Abstracting the Landscape, Part 2

Having recently come off a weekend devoted to abstracting the landscape (see previous post), during which we painted from photograph, imagination, memory, music and purely abstract concepts, I resolved to apply my newly acquired abstracting skills to actual landscapes.  No, more correctly expressed:  I resolved to TRY to apply those abstracting skills to actual landscapes.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  The spread of nature’s delights is so seductive that it is almost impossible to reduce a painting to a few good non abstract ideas.

The photo on the left is the result of my painting for two hours at Upper Ammonoosuk Falls, getting sucked into the whole nature thing, trying to capture all the rocks and water rivulets.  Fighting with myself.  Until finally I heard myself remarking to another artist, by the way of encouragement, that depicting falls, boulders, etc. was hard because of the clutter.  Clutter.  Such an important non abstract concept.  I went back to my painting and swept the water down over all my clutter.  And it worked.  So what if the scene never looked quite like that!

This morning I went over all four of my weekend paintings to see if any adjustments were needed.  In the photo on the right you can maybe detect minor but important touches:  the large rock slab in the virtual center was grayed back so as not to compete with the white of the falling water; the indeterminate brown area in bottom right was darkened and sharpened so as to clarify that it sits higher and in front of the falling water.  I also added a few strokes of white water to the cascade, just to gild the lily.  (By the way, while spell-checking Ammonoosuk I discovered YouTube videos of this spot, featuring reckless youths diving into the pools.  Here is one of them.)

But did I really abstract my landscape?  I did a better job than usual in reducing details.  It’s a start.  Maybe I’ll do better on the next one?

The next one turned out to be a panorama of intensely green fields dotted with intensely  yellow dandelions, backed by periwinkle mountains, covered by gray clouds threatening rain.  Because of the high chance of rain, we had driven south to Conway, where there is a bridge overpass that could provide us shelter from the rain while giving us a river’s edge view of an old-fashioned covered bridge.  But we each of us got sucked in by the dandelions, and set about creating rain shelters within which to paint.  I was riding with Sharon, so we had to find two ways to create painting studios out of one SUV.  She had the tailgate.  She also had the bright idea of creating a shelter for me out of my big yellow poncho and the two doors of her vehicle.  Here’s a photo of me getting set up  under my yellow tent.  20160513_152644

The tent cast such a strong yellow light over my painting (but not my palette), that I thought I was losing my mind when every time I scooped up a big blob of white paint to use in the sky, it turned yellow as soon as it hit the sky.  The  yellow tent had to have affected the rest of my painting as well, but it was only obvious in the sky.  As a result, I had not much of a good idea of how my painting was coming along.  This is not a good situation to be in, for a painter.  However, I was trying to be abstract, so maybe, I thought, hue doesn’t matter.  I blocked in the elements I wanted:  the intense green pasture, the intense yellow dandelions, the intense blue mountains.  Added a few tree and shrub features.  Still a result not so abstract, but the important thing was, I was thinking abstractly.

The one on the left is the painting as it was on Friday afternoon; the one on the right received some help today.  It needed more  yellow in the dandelions since it no longer had the benefit of a yellow poncho glowing all over it.  I cleaned up the sky a bit.  The photos do not do justice to the yellows and greens.  Oh, well.  Just keep in mind ALWAYS–the original looks so much better than the photo.

For my third painting, I was fortunate to be able to pick the group’s subject of the morning, and paintings always go better when one is inspired by the subject.  There is a railroad that goes from North Conway north through Crawford Notch to a station near the base of the Cog Railway that climbs Mt. Washington.  To get through the Notch, the train must travel on rails cut into the granite sides of the pass, and in this particular place, also bridge a gap in the rock face.  Especially with the morning light casting a shadow of the rails onto the granite, the tracks create a pattern both arresting and intriguing.

On the left side is what I got done on site.  We were painting from a parking lot surrounded by growing things in various stages of greening (the trees budded out almost before our eyes–not just overnight but over lunch), so my view of the area below the trestle was obscured.  I had installed rough representations of that obscuring growth, but I was bothered by the fact that you could not tell how far away the trestle was, nor how high it sat on the side of the granite face.  So I scrubbed the growing things and tried to transform them into rock face.  At home, today, I tried to improve on that aspect, as well as the rock formations above the trestle.  I’m not convinced that my changes improved the perspective.

For our last outing, we chose a spot not far from our home base (the Bartlett Inn).  As before, I resolved to think abstractly, just capture the shapes and colors that represented the site.  The color for this one was blue.  Intensely blue sky, intensely blue water reflecting the sky.  A nice snaky curve in the waterway, good aerial effects for the more distant mountains.  Simple elements that I should be able to use for an abstract landscape.  Alas, the landscape had other ideas.

As an abstracted landscape, a pretty miserable failure.  But more than passable as a normal plein air landscape, so I forgive myself.  The changes I made this morning to the earlier version on the left were mostly in the light greens and the sandy shores.  I don’t understand why the blue of the water looks so different now.  I think there might have been too much contrast in the first photo.  You can tell I have played around with the photo’s color cast, trying to match up with the original painting.  The truth of the water lies somewhere between the two versions.

My companions for the weekend were my roommate, Betty Brown; chauffeur, Sharon Allen; colleague from Snow Camp, Suzanne  Lewis of Rhode Island; young artist Stephen S from Hooksett; new members Leslie and Paul, from Massachusetts, and of course, the esteemed organizer of this semi-annual Getaway Weekend, Byron Carr of Contoocook.  Some if not all of these people have websites where their paintings of the same scenes may or may not be posted.

If you are a regular reader, you have noticed I am employing a different format for the paired photos.  WordPress has added new options, and I am learning  how to use them.  You can click on the above photos to enlarge them and to read their captions.  Do you like this format?

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

At the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett;  at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway;  at the New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford;  at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester, part of the Healing with Art program; and at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester.

Please save the date of Wednesday, June 22 for a reception at Labelle Winery in Bedford of the Petals 2 Paint show whereat floral designers create live flower arrangements inspired by a painting by participating East Colony artists.  This has been an annual event of the East Colony Fine Art artists for many years, but this 2016 show seems likely to be our last as a group.  Since the flowers don’t last more than a couple of days, you might as well plan to come for the reception.

As usual, you may view paintings with prices and order prints, phone cases, pillows and the like at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me by email to alotter@mac.com.

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