Monday, November 29, 2010

Not Done with the Large Format - Yet!

Several days ago, I posted the "finished" version of a couple of large pastel paintings I did on-location. One obviously needed more work, and it provoked a number of useful comments. (To be sure, I have actually taken scissors to the painting and cut it in half. I'll post the "new" finished version of this one once I take some good photos of it.) But the one that I thought really was finished also got a lot of comments, especially over in the Wetcanvas.com plein air forum. As a reminder, here's the painting (9x24):

Some folks had a problem with the foreground hill, claiming it read more like a staircase or pathway into the distance rather than like a little hill. One commentor suggested that changing the shape so it wasn't triangular would solve the problem. Well, I can't do that because it's a well-known landform, and the local residents would get upset if I just took a backhoe to it. Others suggested hardening lines, darkening shadows, etc., to correct the illusion. Or move it to the left a bit so it didn't point so directly into the distance.

One suggestion I made was to remove the hill entirely. The reason I suggested this is that there is probably some point near where I painted where I could have had a very similar view, but without the hill. I'm not sure the hill is entirely necessary. So this morning I ran the image through the Photoshop mill, and below is the result. I find Photoshop a really useful tool in these cases. Hasty erasures or cuts with scissors are impossible to "undo" otherwise.

I'm interested in hearing your opinion on this piece. Remove the hill, fix it in some way, or just leave the thing alone - your vote counts!

Normally, I wouldn't spend this much time on a plein air painting, But my intention was to get this piece (and the other) as close to completion outdoors as possible. With any plein air piece, large or small, you will run into problems like this that would perhaps be more easily foreseen in the calm and quiet of the studio. And since I have invested considerable time on them, both outdoors and now inside, I'll keep at it. It's a great learning experience!

15 comments:

Deb said...

It reads like a hill to me, so I don't have a problem with being unsure of what it is. However, the edited version seems to be a stronger statement visually.... the distant
mesa really lights up, even though you have not changed it. So I suppose my vote would be to edit it out.

MarilynW said...

Only took a moment to know my vote is to remove the triangle shaped hill in the foregound. It is more inviting and easier on the eye. Just too much with it. Without it you want to stay a while and look around, with it just too much trouble to get in. Beautiful painting. Marilyn Witt

Jeannette Kogeler said...

Hi Michael, I think you ought to keep the view as is, being true to the real time and place in which you are making art. However, choosing a different time of day can greatly alter the lights and shadows. My suggestion is: find a different light source either the time of day or weather, more clouds, snow even, earlier or much later in the day.

mlucena said...

Hi, Michael! I met you once when I was painting in front of Selby Fleetwood's gallery on Canyon Road, and you walked by with your wife, (I am really bad at names, I don't recall hers.) You two were on your way east from Arizona. Hope all is going well with you!
I think (regarding the 9x24 painting) the composition will work without the foreground hill, and looks especially nice with the shadowy slope in the left front of your painting. It tells the story of the height and distance, the grandness of the landscape.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!
Have fun!
Margi Lucena

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Wow, a hailstorm of comments in just a few hours! Thanks for your comments, everyone. Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

The composition definitely works much better without the hill, and probably people who look at the far view are not conscious of the hill in the (relative) foreground and its absence is tolerated whereas its being changed would not be tolerated, as you said, any more than changing Blomidon's surroundings would be tolerated here.

Anonymous said...

You're right. The little hill had to go. We discussed same and it looked like a distraction to the wonderful vista that now prevails.

Margo said...

Well, as I said on WetCanvas, I like it, and I really like the long format, so cropping it would affect that. I agree it's a hailstorm both here and at WC!

Sri Debi said...

Michael, I have to say my problem was never with a hill, the thing that I saw and continue to see in this painting is the elephant trunk. Does anyone else see it? I know that I'be spent a lot of time in India, but I just see an elephant trunk when I first view this painting.

Bruce Newman said...

Initially, I thought the little hill was a road and I think your revision is a definite improvement as it removes the ambiguity. As for staying true to the subject, Albert Handell always reminds us that we are making a picture (art). (exact quote escapes me at the moment) Oh, and nice painting, Michael!

Jan Poynter said...

Hi Michael- always enjoy your blog entries. and this one really was a challenge. I say keep the hill. but with the dramatic shadows and midtones on the distant hills is is lost. (the top just blends away onto the distant slope) Bring up the highlight/contrast on the right side...and deepen the shadow on the left...and I think it will stand up and give more depth to the full scene. I always like the callenge of that really long format.

Lee McVey said...

Hello Michael,

I like the painting better without the hill. With the hill, I think it is distracting and confusing as to what the focal point is.

Thanks for allowing us to give you input.

Lee McVey

Anonymous said...

Without the hill I can concentrate on your beautiful handling of the light as it dances off the rock. That hill was trying to say "hey, look at me! No, I choose not to do so. Thank you, Michael,for a wonderful blog!!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

To Anon. who asked me how to unsubscribe: You need to send me your e-mail address, and I can do it.

kathy said...

I say it is good as stands. You're edit job did the trick the mountain is lit perfectly.

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