Last week I had an adventure attending a workshop by master artist Deborah Paris in Clarksville, Texas. Early one afternoon in class my artist friend, Lolly Schera, and I slipped under the arching trees and across a green meadow to the back pasture. We stopped at a tiny pond, secluded by underbrush and tall trees covered with vines. The bull frogs sang a low, oboe-like sound and four magnificent Canadian geese wheeled overhead, flapping their powerful wings. The sky was a soft silver color. We sat quietly, listening, watching, and recording the scene in our sketchbooks. Both of us were enchanted by the tiny pond and all of the life it supported. In a world of such haste, it was a luxury to sit still, observe nature and try to capture her beauty with a simple graphite pencil.
The painting above was based on those sketches, which is not usually how I work. Normally, I paint plein air, taking my easel and paints outdoors, or I paint from photographs. This work was done purely from pencil drawings and notes about the colors--totally from memory and my sketch book. This is how artists worked before the 20th century.
As I was planning the painting, I decided to use the idea of a cross or a "T" shape as the main idea for the composition. The two darkest trees are the vertical axis, and the horizon line is the cross-piece. Most professional artists decide on their compositional idea before they begin a painting. Notice that none of the trees are straight up-and-down; they all stray a little from vertical, as in nature, and they taper as they rise. The trees in the distant background are painted with soft edges, and the reflection mirrors the trees in the foreground.
In "The Secret Pond," I tried to capture the feeling of being eleven years old again, with a Saturday afternoon to while away, exploring a green pasture with nothing but a pencil and paper, and a tangerine in my pocket. I hope it brings back sweet memories of your own.
Thanks for joining Lolly and me at the pond.