Thursday is busy at Smith Meadows Kitchen and has been since the business began in 2003 when I was making all the pasta, ravioli and sauces for weekend markets. Yikes! It’s hard to believe that 7 years later I can spend a Thursday morning in the studio. The feel of failure from the night before had faded. Forrest and the farm apprentices were moving the cattle, the air was crisp, my staff of two was in the kitchen making ravioli, and I was free to get into the studio. On the way I showed our farm hand, Robert Albright, my current work in progress. “What ya got there? Purple, green, blue and some white. That’s real nice. You want some gum?” His smile and the stick of gum was just right, in spite of his skeptical glance at my canvas. I might not need my tea today. With the clarity that morning can bring, the white smear that spelled failure last night became the ocean I had once tried to paint in this piece early in 2010. Or was it clouds?
The emptied palette needed to be scraped clean with fresh paints added. My old glass palette was irreplaceable for how easily it shed dried chunks. Nonetheless, I couldn’t keep wasting so much paint, so the deviled egg holder with lid has taken its place. I can’t resist a complete rainbow when getting started. The sickly sea green from Florida dominated the right corner of the canvas, but with some orchid, naples yellow and parchment Girogione’s sky might appear. There was sea spray in the white. There would be sand (somewhere) and the irrepressible horizon would emerge. It was all unavoidable. What to do about the accidental blunder of sienna and hunter green that met too early? Greys are the most fascinating part of mixing color. I flirt on the edge of mud with many combinations of opposing hues. Shades of green and red have always been my least favorite (an aversion to Christmas?). Payne’s grey and phthalo blue (green shade) to the rescue with some gloss varnish medium. No more mud where the ocean appeared, but what about the upper left? The same tension from Oragehad presented itself in the new canvas. To the left was more sienna/hunter mud, and to the right were some distinct masses of sand fading into a payne’s grey horizon line.
It was resolved with a similar solution as in Orage. A slow drying gel mixed with some iridescent medium into sienna and more orchid as it touched the sky. Then a touch of lemon yellow on parchment, on raw sienna in the very top left to give a reason for the misty haze that creeped toward the sunny sand.
How did I end up with the exact same tension in the second canvas? Was it resolved any better in this piece? Beyond the Sea may not be fully realized. The right still struggles for some kind of comprehension, but the ambiguous quality draws my eye from one side to the other. I do miss the first intensity of the white splash of finger paint from the under painting now that it has been toned down with warmer whites.
Two landscapes have surprised me this week. My rambles in color remain closer to full expression rather than the short hand that abstraction should be. After emptying my palette on Wednesday I came home to the books just arrived from amazon. Two completely new artists for me: Joan Mitchell and Howard Hodgkin. For a girl who loves Vermeer, it’s close to impossible to sit down with abstract expressionism without some unease. Tempting to dismiss Mitchell as a Pollock pop-version of Monet, and align Hodgkin with complete incomprehension. But if I hadn’t looked at them, I would never have found the sea spray in my mud.
What next? Do I continue with landscape? Intentionally? Do I put some rectangles down instead of my spiraling rainbows of paisley underpaintings? How about limiting my color choice? I have a zillion photos begging to be translated onto canvas in some short hand. There’s that series of children’s portraits I am hoping to enter in Art at the Mill in the Spring. And what about Etsy? I have no clue, except I am going to the studio tomorrow with some tea in a thermos and my son.