|Kurt Plinke, Artist and Naturalist|
Between the Waters
life, Art and The Nature of things on the eastern shore
Eduard Monet, Hayricks, 1865
Today, the local weather reports predict snow. The prediction is perfect for next weekend's workshop, in which we'll be painting mallards on ice. The same is predicted for tomorrow and Monday, as well. If it comes, (and that's a big if) this will be our first actual big snow of the 2012-2013 winter. I used to like snow and cold weather, but as I get older, I seem to see less and less that I like about the fluffy white stuff.
However, there are a few things that I still find fascinating about the cold covering we expect over the next few days. My favorite thing about snow is how it changes the landscape so dramatically, and how it allows me to reinterpret what I see through my paintings. Being a sometimes-landscape painter, I love the way the changing of seasons and varied conditions allow me to explore how I see and record the effects of color, light and shadow in my watercolors.
Monet did this better than anyone. I'm not comparing myself to one of the great impressionists, but I am building from what he and others did as I venture out into the snow, or the sun, or evening dim to paint what I see at the moment. One of Monet's recurring themes and subjects was the effect of seasonal change upon haystacks. He painted hundreds of images of the tall French piles of hay and straw. Every painting was the same yet each was different, each unique. He painted them in early morning light, hazy blue and violet. He painted haystacks in the bright of day, in the spring, in the summer and in the fall. My favorite is the painting to the right, in which he painted several haystacks near nightfall, as the warm late summer sun set behind them. His use of horizontal bands of shadow and light make this painting calm and peaceful. Any modern interpretation of the same image could use his colors, his composition and his ideas, but could do no better.
Again, I am not comparing myself to Monet. However, I can make a connection in that I love painting the same subject, under different conditions. Often my landscapes depict the same subject. One of my favorite of these is an old house not far from my studio. The house on Holly Road, between Greensboro and Ridgely, was moved to it's current location from a nearby field years ago. I remember when it was moved, because I never understood why the owner of the house moved it. Since it's relocation the home has stood, abandoned, it's doors and windows boarded shut. Trees have grown up around it, and now it is difficult to find from the road because of the surrounding small pines, brush and vines. I have painted this old place at least a dozen times. Sometimes the paintings have been colorful, but most often the paintings I complete of this particular subject are stark, nearly colorless scenes, making them radically different than Monet's, and closer in feel to many watercolors by Andrew Wyeth.
In these two examples, I've used the same view and the same composition to create two glimpses of the same subject. The painting on the left is the old house in winter, The painting on the right is the same view in late fall. In these paintings I spent less time looking at the effect of light and shadow than Monet. Changes in value in these two paintings allow for the finished images to give the feel of seasonal change.
Speaking of seasonal changes and snow, this month's watercolor workshop here at the studio will be a landscape wildlife painting depicting several winter mallard ducks, sitting on an ice shelf in the river. I call it a landscape watercolor because we should plan to paint some environment in the painting, as well as just the waterfowl. We'll be looking not only at how to create the appearance of detail in the birds, but also at how to paint light and shadow on snow. It should be a good experience for new painters and experienced watercolorists. I hope to see you there.
Paint something today.
Kurt Plinke: About Life, Art and the Nature of Things on the Eastern Shore
I write about things I've noticed, places I've been, plans I've made and paintings I've finished or am thinking about.
See recent naturalist observations I have posted on iNaturalist: