Posts Tagged ‘waterfall’

Cropped by a Mat

Friday, July 15th, 2011

If you take a painting to a professional framer, you can expect the mat to cover only a half inch or less on each edge of the paper. This is an easy one-size-fits-all decision for the framer, but it is not always optimal for the artwork. A mat should be both positioned and sized to enhance the painting. It is for this reason that I prefer to mat my own work. I frequently leave a considerable expanse of white space around the painted image. As I work, the balance may shift to the left or right, thereby leading me to leave more border area on one side of the paper than on the other. I do not consider this edging an integral part of the painting, though it can be treated as such. In which case, it should be balanced with the rest of the work.

110207 The Guardian

My painting “The Guardian” (#110207), above, is an example of what I mean. I created this piece for my students to demonstrate a number of different painting techniques. In the process, the work grew organically. We discussed how to make the most of less-than-ideal brush strokes, how to turn “oopses” into “wows” and how to rework weak areas to give them more punch. In the process, balance shifted, edges extended and changed shape, the students’ questions directing me where to go next.

When the painting was complete, there was considerable white space on all sides. I could have cut the excess paper away, but I didn’t feel either any need or desire to do so. Instead, I played with two different-sized mats. I knew that the larger 10”x14” mat opening would leave some white space on the sides and allow the loose brushstrokes at the top and bottom to show.

Though that option appealed to me, I also tried a smaller mat with a 7 ½ x 9 1/2-inch opening.

When I laid this on the painting, it tightened the edges so much that the painting looked cramped. So I turned the mat 90 degrees and tried a vertical format. In this way I found two possible crops, either of which could have worked.

The first of the vertical options kept the agave plant in the foreground as the center of interest. The second made the waterfall the center of interest and placed the agave into a secondary position. However, I didn’t feel that the overall composition in this format was particularly good.

In reviewing all these possibilities, I decided that the larger mat was closest to what I wanted. Yet it wasn’t quite right; despite the narrow white space on the sides, the painting felt tight at the top and bottom.

So I tried a third mat with a slightly larger opening, 11×15, just a half inch more on all sides than the first one I had used. This revealed enough white space on all sides to complement and enhance the loose overall appearance of the painting.

As it worked out, in this case, a one-position-fits-all matting job would not have been terrible, but had the painting not been centrally positioned on the paper, the result could have been dreadful.

Cruising Alaska, Part 2 (Landscapes)

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Besides the wildlife, of which I wrote in Part 1, our trip to Alaska this past August provided me with plenty of material for landscape painting, as well.

My husband insists that the mountains of Alaska put the Rockies to shame. It was difficult for me to judge their heights except by their sharply delineated bands of color. As you can see in “Kenai Lily Pond” (#100905), bare and ice-glazed rock capped the peaks, while a misty green of mosses and lichens veiled the steep, unyielding slopes below; shrubs provided a belt of richer greens undergirding that, and only at the base lay the deep, dark band of forest. We were fortunate to see the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula on a rare, clear day. Clouds often hang heavy and low, hiding much of the glory of the high ridges and snow-encrusted hollows, and the gleaming glaciers flowing inexorably onward through the valleys they themselves carve out as they move on their course to the sea.

Undercut by the salt-laden ocean water, some of the glaciers, which may move as much as seven feet a day, calve frequently. The calves, or broken chunks, large or small, spewed water high and sent waves out for a considerable distance when they cracked and tumbled off the sheer surface of the glacier’s face. The freshly fractured surface glowed a brilliant turquoise blue, typical of the densely compressed interior, which, in a matter of days would fade, like the rest, to the pervading white of ice that had been exposed far longer to the atmosphere. The glaciers’ upper surface, I was surprised to discover, is not smooth but is creviced and eroded into hoodoos by the sun’s heat, by rain, and by unforgiving winds.

Yet not all the landscape seemed so severe. Rocky streams, fed by rain and melting snow, coursed down the mountainsides and cascaded into grand waterfalls. Lakes, reflecting their rim of grasses and moss and evergreens, as well as the overshadowing mountainsides, lay still and serene in the valleys. Lily pads clustered, like pubescent sunbathers waving urgently to friends but jealous of their prime basking positions and one another’s company, and zealous to absorb the sun’s scant attention through summer’s short season. Tall grasses rippled, wildflowers blossomed and faded, undisturbed by human cultivation. Dense rainforests near the ocean’s edge dripped with mosses and lichen and fungi of various forms. Second- and third-growth forest sprouted bowlegged roots to span older, decaying stumps, drawing nourishment not only from the soft, rich soil but from the remains of trees that had fallen long before.

Normally little affected by tidal action around my home in southwest Florida, I was fascinated to see, at these northern latitudes, how radically the ebbing tide changed the contours of the shoreline, revealing islands and tidepools that disappeared again as the hours swept past and the endless pendulum of come-and-go, ebb-and-flow reversed.