One can turn whichever way at Sentinel Bridge and get a completely different view. I have come back to this spot several summers, just to paint. To get this view, I stand on a narrow wooden bridge. Everyone passes me on foot, also the cyclists, because on both ends of the bridge are stairs, with maybe seven steps before continuing on the road.
Click on the sketch to enlarge the image and see all the details and the notes I made to myself. Also, click on the images of the oil and the pastel to really see the difference that a medium makes.
The sketch is really the backbone of the paintings. The notes to myself are everything else that is built around it. The sketch is also a journal page. On my vacation I see so many scenes that I don't get to work them all out into a painting. A photo does not give me what first sparked my inspiration. A sketch serves my needs better, so I can make a decision right away what the focus, and what the background items are.
When we arrive it is dead silent. Only the wind is heard in the tops of the trees. It appears like we are the only people on the planet. But as soon as I have set up my painting gear on the bridge, the mosquitoes start circling around me, people appear out of nowhere, to pass or to sit on the grass at the foot of the bridge, or on the sandy beach across from me.
For the mosquitoes I have prepared myself. I have the deadliest mosquito spray on, which means a very thorough shower at the end of the day. That stuff reeks :).
After 10 minutes or so, a group of children with Mrs Jones sits down in the middle of my painting scene, to have a science lesson. Kids walking back and forth to the water to do their science project. I hear her name being called out by the children just about a hundred times. All this activity!
Welcome to the wacky world of painting en plein air! You'll understand, most of the painting is done later, on the balcony of our cabin.
The view in the oil painting suggests that the painter is looking down. The colors are brighter than in the pastel painting. The shadows merely have the function of giving form to the rocks. The darker colors surrounding the bottom of the tree trunks are suggestive of the shade that the leaves of the crown of the tree gives. The dead tree trunk on the ground reinforces the diagonal direction that this painting has.
I began the pastel painting of the same scene with an under painting of watercolor. While some artists do this so no white paper will peek through later, my reason is a different one. There are so many elements in this scene that I felt the need to follow a path that would lead me to the end destination.The watercolor layer helped me to decide what would be strongest in this painting today. My mission, I discovered, was to paint the mysteriousness of the trees, the rocks, and the brown part of the river. I arrived at that goal by blurring the edges. The shadows of the rocks here play a major role in the mood of this painting, as well as the darker colors.
People often ask me how I got to paint a particular scene. My question to the viewer are these
Three little questions for you.
1. Which of these paintings do you like most?
2. Why (a "don't know" is okay)
3. Did my explanation play a role in your choice?
One-word answers suffice. More elaborate ones are okay, as long as it does not turn into a book! I'm looking forward to your opinion :)