Friday, April 5, 2013

Cactus Patch - The final cactus painting

From the beginning, I had wanted to paint a series of four cactus plants starting with the flutes, the flutes with flowers and after the flower, the fruit. I did it in a rather odd order putting the first painting in the middle. These were all cactus I saw on my morning walk with my dog Maggie. She is very insistent and so we walk. I should point out the doctor is persistent too but he's not there every day giving you the "look."

The first painting went well. Almost easily. I was stunned to find that rough strokes of paint could create an amazing amount of depth. The painting had four flowers and I loved it.
Beginning of Cactus Patch

The next painting was a struggle. Though it only had one flower, it had an amazing number of flutes, something that caused me to change my method of painting. However, it too became a success, at least to me and looks without a doubt a complicated yet amazing cactus painting.

 My third painting was of a cactus fruit after the flowers die. The process was fast and I was barely able to get a decent image to work from. I hated that painting and was ready to toss it when I realized it was my painting and I could do whatever I wanted. It was saved at the end.

This painting, to be the first in the series, is simply a series of cactus flutes. No flowers, no fruit. I spotted it on my morning walk and was astounded at the variety of greens that could be seen from one mass. I show it here after the original sketch on the canvas with the deep green shadows painted in. This was acrylic so no long painful waiting periods for the paint to dry. Oddly enough it is quite easy to discern and could be considered a painting in itself!

Beginning of coloring of Cactus Patch
This second step shows the flute edges painted in a series of greens, pinks and beiges. It continues to be interesting and is still clearly a cactus. There was much thought given to ending it right there. You "know" what it was, so why fill in all the rest? It would only complicate a rather striking painting, no?

Looking at and working on the painting yesterday, I began to wish I had stopped. Filling in the greens...yellow greens, blue greens, it seemed that I could never get it right! And anyway, in art, what is right?

I stuck it out and began with a series of yellow greens, blue greens, browns and butter colors to fill in each flute and see what I could do. I was amazed that brush strokes that appeared random, even lazy when viewed from a distance appeared to create a photo realism I never wanted and in fact hated.

It is true, why not simply just take a photo? Why not indeed. Yet, there was something in this painting that made me proud, gives me a confidence I lacked before. I seemed to capture at least the vitality of cactus, he subtly that is easy to miss in the interplay in colors.

Final of Cactus Patch
This painting is on the one hand very realistic. You can just about feel those thorns reaching out to snag you. The greens - yellow green, blue green, avocado green, white green seem to burnish these plants and give them amazing life. While its true that a photo would have given you the scene as it was, a painting gives you an "impression" if you will, of what was there. It has its own spirit, more than a rendering of what was there.

I wish you could see the original. There is a depth of color the photo cannot convey. There are colors and nuisances that disappear, ;The interplay of lights to darks, the shadows to the sunlight all in fact create a world that most if ous would never pay attention too.

Anyway this series is at least complete. It was certainly a learning experience in more ways than one.

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