadows are part of understanding the elements and there relationships in the painting – beyond position and time of day.

I have primarily set my painting intention on painting light, movement, relationship and connection. Form has been a back drop for the other actors in my paintings. Hence, at times, I have never felt I was successful in providing adequate contrast between light and dark. To be frank, I have trouble seeing the shape or form of shadow even though I understand shadow intimately due to the significant amount of time I spend in natural light. I have had no concept to explore its strength until this idea came to me.

My proposition: The form shadow and the cast shadow are both in a primary relationship with the form. They should be painted and understood as one. Both continue to be attached to our understanding and experience of the Form – and not just with the light source and the underlying subject in the shadow of the form. For example, the grass is NOT understood as grass in the shadow of the tree but rather the tree’s shadow (possessive intentional) is spread across the grass. (Reference: art journal August 5, 2012)

This proposition is what I am exploring in current paintings and this is what is behind the shift we see in EVENING AND THE ARBUTUS TREE. It is this that is the impetus for my primary separation between my impressionist foundations in recent paintings. It is not an approach that consistently holds because I find it is so easy to follow the light into the shadows and represent how it softly plays on the grass instead of letting the shadow stand on its own, sometimes harshly against the light in the evening sky or the edge of the tree trunk. What this painting is saying is that the shadows can speak for themselves in relation to the light land the form. It is a complex language but can intuitively be understood. These harsher edges are part of the stillness that comes with the beginnings of silhouettes that will soon follow as time takes us steadily towards the approaching night. This is an important voice to record in the conversation of this landscape.

In this painting the caste shadow is from the lighthouse. It is this shadow that creates the strongest bridge between the foreground and the mist in the background and the rich hues on the right where the last vestiges of the evening sun are slammed against the sandstone and shrubbery before spilling across the sea and the mist. Therefore, I did not paint a tree that was half cast in shadow. I understood that the cast shadow was important to understanding the form shadow of the tree, of this landscape’s foreground and of its relationship to the background.

detail 1 Evening and the Arbutus Tree by Terrill Welch 2013_01_07 033

These tensions would have become unintelligible if I had followed the light into the shadows to such an extent that the relationship of the caste shadow lost its importance.

So if we can now hold all of these aspects of influences in one brush stroke and then another we possibly might have some idea as to what happened on this canvas that has brought about a notable shift from previous work. Yes, the work, as some have already confirmed, is still recognizable as my painting. It is still following the same intention as earlier work. Yet, I think we might agree that the language of expression has become more refined and complex in its simplification.

What now? Will it mean that this shift becomes consistent in future work? I do not know. If we go back to the previous six paintings that were painted in between starting and completing this painting, I would guess that there will continue to be this flip-flopping between the practice of following the light and that of letting the shadows stand on their own as part of the tension and expression of the relationships in the landscape. We shall have to wait and see.

What is your own most recent attempt to discern your creative influences and intentions?

© 2013 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

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8 thoughts on “Unraveling the artistic influences and intentions behind the painting EVENING AND THE ARBUTUS TREE

  1. I enjoyed this lesson so very much and have been through all the paintings and words 3 times before attempting to write something here…amazing work.

    (I am not being very creative at the moment because the noise of cutting down this huge tree is keeping me in a lot of tension – my first Qigong class is tomorrow night – I think it will help – also working on the paper trail of our lives and I am just trying to get it completed because it exhausts me)

    I love my breaks to your world and color and form….Thank you

    • You are most welcome Patricia. I will have to look up Qigong but it sounds interesting. Good luck with the paper trail. I still have this to do for us as well. But it shall get done… as it does every year 🙂

    • Thank you Wulan and like any skill it takes practice and then it becomes easier 🙂 It looks like you have a new post up. I am on my way over now to take a look 🙂 Oh my!!! I have come back to add to this comment! What a surprise indeed. Thank you so much Wulan for the tribute to my work through the gift that took four months to reach you. As you will see, I have commented on your post but I want to say here as well that I deeply value our connection. All the best. Terrill 🙂

  2. An absolutely enthralling journey through the creative process via work in progress and a beautifully integrated art show with some invaluable visual references to artists and works that both enrich and embellish your own recent bursts of creative excellence. ARBUTUS TREE is an arresting work, one I just couldn’t take my eyes off Terrill. I was dazzled by the incorporating of gorgeous color in Lena Levin’s painting, the exquisite design in Shell Rummell’s “Water’s Edge” and Holly Friesen’s wonderous landscape work “Shimmer.” Of course having Emily Carr as part of this presentation raises the bar, and then to feature giants like Hopper (always one of my favorites) and Klint, well this needed no approval from me! Ha! What a divine first class for an art course. I’d sign up in a heartbeat!

    • Well if it is classes we are taking Sam, I want to be in one of yours 🙂 I did have a lot of fun pulling this post together because so much is assumed to come from thin air when we are creating and this is seldom the case – at least for me anyway.

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