Monday, April 25, 2011

04.25.2011 ~ santa fe spring: nambe forsythia

santa fe spring, i — nambe forsythia
— oil on panel — 6 x 6 inches — copyright dawn chandler 2011

Forcythia, growing beside the window of my friends Susan and Jeff's home. I painted this a couple of weeks ago, from a photo I took last year. The challenge was that the lighting in my photo wasn't very good. It was an overcast day, so there was little contrast to the landscape; shadows and highlights were dull or nonexistent. I tried to fake it by pushing the highlights and smears of sunlight on the wall. Almost, but not quite.

A friend stopped by my studio as I was working on this painting. Not a painter herself, she was surprised to see that I was painting in the window and adobe wall last. She said she would have expected me to paint in the house first, and then paint the forsythia last, on top of the house. Instead I put in the mass of yellow and branches for the bush first and excavated the adobe wall and window around it.

This is usually how I approach painting trees and foliage anymore. I find working this way breaks up the edges of the various shapes, in a more expressive and painterly way than were I to approach it the other way. If I had painted the bush in last, the edges of the branches and foliage would be too sharp relative to the rest of the painting. I know this because that is exactly how I used to try to paint trees and foliage, and came up frustrated every time. Only through trial and error, and studying the technique of some other painters (Kevin McPherson and Richard Schmid, especially)
and how they approach trees and foliage, did I start to get the hang of it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

04.10.2011 ~ santa fe sunset, i

santa fe sunset, 1 — oil on panel — 6 x 6 inches — copyright dawn chandler 2011

I am going to take the liberty of speaking on behalf of all New Mexicans and say this: I am tired of the wind.


Alas, this is what "spring" in New Mexico means: WIND.

Hard to appreciate the soft beauty of delicate fruit trees coming into bloom, or the tender shoots of new green growth cautiously rising from the ground, when a fury of dust blows eternally…. ARGH.

Well, if nothing else, I can at least attempt to escape the maelstrom that is New Mexican spring by recalling the beauty and peacefulness of more appreciable times in this otherwise blessed land. Here then is a painting I whipped up yesterday afternoon of a New Mexico sunset, based on a photo I took some time last year. It was luscious fun to escape into these colors... I almost didn't even hear the wind bludgeoning the side of the studio...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

04.05.11 ~ finding my way home

finding my way home
— mixed media and oil on panel
— 6 x 6 inches — copyright dawn chandler 2011

Much of the past few days has been spent cleaning and organizing my studio. It's always a motivating project, reminding me of the many materials I have buried away, and inspiring me to get my hands dirty with them.

My studio walls were cluttered with last year's paintings — lots of landscapes, and a few "abstracts" tucked behind them. I've decided to put away all of the landscapes, at least for now. I have some big projects lined up for this year and I need room to breathe and think. Having too much visual clutter just gets in the way of new ideas.

The excavation of my studio turned up this piece, pictured above. I'm pleasantly surprised to find it; I like it more than I remembered. It's another of the few mixed media pieces I had a chance to work on last year.
The suggestions of landscape, the arched passageways, ambiguity of form and illusion….these are familiar themes of mine when it comes to my mixed media/abstract work.

There's a jewel-like color clarity — especially in the blues — that rather sings to me in this piece. That color quality, combined with the small scale, and the archways might account for why, this morning, as I contemplate this little painting, I am reminded of the paintings of the lovely book of prayer, Les Tres Riches des Heures duc de Berry.

I used to make little books. Tiny pages of yet tinier collages. Small books of whispered prayers.
My prayers.
Pages of my soul.

This piece is not being put away. It's going above my work table.