Sunday, April 20, 2008

Time and Timeless

From the top-
  • Gnomon - oil on panel, 19"x28"
  • (a detail closeup)
  • Study for Gnomon - oil on linen, 8"x10"
  • A side by side look at the larger piece with most of the underpainting showing and the study.
The study was done en plein air at Two Lights State Park alongside my good friend Meghan (it started raining on us at the end, so the foreground never really got resolved). I was attracted to this rock's shape, as it reminded me of the triangular piece that casts the shadow for a sundial. That piece is called a gnomon. There was a contrast here, as there is a timelessness to the place: an incessant beating of water on rock for eons. Yet the shape of this rock is reminiscent of a device crafted for a human scale of time. After looking at the study for a while, I felt it demanded a grander scale in paint.

Working this way generally gives the best results, as it allows for a lot more of an innate understanding of the subject. That is, I painted it once, so it can only get better if I paint it again. A lot of passages are so familiar, though they are on a larger scale. Color choices have already been made in the study, so that's an easy thing to deal with. The palette was limited: raw umber (always!), ultramarine blue, cadmium orange, ivory black, titanium white, some indian yellow for effects in the seaweed, and a touch of viridian for the trees on the distant island. So it was mostly about pushing value and warm/cool as a point/counterpoint.

You'll notice in the study that the rock is more truncated than in the big piece. That's because I had to fit it into the panel, as the panel dimensions didn't really accommodate the shape that well. I rectified that in the large piece with some photo reference, to which I applied a grid for drawing purposes. Sorry I didn't get a photo of that aspect, but I referred to it only for the sake of the underpainting and layout. The contrast, values and colors of the photo were so unlike the study, that it was only useful for shapes and detail. Just shows that there is no substitute for painting from life.

I had a little bit of difficulty in the near foreground with the rocks and tidepools. I didn't want any of that to detract from the big rock, so I tried to shift the hue to a cooler state, as well as pattern the clinging seaweed (the most saturated color) to lead the eye up to the rock. It took some doing, but I think I achieved what I wanted. This may not seem like a virtuoso feat of painting in the grand scheme, but for me, this was one of my biggest efforts in a long time in terms of size and dedication.

Of course, it's way more fun to look at this in person. Come on by and visit me, and take a look!


JenMarie said...

hey! thanks for saying hi. Lovely work, by the way. Do you show in any galleries around here, or just your private studio in the west end?

Also, you mentioned working in a winery. Which one? I'm familiar with finger lakes wineries upstate (having spent 3.5 years in Geneva at school) and I'm looking to spend more time in the future there, hopefully learning more about the winemaking process. Any advice or experience you have would be really useful.

Again, thanks for saying hi! I'd love to hear from you again.

Martha Miller said...

fun to see the evolution. this is really gorgeous. you are so methodical! i'm saying this as a compliment - i could use some of that!
rob, you HAVE to apply for the monhegan residency next year! you would be in heaven and you'd do such justice to the views out there!

Rob S. said...

Okay, Martha. If I get it, I will go. Simple as that.

Jen Marie, thanks for visiting! I've sent you something that may be useful in your wine adventures.