Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Brinegar Cabin

This is the first acrylic painting I've finished in many years (it sold after only two days in our repainted gallery in Hillsborough - a nice feeling). I took the photo for this before any of my kids were born - so it's been a LONG time coming. I deliverately took it to paint the scene. Brinegar Cabin is in Doughton Park, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, maybe an hour's leisurely drive SW of Fancy Gap (up route 52 from Winston-Salem). This piece is about the fences, and the beautiful way everything is set in the landscape. I also love the winter hues of this shot, and I tried to capture that in the paint. The tan/gold of broom sedge, the pale silver/brown of chestnut rails. I edited out a tree that grows in front of the cabin, which would have split the piece in half, interupted the cabin's roofline, and distracted from the play of lazy diagonals. Easiest piece of logging I ever did.

This is just a 16x20 clayboard (basically masonite with a baked white surface - smooth or gritty, your choice), but to me the big deal was returning to these confusing pigments. I have a larger canvas started, as well - 30 x 30 - and I find I have to be in just the right mood to get out the paint and get going. With time and experience I hope that changes. I have a lot of loosening up to do - this was more of an exercise, proving to myself that I can handle this kind of paint.

For me acrylics are harder than watercolors right now for three reasons.
1. When you start you get out a lot of paint and you're committed. When acrylic paint is dry on your pallette, it's dead. With watercolor I can paint a bit now, splash some water on the pigments to take a break, come back hours later or even the next day, and water makes the pigments ready to go again. Some become grainy with repeated rewetting, and must be replaced, but most good watercolors behave beautifully. Since my life has so many other responsibilities and pleasures, it's hard to block out an uninterrpted couple of hours to make acrylics worth doing. Twenty minutes of watercolors is possible many evenings.
2. When you lay on acrylics, they are opaque. So to use the underlying color requires particular brushwork or conscious decision to leave an area uncovered. When I work with watercolors I can layer transparent colors on top of each other repeatedly, until I get the effect I want. So I'm unfamiliar with the level of immediate commitment acrylics require. You can paint over them, and being opaque they are more forgiving than watercolors, but you don't build your final hue or value gradually. You put it on your brush and lay it on. Commitment - that's what I lack.
3. Acrylic hues are chemicals - and they interact in ways that don't follow the simple color wheel we all learned in grade school. It is amazing the browns and olive greens you get when you mix what seem to be pure hues of intense colors. Acrylics force you to learn each pigment's qualities and mixing abilities, and more than anything, to focus on the visual coolness or heat of the color. Cadmium Yellow and Naples Yellow will not make similar greens.

I hope to do a lot more of this, and to get loosened up and let the paint be paint, as well as animals, skies, trees, and all the other things I'm loving to do.

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