What I Did on My Rainy Saturday
This Saturday’s to-do list included laundry and should have included balancing my checkbook. But checkbook balancing can happen any old day. Rain clouds and wet grass meant no yard work for the afternoon. Sooo…I decided to paint!…no big surprise. I needed a gift idea for a friend, but hadn’t been happy with anything I’d thought of yet. Then I remembered that she’d taken a trip to South Africa with her family last summer. She’d posted pictures on Facebook. Going back to that album, I found a handful of shots with potential for painting. I didn’t really want to paint the typical safari scene. Instead, I was attracted to a photo of sheep on her grandparents’ farm. The dusty grey color palette reminded me of a quote by Andrew Wyeth (Pennsylvania-based painter from the mid 1900’s; son of N.C. Wyeth). Wyeth said, “I’ve been blamed for the fact that my pictures are colorless, but the color I use is so much like the country I live in.” We think of African art as bold, vibrant, colorful. And, yes, the people, the fabrics, the sunsets in Africa are vibrant. But the landscape itself is rather muted…sandy yellows, cream, beige, browns, muted greens. As Wyeth saw the beauty of this color-range in his Pennsylvania surroundings, I wanted to capture the beauty of rural Africa. A sheep pen constructed from tree limbs, with a makeshift gate and tangled wire mesh…using the natural and man-made resources on-hand to make do. This is the art and ingenuity of so many cultures; something we rarely see in urban/suburban America. Besides subject-matter and color scheme, I liked the framing of this particular photo. Fence-post, gate, and roof perfectly frame the sheep, whose interest in her feeding trough has been distracted by the viewer’s camera. Design-wise I could work almost directly from the original photo, without having to make major changes to image or cropping.
My palette for this piece consisted of: yellow ochre, violet, grey, with rusty-red thrown in as an accent color. I wanted to build up the surface (creating both real and implied texture) before painting. Not having any modeling paste around, I improvised with spackling. Yes, the stuff you use to fill holes in your wall can also be used to build texture on a painting! Apply it to the canvas/board with a palette knife or fingers and allow an hour for drying-time before you paint. When working with acrylics, adding modeling paste (or spackle) gives a 3D surface-quality that mimics impasto oil-painting techniques. In the close-up shown here, you can see what I mean.
My friend was thrilled with the gift, and recognized her grandparents’ farm at once. So, it was a worthwhile rainy day of painting! Perhaps I’ll balance the checkbook tomorrow.