October 10, 2017

Studio Landscapes: The Process

I have been working in the studio recently on a series of Autumn Landscapes. I took photographs when the colors were at their peak on a stunning October afternoon in the Cascades Park near my home in Jackson Michigan. I am always amazed how much beauty is right outside my door. I had the later afternoon light, which is my favorite. The colors are so rich when the sun begins to get low in the sky and the shadows are long.

I manipulated the photographs on my computer, to add even more color, so that the photographs looked like how I ‘felt’ looking at the landscapes. I am always concerned with expressing emotion in my work.

I began the work in the studio, quite unsure about how these emotions could be recreated, without ‘being’ physically present in the landscape experiencing it. I had always painted plein air, out “in” the field, so I was out of my comfort zone. Working from a 2 dimensional photograph to a 2 dimensional canvas definitely left some gaps in my perception.

In the quiet space of my studio, I felt much less overwhelmed. That made it easier for me to get into the flow of the work. Being in nature is a HUGE sensual experience, and that energy forces me to focus in a very intentional way. That is a good thing of course, because in nature, everything vibrates and shifts quite quickly. Nothing is ‘fixed”. The light changes, the weather shifts, so I am constantly adapting and recreating.

In the studio, I have found myself to be so much more relaxed. The photographs are ‘fixed’ and therefore my reference point remains stationary. I decided to follow the same process that I use in the field. I made a black and white pencil sketch, considering the composition and the placement of the darks and lights. I then made a light charcoal sketch on the canvas that I had pre-primed with a neutral color.

Then the dance begins. As i begin to lay in the larger shapes and add color, I am concerned first with the foundation, the composition. It’s so interesting to me that we as painters have named this element of the process, composition. It feels just like creating music, or what i would imagine that to feel like, since I have never written music. I do listen to music when I work in the studio, and it is creates a background to the dance of my brush on the surface of the canvas. There are similar elements. I am composing. I am leading the viewers eye to a focal point and then back around the rectangle so that everything within it can be enjoyed. I am choosing which visual elements are important to achieving that and leaving the rest out.

I “feel” my way, trusting that even through the struggle of placement, color choices, and that feeling of being out of my comfort zone, knowing that the answers will become clear.

My intuition is always my guide.

My realizations in this experience have been vast. I feel that I have opened more to the flow of the process of creating, allowing it to happen. This is the only truth. Too much front brain analyzation and the magic is compromised. I stop working when I feel that I am asking too many questions with my front brain. I come back to work when I am refreshed and can easily access my zone. In the studio, without distractions, I am able to get there quickly.

I can plug in and allow the work to unfold. So satisfying. I am focusing my creative energies on landscape for a year, exploring the 4 seasons, and staying open to all the opportunities.