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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Start to finish - and finally finished! Winter Twilight

Winter Twilight, 24x36" Oil on canvas 
©2016 Helen Read
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I've finally finished this larger landscape painting.  It has been months in the making with some stops and starts in between.  I am trying to keep much better notes on my paintings as I go - so, I'm including them below.  If you have interest in my process you may find these notes interesting!  

Artist's Notes on Winter Twilight  7-19-16

January  30, 2016  - Klein Creek Farm – afternoon about 4:00

The reference picture for this painting

This year, snow was about melted (not much snow this past winter).  It was cold, but warm enough to be outdoors.  There was not much in the way of bird song – the water was not frozen, but not running very quickly.  Quite a placid afternoon.  I was particularly struck by the reflections in the water and the western horizon that had just a was of yellow in it as the sun retreated behind the tree line. 

In preparation for painting, I took photos.  I did thumbnail sketches, I did full size sketches in charcoal and adding color.  I did value studies and worked with 4 values in markers.  I also did drawings – particularly of the large tree on the left as it hung over the water – it was not a typical shape – a waterside, scrubby tree.  But it did have an interesting personality!   All of this to try to understand the landscape I was intending to paint – to understand the various elements of the landscape – to understand the shadows and light – to understand the colors, subdued as they were.  In all of this, trying to internalize something of the physics of the world that God has made.  

 above - thumbnail sketch
and marker value study with notes on values using a value scale (1-10)

Above - A full size charcoal sketch on paper
Below - sketch with color added

 A 9x12" drawing of the tree on the left side of the painting - as a way to understand the structure of this tree.
This drawing has since been sold. 

With preliminary work done, canvas ready, the painting began.  I’d like to say it went easily -  it didn’t.   The size is large.  The painting has to be scaled to fit.  There’s a lot of acreage to cover with paint.  There were times of feeling stuck and needing to stop awhile and think.  Decide what to do about what issue along the way. 

 Above  -  lightly sketched on canvas
Below - neutrals added for sky and water

 Above - a light wash of yellow added to the sky

Below - the progression of the painting - from the underpainting to the almost finished work. 

The palette of colors I used for this painting

was rather simplified.  The winter colors are rather subdued and neutral.  So my palette of colors needed to be rather subdued and simplified as well.  My medium was Liquin. 

Ultramarine blue
Raw Umber
Burnt Umber
Chromatic Black
Transparent Earth Yellow
Portland Gray Light
Torrit Gray
Warm White
Hansa Yellow Medium
Yellow Ochre 

I have not kept close track of my hours of work – maybe that’s for the best!  It was many hours.  This painting was started in February 2016 (January, if you count the day I first encountered this landscape when I was out trekking through the mud and chill)  It was finished in July 2016, with a few breaks in its work along the way.  I think what captured my attention was the tranquility of this winter scene, the beauty of its starkness, the reflections as they tangled and wound toward me while the lay of the water receded away from me. 

            I have hoped to capture the winter starkness just as the warmth of the sun cast its last golden glow across the scene.  Winter is always a long endurance here, but there is a warmth here that seems to breathe hope! 


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