Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Saving A Disaster

This is my third attempt at trying to capture the beauty of cactus. After painting two fairly successful cactus paintings, each one more involved that before, this was nearly thrown away. It was started before my back problems. When I came home and looked at it two weeks later, I could not see a way out of the mess I had made. In some ways I failed to address the issues I listed in earlier blogs, especially the series that traced the evolution of a painting.

Oh there was a dark background, space between the flutes but this time (I saw this in a dream) I painted the open spaces red and then closed in around that. Because I didn't put much contrast between the foreground and the background (the original photo was pretty flat) the painting lacked any kind of dimension. I had painted what I saw but then I realized that the negative spaces were missing. There was really no real dark and light. Tote bag in hand along with this miserable painting, I trekked down to paint class to see what I could do.

I quickly realized the red fruit was the center point. All the rest was peripheral to this. I then began darkening the lower right space leaving enough shapes to indicate ground but not so much that the central flute didn't stand out. I did the same thing to the space on the left. One flute hugs the edge, there is a dark space then the center piece begins. I darkened creases, tried to create the variety of greens in just this one single plant and before I knew it, I looked like what it should have been. Using a deep purple lavender to give depth to the dark spaces, I was able to gave the whole plant life and depth.

I don't know why, but as an artist I have become rather fascinated with cactus plants. On my morning walks they are everywhere, this being California and all, and besides the amazing colors, they also have a wide variety of shapes, sizes and as I have discovered photographing them, thorns. Growing up in Oregon there is nothing quite this exotic. Everything is green to be sure but never in these rounded, distorted, voluptuous shapes!

My first real contact with cactus came in my college years when my mother, recently widowed, moved from the rain filled skies of Portland, OR to the always blue skies of Albuquerque, NM. I came home to a totally new place between my sophomore and junior college years.

To reduce the load of units for my last two years of college, I took a summer class at UNM in the morning and my Mom, sister and I would explore our new surroundings in the afternoon. I fell in love with New Mexico but maybe even more, the desert. After nothing but green I couldn't fathom that a place so dry and seemingly desolate could be so colorful and yes, beautiful.

I wanted to paint four cactus plants so I would have a series. I'm not sure what the last one will be but I will continue to experiment with my style and see where it takes me.

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