Lake Temescal Reflections, Oil on panel, 8x8"

Lake Temescal Reflections, Oil on panel, 8x8"

I have a theory about the paths we take in life, and how important it is to notice what I call “Angels Holding Up Signs” along the way.  Sometimes those angels take the form of a person offering helpful information or silently pointing the way by example, an intuitive thought, or an unexpected turn of events that makes you pause. When I see or hear an angel holding up a sign, whether it’s “Yield”, “STOP,” or “Go This Way” with an arrow, I consider it a gift and give it serious consideration.

Disclaimer: I’m not a New-Age angels and crystals sort of girl. But I do believe there are angels all around us; good, kind, generous people, like Adam at Kragen Auto Parts today who helped me dispose of gallons of old motor oil and their containers that had been abandoned in my garage (long story; don’t get me started!). Thanks Adam!

…And like the angels who’ve held up signs in my art life lately, including Kathryn Law and Ed Terpening who’ve both helped me to a breakthrough in my understanding about why simplifying is important in oil painting, especially when painting plein air. I’m always attracted to details, and so I’ve fought against that principle, and then fought my paints trying to put those details into my paintings.

Then I saw these paintings (below) by Ed Terpening on his blog, Life Plein Air, made during a workshop in which the instructor,  Peggi Kroll-Roberts, challenged the class to break the scene into as few large shapes as possible and paint those shapes with a large, fully loaded brush in one brush stroke.

© Ed Terpening

© Ed Terpening

© Ed Terpening

© Ed Terpening

© Ed Terpening

© Ed Terpening

Each study evoked in me a mood and my mind created a whole life story for each of these women. A mom at the beach trying to keep her kids in line; a sad, matron, wondering where her life had gone; a glamorous, young society lady at the country club watching a tennis game while sipping a martini….

How did so much come from such simple paintings? Leaving out the details left it to my mind to fill them in. This is something I so needed to learn: that simplifying and omitting detail doesn’t make a painting boring—it lets the viewer’s mind play and be creative, making for an exciting, rewarding experience. Thanks, Ed, for holding up that signpost!

Another sign-toting angel came via email this week: a request to purchase this plein air oil painting I made last summer at Lake Temescal. There I was at the crossroads, wondering whether to give up plein air oil painting, and this angel popped up with a sign saying, “You’re on the right path, don’t turn back.”

And now about my process with today’s painting. First I tried to simplify by painting large color shapes with the plan to create a color study for a work to be done in the studio. I also focused on the composition, picking a focal point, being careful not to divide the canvas in half as I have a tendency to do, making the subject (the water) the largest portion.

Here’s how it looked when I’d covered the whole panel:

Lake Temescal Reflections, phase 1

Lake Temescal Reflections, Phase 1

I’d worked quickly, using a palette knife, going for big shapes of color. I should have stopped there and gone for a walk. But instead I messed around for another hour and muddied up the design and the colors:

Temescal Reflections - Phase 2

Temescal Reflections (muddied), Phase 2

But the great thing about palette knife painting is that it’s easy to scrape off passages and repaint them. So later that evening I put the photo of Phase 1 on my computer monitor side-by-side with a photo of the scene and worked on the painting until I was satisfied with it (as posted at top).

And I’m very happy with another breakthrough: the way I was able to enjoy the plein air painting process without worrying about making a Painting with a capital P while I was out there.

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Category:
Art theory, Bay Area Parks, Landscape, Oil Painting, Other Art Blogs I Read, Outdoors/Landscape, Painting, Places, Plein Air
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Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. dear Jana .: I viewed TemescalReflections on this bright spring morning(South Hemisph)I did find the magic of angels you refer to and I thought that keeping on mind that is only an Internet pic)it gave me the pleasure of a Monet landscape.But the French artist did not like mystical traces,so you give more delight as described by Wordsworth. and it is a joy for ever…

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  2. Yes!

    I don’t ‘know*’ why, but this painting evokes a visceral YES! from me!

    Victor was eloquent. I’m speechless.

    Gwendolyn

    * ‘Knowing’ would presume that I know more about art than I do! lol!

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  3. Congratulations on your sale and on the breakthroughs that you are having. Simplifying is really hard for me too-I always wonder if my stuff ends up looking “child-like” because of my paring down methods.

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  4. Wow! What a fascinating adventure! I like the luscious, watery feel for your final piece.

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  5. Congratulations!!!! It’s a winner! And I know exactly what you mean about the angels in our lives, I hadn’t thought of it in exactly that way but it perfectly describes that series of events I’ve thought of as synchronous. I like your explanation so much more! And thank you for the suggestion of checking out Ed’s blog…..now I have another one for my ‘Daily sites.’ At this rate I’ll never get out the door to work for all the ‘must read daily’ blogs!

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  6. Jana, so glad to hear I was of help to you! I should also thank Peggi Kroll-Roberts, whose workshop I was attending. She’s a great teacher, and provided wonderful insights and ideas on how to approach the figure in art.

    Cheers,
    -Ed

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  7. Thanks. I updated the post with her name and link as follows: “…in which the instructor, Peggi Kroll-Roberts,challenged the class to break the scene into as few large shapes…”

    Jana

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  8. A great lesson, and interestingly as I gazed on the painting a second time I actually saw the face of an angel in the water…a wonderful afterglow.

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    • You saw an angel in the painting? — how cool! Once I was making a painting to contribute to a collection of remembrances for a friend who passed away and I didn’t really know what I was going to paint — I just started playing with colors and out of the abstract red swirls an angel appeared there too. Jana

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  9. Hi Jana, lovely painting. I gasped when my screen displayed it. I like that you are in that special place of growth and success. Those moments only comes from hard work, you know.

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  10. This page came up when I did a search on Lake Temescal, Jana. I love the finished painting. Bold, but with enough detail to make it very interesting and satisfying. Wish I’d done it!

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    • You’re way too generous! But thanks for the kind words. It’s funny how people come across my work in such random ways but it’s fun when it happens. Thanks again…and do keep me posted when you start teaching again. Thanks, Jana

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