Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Grove, Progress
It's taking me a while but the grove painting is finally starting to take shape. I'm starting to shape and separate the foliage of the foreground tree from the background, and we start to see some suggestions of individual leaves to bring things into focus. The paint is getting Sorolla-thick in some areas too.
When I'm working on this canvas, I can't see the whole thing. Up close it's a completely abstract painting and this little digital image looks to me like an entirely different painting. The photo is terrible. I shot this under studio light (near perfect for small paintings, but can't evenly illuminate something this big) from 8 ft away. But you can kinda see where it's going.
The gnarly trunks and the Halloween-y branches characterize these old olive trees. If they look funky and not quite what you'd expect a natural tree to look like, there's a good reason for it. You see, the top part of the tree is from a different type of olive than the trunk that's supporting it. The fruit bearing parts were grafted onto the "base" stock (I'm sure it's not the correct terminology. but you know what I mean) long time ago, and as the top grew bigger, so did the base in order to support the enormous mass. The lumpy gnarls on the trunk are the result of that. So yes, it's not quite natural, but it's also what gives these trees special characters, and that's what I'm painting.
I have five old olive trees in my backyard, too, but those weren't grafted and they don't have these massive trunks. If I had one of these, I'd build a tree house in it.
With the painting this far along, there will be no big structural changes from here. It'll be a lot of shaping, refining, playing with surface qualities, and finally, a few choice details in the foreground. But as usual, the last 5% of the process takes 95% of the time - not so much time spent painting, but staring at, analyzing, and drying in between layers takes most of the time.
It frustrates me to have to put it aside to let dry before I can continue, just when I've reached maximum momentum - I want to just keep working but some things have to be done on a dry surface, so it can't be helped. Besides, as Titian said, putting a painting away for a while refreshes our eye. Or something like that. Good enough for Titian, good enough for me.
Click on the image to see it big.
Posted by Terry Miura at 10:09 PM