Following the Housatonic River Road this morning I found my opportunity to raise a river. With my contrived, elevated river I could build additional psychological distance into the painting. The River is a mirror and mirrors reflect light. My river-mirror gave me as it has so many other artists the chance to place a pool of light strategically within a darkened area. Paintings as mirrors to nature were once the universal metaphor for painters. That changed with Neo Impressionists like Van Gogh and Cezanne. They wanted more. They wanted to penetrate the structure of nature, the feelings we have for nature, their biological vision of nature and their connection to the history of art. Now I can still use the mirror metaphor when painting but, I can also construct my mirror’s image according to those other categories as well.
I pulled over to walk along the river road. I crouched along the upper meadow above the Housatonic to include lots of angled meadow in my view (example 1). As I lowered my camera the thinner the river became and, the higher the river went in my image and, more meadow appeared. If I turned 180 degrees I could find a reverse angle for the meadow sloping down to the Housatonic. Again I found a pool of light, the reflection of the sky tucked between the darkened tree covered banks. The light reflecting from the water appeared brighter because of the darkened surrounding trees (example 2).
I wandered further along the road to discover a lagoon. It offered the same elevated vista. Here I noticed the lagoon assumed the historic serpentine form. If I lowered my camera I could include an arcing mowed path which led toward the reflecting serpentine lagoon. This arcing path could be moved left or right of the lagoon depending upon my camera’s position. You see how I am toying with compositional ideas here in examples 3 and 4. Examples 4 and 6 diagram the serpentine lagoon shape, the arcing path, and the soft “v” of the horizon.
The overcast day provided me with a softer set of contrasts. I could try a palette of blue-green and deep purple as an initial lay-in using 3 and 4″ brushes example 7. At this point I knew I could go more abstractly toward an atmospheric sensation or, I could turn the image toward more representational imagery by carving shapes and teasing out various textures with brushes, fingers and rags ( example 8).
Example 8 could be reversed to pursue a more abstract and unified field of textures. Other examples of the same form with the motif elevated to the upper area of the painting can be found in other landscapes as you see here with the marsh grasses elevated to reveal a broad expanse of surface extending before the beholder (example 9).