I've entertaining the urge to push toward something new. I've worked in themes and series paintings in the past, and have done several triptychs, yet all presented a continuous image, unlike this new work. Several influences aligned and off I went.
I've been pursuing a new image interpretation format, inspired by a crab apple tree just outside my classroom window at Cloudcroft Art Workshops in New Mexico. The tree filtered morning light coming through the window. I could not see the entire tree, only parts of it up against window panes. The lighting appealed to me and I kept looking at it from different angles. I took photos every day and the images stayed in my mind long after.
Inspired by those window-pane-cropped views, this sectional painting is my response. It makes for a puzzle-like presentation, yet the pieces don't match. In planning, I first printed a bunch of color photos, then printed grayscale enlargements of my favorites. Cropped square sections from various images became my 9 references.
Red ground was applied first (HK Holbein Gesso Colors, 50/50 Orange and Carmine). Then branches and leaves were drawn on in pencil, editing out much of the details. At this point, my methods were like what I typically do in starting a painting (aside from the 9 sections):
Initial paint applications addressed highlights on branches and leaves in broken patches of light to medium valued greens, some with yellows. Again I was not far from standard my practices:
Feeling a bit unsure about colors in limbs vs. background color, I created a few small color tests:
Next the background negative spaces began in Cobalt Violet with Titanium White and sometimes with Cadmium Yellow Lemon... thinking to somewhat represent natural lighting:
Continuing the "natural" look of darker heavily entwined areas nearer to the bottom of the tree, I went for Viridian mixing with various blues and a bit of Cadmium Yellow Lemon to lighten the value:
I stood back and thought "NO WAY!". There was just too much color competition. I wanted the red ground to be more important and the background less important. Moreover, I wanted to simplify. Soooo, I headed in a very different direction for me. Perhaps influenced by my little black & white cropped photos, I decided to try contrasting those colorful limbs and leaves against a field of mid-valued greys:
In theory, the greys work as a neutral negatives against color and value contrasted positives. I just had to try it. The muted value greys don't compete with colorful leaf and branch positives, as predicted. However, on an emotional level, this just does not send me. I kept looking at how pretty that violet corner looked up at the top right, and knew I had to do some back-peddling. After a few days of allowing the oils to harden, so I could paint over without mixing in, I went back to violet. Cobalt Violet served as the mainstay along with Titanium White and sometimes a bit of Permanent Violet, suggesting background branch business. I've never used so much violet:
It's not over yet, but getting close.