I am painting in Maine again this summer. Last summer, I completed eight paintings in two weeks in Maine and brought home four unfinished paintings to finish in the studio. I never got around to finishing them, so I brought them back to Maine this summer.
This summer, I pulled out one of the unfinished paintings and set up in the same location and time of day. This was a complicated scene of wharves and buildings stacked along a tidal river estuary. I thought the painting was largely complete but needed some details and to resolve a few issues. I expected it wouldn’t take very long to make these finishing touches.
When landscape painting, I edit. I leave out buildings or trees. I condense and group objects together. The goal is to establish the “feeling of place” in the same way our eye or memory might work. When you look at something your brain picks and chooses what details will create the best memorable representation of that place. I try to do the same with painting.
I remembered the editing and choices I made last year to create the composition and establish the values. As I started working this time, I kept asking myself, “Why did I make that choice?” or “Why did I mix that color?” I realized I had grown as a painter over the past year. I know that I am continuing to learn and develop as a painter but at my age, I assumed it was a slower learning curve. I was surprised at how much my painting process and eye for color, value, and composition had changed in twelve months.
Since last summer’s painting trip, I have started to develop mini-goals or painting themes. There are techniques I want to learn and ways of observing and interpreting the landscape that I want to develop. I did not realize how much of that I had already internalized.
Even though I have changed as a painter since last year, I worked with the choices I made last year to resolve the painting. I am satisfied with the finished painting but aware of changes I would make if I did it again. I would have simplified more and used some different colors.