Thursday, July 5, 2012

Getting the Glow

           One of the reasons it’s so much fun to paint outdoors is that you get to watch the Creator at work. What a grand design there is the flow and brilliance of light on our world! It’s an unrealistic challenge to try to paint it that way. Light is so many times more bright than the lightest of pigments in an artist’s palette. The shadows are so much more full of life than the dark shadows our cameras hint at. The scale from light to shadow in the real world is so much more infinite than white to shadow in paint.
The idea is to create a painting that on its own is a representation of what you see, but that has a life of its own. Some of the most memorable paintings I have ever seen are those of light bouncing up about and around field inhabitants….a bush, shrub, water, tree or cactus that seems to emanate a glow of its own in the dispersal of light on and around its being. The very air takes on a lighted quality thrown off from the item being lit. I guess you could call it an aura, but then I picture crystal adherents and their odd fortune telling or suspended winged creatures some call angels. So I’ll call it a glow, a simple four letter word. Have you ever noticed that some of the four letter words are the hardest to pin down? Love. Hard. Work. Glow. Again with the paint…’s so limiting, as a visual vocabulary. But aren’t notes and scales also limiting and think of the musical magic that has enriched lives.
Back to this glow thing. Sometimes it’s in your face. Sometimes you have to hunt it down, get under a tree and look up, glance at a sun filled sky of backlit clouds, lean over a cliff to see the magical effect of light. Well I have this glow….at least I know what I want it to look like, and I have this tree. It’s an old gnarled, cut up survivor oak.  I am back with number 4 of this limited palette challenge. So there is no way that that bark is going to have its natural local color. There aren’t a whole lot of options. The important thing to remember here is that I am not trying to replicate the natural color of things…..I am after that darned glow.    I have only alizarin crimson, a bright yellow and a blue to do it with. No warms and cools of the red, yellow and blue, just the three pigments and black and white - and this Mimbres Oak. 
Mimbres Glow - Oil on prepared wood board
11x14 - Available
So on a decidedly not cool morning, (nice way to say it was hot as H*&&), I tried to catch that glow. I know this would be easier with a full palette, but that is not the challenge. Here is Mimbres Glow. Does it succeed? Does it glow?

Next week I am off to Prescott AZ, to do a workshop with Chris Saper on portraiture. Chris does not adhere to the limited palette doctrine, in fact, I think she enjoys using every pigment in the whole array of artist’s available colors. So there will likely be no blog entry next week. I still have my final limited palette work to do, so look back after the 13th. I should be back at it by then. Again this work will be from life. Ain’t life grand?


  1. A lovely painting with a most definite glow - I think I would like to stay in the cool shadows but the heat and bright shimmering sunshine in the distance is calling me. I like that tension.

    1. Hi Lisa! Thanks for the kind words. I really wondered on this one. I wanted so badly to break into other colors, so I am happy to hear that it works for you. Hope you return after the 13th.

  2. It is lovely and there is a definite glow, which carries to the left of the canvas through the background field. I'd bet it's more effective in person--technology's limits and such...

  3. Actually this one almost succeeds on some levels. But then, I am never satisfied with what I paint. I just framed this one and it looks much better framed. But I have already thought of at least three different ways to paint it if I were to revisit. Never happy.....