Friday, 3 August 2007

Sunrise in the Lawns

I woke up early this morning and found the day as sunny as forecasted. Yesterday was grey and rainy, not a good day for painting. Blue sky is on the menu today, with pale strings of thin clouds. I get out of the house at 6:15 a.m., my French easel on my back, and few minutes later I set-up in the Lawns, a park in the middle of town.

The sunrise casts its golden light on the trees, the long ochre grass sparkles with the early morning mist. Other wild weeds take the colour of faded lavender. I am the only one in the park and the silent town is still asleep.

I choose to paint a line of trees around some steps. This is the border between the meadow on the hill and the more formal part of the park, planted with various trees. The flight of steps belonged to a mansion long gone. The pillars on each side of the steps are the lightest areas of the scene and make a natural focal point.

I install the 16” X 12” canvas (prepared with a grey background) on the easel and squeeze the following colours on my palette:
  • Titanium White
  • Naples Yellow Light
  • Vermilion Hue
  • Carmin Alizarin
  • Manganese Blue
  • French Ultramarine
  • Blockx Green
I will only use two brushes: a Round Hog number 6 and a Short Flat Hog number 7.

I do not draw but put in place the main elements with the Round Hog dabbed into thinned paint. I then block in the trees, starting with the shadow areas. After that, I paint the sky in order to have a reference to key the whole painting. In the morning, the air is transparent and luminous. I finish by working on the grass in the foreground. The rich light makes the blades glow with warm tones that offer an interesting contrast with the cool colours of the sky and the dark areas of the trees. Finally, I apply some orange mixture I used for the grass on the light areas of the tree tops in order to warm the green leaves that catch the early sun. This also gives unity to the painting.

It is 7:30 a.m. and time to stop. Here is the painting at the end of this first session.

I walk home and see a few dogs walking their masters.

I will rework this painting in the studio, glazing certain areas like the sky to reinforce its lightness and transparency. I have enough information to continue from memory.
There is no substitute to painting on site. You can paint the same place over and over and have a different painting each time. To illustrate this point, see below the painting I did last year of the same steps, from a slightly different angle.

The town is getting to work. This was a good way to start the day.

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