Deferred, not Deterred

Totally aside from travel, sometimes simple demands of life interfere with consistent—or even any—painting.  I was reminded of this fact this past month, when, after having been out of the country for a month, my husband and I got caught up in the need to take frequent, time-consuming shopping trips to research and select materials and appliances for a rather extensive home update, demanding considerable time and energy I could otherwise have preferred to devote to painting.

Although my easel stood abandoned for yet another month, that didn’t mean my art was forgotten.  Instead, it simply meant that the mental exercises I would normally apply to observing and painting a locale were still carried out as though I were going to paint the scene.  I still shot reference photos with painting in mind.

Not only did I continue looking for interesting compositions, but I was also observing the finer points of color—the variations of hue between warm light and cool shadow, the comparative width of a penumbra (the diffused light at the very edge of a shadow) in relation to the strength or diffusion of the light source, the effect of backlighting, how value and saturation differentiated overlapping layers of foliage, and determining the actual hue and value of shadowed or reflective “whites.”

Foliage, rocks, and water, photographed for study and reference.

Foliage, rocks, and water, photographed for study and reference.

I also paid attention to the form (or “itness”) of different types of trees and rock formations in the area, and how I could express them in paint.  I considered what concepts occurred to me when I was drawn to certain scenes we passed along the road on our outings.  For instance, why did one cluster of buildings interest me while another did not?  How would I indicate the textural difference between two types of trees?  What pigments would I use to illustrate the color and translucence of backlit flowers?  How could I mix (and avoid desaturating) a color to achieve exactly the representation I was looking for?

Even when I couldn’t actually apply the paint to paper or canvas, I was still making a conscious effort to train my eye to observe these things carefully and my mind to consider potential approaches to representing what I would want to express to others.   Yes, even though the fun of actually painting had to be deferred, sometimes there’s real value in delayed gratification.



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