Saturday, February 7, 2009

Long post on a short pier

Watch Hill Pier, oil on canvas, 10x20

I've finished this painting, the first one I made last Sunday in Watch Hill, and it has opened my eyes a little.

I rarely go back and rework a plein-air painting. It is what it is, and that immediacy, that naked effort with all its surprises, stands at the heart of my art. It's what I like about my plein-air work. My paintings are not perfect, but they're imbued with a sort of energy that gives them life, and lets them speak for themselves.

But this one bugged me. It just didn't work.

I am very interested in paintings that have almost nothing in them and still work as paintings. I think the spareness gives the viewer room to supply his own story. And I find these spare paintings peaceful and soothing. Also, I'm not a fan of detail, nor am I good at it.

This scene seemed made to order. It is incredibly spare. There's the dock and the water, but that's about it. I'm not describing this well. The sky and the ice, the far-off bank and the unfrozen river in the background, are large swaths of seemingly unbroken color - and so, for this painting to work, the open water and the dock have to carry a heavy load.

And at first, they didn't. Nothing in this painting carried anything of note, except the sky. It's very subtle, and hard to see on the computer, but fine, thin clouds move in this sky, and I got them the first time and didn't touch the sky again.

But the rest! Faithful readers know I made a second painting that Sunday afternoon, and then reworked that painting. I started a third, too, an entirely studio-made painting that I am going to scrape away. But I went back to this first painting, and I redid it and redid it, and I think, this time, I got it.

There's actually a lot of color and movement in the ice, and the sky and on the far bank. I made the point of land more vague than it was at first, and more of a silhouette. And something wonderful happened with the dock surface and the shadows on it.

I can do valuable landscape work in the studio - and so that's a good lesson learned.

Thanks for reading!


Unknown said...

*phew*, I'm tired mentally going through the whole ordeal with you. Kudos for hanging in there until it was right! Applause!

KAY PERE said...

Hi, Carrie: Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier this week and leaving a comment. I've enjoyed seeing your pier painting(s) transformation. I love your use of vibrant color.

I've added you to my list of "Artist Friends" links on my blog. Just thought you'd like to know.