Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Early Arrival"... the Process

This small painting tested me a bit. I composed it more than a year ago and have been putting off starting it due to some of the challenges involved. I knew exactly how I wanted the finished painting to look and quite often, that narrow minded focus can stall the process of making art.

I started with a quick (maybe 30 minutes) underpainting. That underpainting took on a look of some of my plein air oil work and had some qualities I was particularly fond of... especially where the taller trees meet the sky. I wanted to keep that loose brushy feel, so I was very careful when adding the next layer of paint to that area.

I was determined to put goldeneyes in this painting to contrast their stark black and white plumage against the colorful background. But that posed a problem. Goldeneyes are cold weather ducks and are rarely seen in such a setting. My solution was to add some snow to the scene and in my mind, tell a story of a freak October cold snap that drove this small band of ducks down from their northern haunts. That happens often enough to be believable and is where the idea came for the title of the painting. So my next problem was actually adding the snow patches without screwing up the rest of the painting.

Next, I quickly blocked in the flying ducks taking care not to paint too much detail. I wanted the birds to have some movement, so loosing the edges on the wing tips helped to accomplish that. Goldeneyes fly incredibly fast and their wing beats are very rapid. By blurring them a bit, I feel I've portrayed that adequately.

"Early Arrival" 5x12 acrylic
As it turned out, the piece came together quite well. I'm not sure if it's because I took so much time thinking about the challenges and solutions, or because I simply overestimated those challenges in the first place. In any case, I'm pleased with the results... and yes, it looks exactly how I'd imagined. Nice :)

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