Returning to Oil: Bigger, Darker

by Brenda W. Clough

 One of the things that I am prone to (I remember now!) is green. Somehow everything I paint in oil is very, very green. I don’t even like green! Other people can paint landscapes that are not mostly green, so why can’t I? Have a look at this Matisse, for example. The actual view must have a great deal of green in it, since this is France and France is a green and fertile country. You’d never know it from the colors the artist chose! This is not a characteristic of my muse, like McCaffrey and telepathy or Keith Richards and bluesy riffs. My problem is an artistic error. I have to push past the tyranny of what I see, to paint what ought to be there.

 Clearly if I had pursued painting for the past several decades I would’ve gotten this problem by the neck. Well, I’m attacking it now. Here is the original photograph (green, yes, but not that much green!) and below it is the next hack at painting it. This is on a larger 12 x 18 canvas board, much better in terms of roominess. Also it is less pastel — the first hack at the image was far too pale. (Where did I get the idea that white has to be mixed into everything? It would be better to mix -black- into everything.) Have I caught the quality of the water, still and reflective? I have not. The sky was better in the smaller work. Perhaps I should resort completely to applying the paint with the knife? I’ve always been more comfortable with the knife. I have the sense that my skills are not working together, the gears grinding, the strings not in tune. Again, if I had put the time into it I would have worked all these kinks out. The root of the problem may actually be that there are not enough hours in the day…

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