It seems like spring was ages ago! You don’t often hear that in May in Northern Alberta, but here we are sitting in the heat, wishing for that slow spring warming with the relief of cool nights. This picture was taken May 4th, when the green was just beginning to creep back into the landscape.
Obviously I could use some memory exercises! I wanted to paint a picture I took out at Moonshine Lake but I couldn’t seem to get the picture and my paint kit in the same room at the same time. Since I’ve seen this scene in person millions of times I figured I could paint it from memory. I knew the prevailing colour was purple and there was snow globbed on the trees and under the cattails. Long shadows stretched across the ice.
As I painted, I thought I was getting quite close to the way the scene is, although I wasn’t quite satisfied with the colour scheme and thought there was some disconnect between the warmth at the top of the trees and the chilliness of the ice and shadows.
Only when I finally put the two together did I see how off my colour scheme was! Why didn’t I remember the near monochrome qualities of the snow and shadows? Was I fooled by the old “trees are green” rule?
We always tell students that no one really looks at things until they try painting them. It doesn’t matter if you get something that isn’t absolutely photographically “right” so long as the overall effect is pleasing. That’s what art is!
The idea behind this painting was to paint the forest behind the lone tree in front, building depth with colour and tree-like shapes. It was sort of negative painting; I painted each section around the front tree, leaving blank the trunk and globs of snow as I darkened the space around them. I was also working on creating contrast by softening the background with water, lifting, and loose brush strokes while the front tree was sharply defined. Turns out I like the odd composition with a vertical trunk right up the centre. Somehow the turbulent greens behind draw the eye down the trunk until the simpler lines at the bottom help to make sense of the scene. My eye actually goes back and forth between spaces in the same way my brush did when I painted them.