Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mood and Atmosphere in Landscapes

It's been raining off and on, mostly on for over a month now in South Carolina, reminding me a lot of New
 England weather.  I'd forgotten how much such weather can affect mood.  I'm more subdued and introspective, perhaps even a bit melancholy and while I've painted some sunrises and sunsets in bold reds or yellows in my oils/encaustic series, I tend now to be painting in only oils and am using an entirely different palette, more blues, dark greens, amethysts and blacks.
I'm painting my mood, something I can't avoid, and find that ruins of old castles or fortresses express what I'm feeling. When working on such pieces, I'm a lot looser, using brushes, rags and even my fingers to blend the oils in unusual ways to represent mists, water and darkened buildings in the distance.  It's a more tangible process and easier way to create an atmosphere which represents my mood and allows the sky, water and hulking buildings, which could be any seaside castle or fortress in the British Isles or on the French coast, take on a life all their own.  Perhaps, being less controlled, I'm allowing my subconscious a bit more free reign in the way the paintings progress.
I started on a 4X4 piece of cradled art board as a sampler, simply to start a process of working with blues
and blacks.  In continuing with my architectural series I roughed in the ruins even before I made the conscious decision and creating the sky and ocean arose from the bleakness of the buildings.
I wanted to create a sky the was somewhere in that liminal eerie in between world of dusk - a sky that may be threatening storms but with a hint that tomorrow may bring moments of sunshine.
I chose to use phthalo blue, ultramarine, violet, Payne's grey, amethyst, lamp black and titanium white on my palette to create the mottled, unpredictable sky.  I use a good bit of scumbling technique in the sky with layers or colors, adding darkened under edges a day or so later. On the 4X4 pieces I did use encaustic but decided to with just oils on the next piece, an 8x10 cradled art board.  I used the same palette, the same concept and the same techniques since the smaller boards are the test pieces for the larger pieces.  But after the 8x10 I wanted to go larger and moved onto a 16X20 canvas, painting over a half finished painting I didn't like.  I do this every once in a while.  It feels better than looking at the half finished piece with all its flaws and saves money. 
Because there was a figure on the original painting I covered most of it up except for the moon.  The rest came fairly easy as I allowed the undercoat dictate ways to paint the sky. I had already decided what I liked as far as color scheme to create the mysterious, slightly menacing mood since I'd worked it out on the two previous smaller pieces.  I allowed some of the darkened green in the lower left hand corner from the underlying painting break through to keep the balance between the dark areas and the brighter influence of the full moon on the ocean.
I have to say this was a fun series to work through the various sizes to expand on a concept.  While I've used the 4x4 inched cradle boards before as samplers to work out an idea inexpensively, I didn't realize the process would graduate to a larger oil painting.   

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