Happy New Years to you all! I have finally gotten back to painting for the first time since early December. Between a bad foot, then a bad back, then Christmas, it just wasn’t in the cards. So it felt good to get back to my studio.
When it was so cold, I spent some time looking at summer photos from New England. I found a picture of a farm in New Hampshire that we stopped to film on the road between Maine and Vermont. I’m including the photo so you can see what it looked like. I love farms that have a series of buildings and I really liked the shapes of the house, barn and outbuildings in this farm. But the colors were kind of dull (to say the least!). It was Sept. and so I decided to advance things a bit and put in a red tree and hints of red in the background.
While sketching and thinking about the painting, I decided to do it on a full sheet of Italian clay Pastel Premiere. I did the drawing at home, doubling the size of the farm buildings. At first, I had it as 12 x 24. But later on, I decided it needed more foreground and added two more inches at the bottom. By placing the drawing in the middle of the paper, I was free to add as much as I wanted to the top or bottom.
I began with the trees and sky. I didn’t want them to be fussy! So, I worked pretty quickly with them, using a variety of greens, blues, and violets, then adding some pieces of red and orange to give a sense of impending fall color. I then began on the buildings. For the roofs, I began with a blue, then used a blue green on top–all Girault. I wanted something more interesting than the dull green in the photo. For the white sides of the buildings, I first used a very hard Caran d’ache light “almond”, then added a softer yellow on top in places for emphasis.
There’s a LOT of detail in this picture! The windows and cupolas were all rather painstaking to do. I found I was using hard pastel a lot in order to keep things looking OK.
Compositionally, I lowered the bottom, as I mentioned, before putting in the grasses and I was much happier with it. Also, I moved foreward the small building to the left of the red tree. In the photo it’s roof is at the same level with the bottom of the barn roof, which I didn’t like. By making it taller and a little bigger, it moved it foreward and broke up the line of the buildings, which I liked much better than what is in the photo. I put the grasses in and left for the day yesterday.
Today I came back and took a good look at it. I immediately saw that the windows in the barn were too big and the dark open space was also too high. I also tried to change the color of the barn (not shown) by adding blue to it. It seemed like there was too much of the same and I thought it might read like shadow. It didn’t! And it called too much attention to the barn. I really wanted the area around the red tree to be the focus of the picture. But I did add some blues and pinks to the the three roofs to give them variety. The roof of the barn is a big area that really needed to be diversified.
I’m so used to doing underpaintings that I’m sometimes stymied when I try to work directly. However, I knew that I didn’t want to lose the drawing. I tried to use the paper color and let some of it show through a little, but there isn’t a lot of it. And I completely lost it in the barn after adding too much pastel and brushing off!
But I’m pretty happy with it now. I’m interested in what you think of it.