“All creative endeavor is toward a definite purpose. Therefore, it is imperative that we have a definite conception of this purpose as well as a clear understanding of the means to accomplish it”.…Edgar Payne
A few years ago, on the recommendation of one of my collectors, my wife and I traveled to Holmes County in Ohio. It’s located in the northeast-central part of the state and is home to the largest Amish community in the world. It is a place I could easily enjoy painting for many years, for it pretty much captures the emotional and physical essence of everything I enjoy about landscape painting.
One of the paintings from that trip, “Kissed by the Sun”, has received a lot of exposure lately because of the kindness of friends sharing it with others on Facebook.
Below is the photo reference used for the painting. There are many things I like about this photo but it’s primarily the composition that prompted me to stop and take a longer look. There’s a distinct and clear focal point, nice lead-in, a variety of contrasting shapes and sizes, and an obvious foreground, middle ground, and background. In addition the subject itself, the rolling countryside, the winding road, and the embankment on the right with large tree, are all appealing.
|The scene: Holmes County, Ohio|
As an artist I try to bring something of myself to each painting, not as a conscious, deliberate act, but as a natural result of focusing on what is to be communicated…the concept or “purpose” as Mr. Payne puts it.
Sadly, I’m not always successful. When I’m not, it’s usually the result of not spending enough time thinking on the front end, not doing preliminary work, and not having a clear idea of where I want to go with the painting. I fall into the trap of reproducing a photo. Hopefully, in these cases, I have enough sense to at least pick a good photo.
A few things about this photo are lacking…the feeling of warmth, of intimacy, a place of comfort that makes one feel right at home. I know, it’s a subtle thing. The basically flat lighting has something to do with it, but also the new almost perfect barn, the modern asphalt road, random spots of color, and an imposing background also contribute.
I sought to resolve these issues with this preliminary color study.
|Kissed by the Sun (Study) – 4.5″x 6″ – Oil on paper|
By simplifying the background and changing the value, casting the foreground into shadow, and moving the light in order to cast part of the barn in shadow, the scene becomes more interesting, unified and less confusing. At the same time the size of the barn was reduced, aged for character, and highlighted. The road was narrowed, asphalt removed, thereby making it much less traveled. Finally, the tree on the right was enlarged, forcing the viewer to stay within the painting.
All the preliminary work was a great help in clarifying the concept and actually enabled the final painting to come together more quickly with less problems. As you can see however, from the completed piece, I continued to make changes I thought necessary in order to clearly portray the feeling I was after.
|Kissed by the Sun – 12″x 16″ – Oil on canvas|