I do think it is important that regardless of an approach that a painting is plausible or maybe it becomes plausible with time as we begin to experience the work as the artist did in its creation. This means if there is a recognizable hill in a painting that has a recognizable road then it is reasonable to expect that it would be drivable.
Hence came about the resolution to a recent painting problem when I was working on EARLY SPRING MUIR BEACH OVERLOOK CALIFORNIA. I had about 20 reference images and I printed four before I started working.
I was nervous about my intuition for this painting. The landscape is hardly known to me. Though I stood there for a long time trying soak in all the information I could. Though I had my photography sketch type images, I still wasn’t really sure if I understood or if I knew this place in my bones. I had not witnessed year after year of subtle seasonal changes. But also I question my ability because the California landscape does not have the cool clear blues of its northern sisters. The haze and atmosphere are warm and rich – almost buttery, even in early spring. There is a constant taste of chalk with a hint of salt on the air in this drought-ridden geography. I must learn a new palette, possibly even a new approach. I do not know this landscape even as my rain forest hair registers a more waif-like wisp on the sea breeze. I want to know it though. I listen and peer as if learning a foreign language. I am hypersensitive a I prepare to paint All my sensory recorders on high alert. What I can not discern, I must guess. I am doubtful of my ability to read the body language of this landscape with my brush where words and understanding fail me. But I must try. I painted the ground a week ago and this morning I start.
After a few quick lines to help guide me through the composition I start blocking the painting in. I knew there was a strong underlying difference between sky and sea. They were not the same family of blue though a slight reflective element on the sea connected them on the surface. So I started there.
For future reference there is a dirt road on the first hill above the beach. At this point, it is not so bad for being accurate. So far so good. I finish blocking in the landscape. That blob of white is just a reminder to put in a sea stack later on. But look what happened to the road. In my mind’s eye I wanted the road to go to the beach. I am not aware of my mistake and continue on with this lively work which is already breathing on its own.
Several hours later, I am disappointed and frustrated but I must leave it to rest. I am physically tired from a full day of painting and unable to comprehend what needs to be done. Here is where the painting rested until after dinner.
I sat and looked at it while my husband said over and over “it was fine – just leave it alone.”
But something was very wrong. Something was bugging me. I sat on the stair steps and gave the painting that was resting on the windowsill across the room my full attention. Finally, I saw the problem. There were no switchbacks on the bottom of the hill. It was not navigable. I leaped up, scramble the stairs to the loft and my reference images. Sure enough I had moved the road! It need to go farther up the side of the hill as it didn’t lead to the beach at this point at all. With a few quick brushstrokes everything is made right in the wet paint. I can then see other work that needed to be done but I wait until the next morning.
After waiting for daylight, I turned my loose brushstrokes onto the canvas with clarity. The rocks on the foreground hill picked up their natural brightness above the trees. However the cottages remain missing by design.
I added highlights to the sea and scaled back the far hills where San Francisco sits unnoticed in the distance.
It is a private view for the viewer alone to savour. The road denotes a connection to civilization that does not intrude on the landscape. I feel I have been true to place and true in using all of lessons of those painters who have gone before me. At the same time, I have registered something of my own unique vision. This is not a small task to accomplish and one I may question both for its relevance and its success on another day. But for today, let’s enjoy the view shall we!
EARLY SPRING MUIR BEACH OVERLOOK CALIFORNIA 18 x 24 inch oil on wood with 1.5 inch cradle.
The work needs to dry and then have its final photograph but I am fairly confident that the painting is finished.
And do feel free to take a drive along that dirt road. I am sure you will find it quite satisfactory.
When was the last time you couldn’t see something that was right in front of you?
© 2015 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