#59: Landscape, Late Twilight

#59: Landscape, Late Twilight (Oil on Canvas Panel, approx A3 size)
#59: Landscape, Late Twilight (Oil on Canvas Panel, approx A3 size)

This invented dark landscape is based on one of the charcoal drawings I wrote about in my last post. This painting makes me happy, gives me hope on many levels. Yet it also confuses me – the way it came about.

This was painted over an old abstract painting that was so bad I just could not bear posting it. It was at the end of a tiring, less than successful painting session. I had some colour left on my palette and thought I would use it to do the underpainting based on my charcoal sketch.

I was completely void of expectations, relaxed and painting in rhythm with the music. Truly, the painting emerged by itself. I watched it being painted. I thought – what am I even doing here, if the beauty is there, always, anyway? It is hard to describe – the painting I like the most appeared when I was not there – how can it be repeated?

The image below shows some of the brushwork. I have always wanted to paint more like this.


Thanks so much to all of you who have encouraged me with constructive and positive comments and with likes.

A poem about meditation, losing yourself and finding freedom:

The myriad differences resolved by sitting, all doors opened
In this still place I follow my nature, be what it may.
From the one hundred flowers I wander freely,
The soaring cliff - my hall of meditation
(With the moon emerged, my mind is motionless).
Sitting on this frosty seat, no further dream of fame.
The forest, the mountain follow their ancient ways,
And through the long spring day, not even the shadow of a bird.

Reizan (died 1411), from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breezes Enter, 
by Lucien Stryk and Takahashi Ikemoto

17 thoughts on “#59: Landscape, Late Twilight

  1. I can only make the analogy with writing but I think there’s remarkable similarity. Sometimes I do writing prompts just as a way to get the juices flowing. Most of the time nothing happens except they do work as warm-ups but every now and then, when I’m relaxed, a story unfolds completely unexpected. These moments are golden as is your painting. Although a lot of background work preceded this product, it’s still a form of magic, don’t you think?

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    1. Hi Suzanne. Could not agree more with what you are saying, about how things unfold like a sort of magic. Your reference to writing reminds me of this sentence in Julia Cameron’s “Artists Way”. She wrote: [when I turned creativity over to God or whatever]”…I learned to just show up at the page and write what down what I heard. Writing became more like eavesdropping and less like inventing a nuclear bomb. It wasn’t so tricky, and it didn’t blow up on me anymore”.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a theory. (Actually it’s not “my” theory, but is a theory that has emerged in the ambient culture, rather like your painting to which I have amended my own thoughts and experience.) I always have a theory! That’s just who I am. Anyway, rather than offer my theory and be all analytical about this, I say instead: why don’t you replicate these conditions so that more often you’ll find yourself “just painting.” For I can tell you that I find after many years doing this, that I too do my best work when I’m responding to the image, just painting, not engaged in thinking about it — and you can get to a point where even thinking about it doesn’t matter either because you just keep painting while your mind is analytically chattering on about tones, or drawing or whatever. You can learn to ignore THAT too.

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    1. Thanks Aletha, I am 100% in agreement with your theory. But oh, that is so difficult for me to do. Replicating the conditions in which I am “relaxed, without self or expectations” – does that not imply an expectation in itself? Nevertheless, we have no choice but to try, subtly, sensitively, feel into ourselves and the painting situation and see what happens. It is a bit like creative Tai Chi – neither limp nor tense, just the right amount of push and yield. What a beautiful journey, enough to fill a lifetime with new doors to be opened each day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I realize that you paint over things a lot, and you mentioned why, and I get it. But I wonder if you wouldn’t be wise to invest in a tablet or two of oil paper (Arches makes a paper that’s supposed to be already sized to use with oil). It’s less expensive than canvas, comes in sizes like you’re already using, and it would pretty much prevent you from painting over! You’d have NO REASON to paint over the image. It’s easy to store (easy to chuck if you’re determined not to keep the images!) And it’s easy to frame too, either under glass like a drawing, or glued to a panel and framed like a painting.

    Here’s why. Oil paint gets more transparent with time. You might not notice it on any painting you’ve done so far, but to always be painting over things means that you never get to see — and more significantly never get to learn how to paint against the white (or light) background. The whole significance here of the white background is that after the paint becomes more transparent the light travels through the layers, bounces off that white background, travels back up through the layers where it meets your eyes. And the richness and purity of color gotten by that mechanism is seriously cut off when you paint over a darker ground — whether its a toned ground deliberately made or another painting.

    Granted, in certain traditions where the darkness was desired, as in a Rembrandt portrait, the artist includes a lot of (middle tone) dark in the beginning and makes the lights from lead white which is more opaque than other white pigments. The toned ground is so beneficial for the painter’s process that certainly lots of artists have wanted it there. The Impressionists whose paintings depended on a lot of brilliance sometimes worked on toned grounds, but these were very mildly toned in light colors.

    Anyway, this is a complex topic. If you have, say, even just one tablet of this paper and you use it every now and then (especially in those sessions where you send your conscious mind packing) you can learn to respond to the white of the page, and in a very dark picture you’ll have the brilliance of the white ground as a factor for the sake of those few lights that appear. You can get a wider range of tones — from dark to light — which makes the darks seem darker too, of course, by contrast — and the very lightest light can be brighter but there’s still all the room a painter can need for subtle blendings of light and dark. And when you produce one that really makes you happy, you’ll know that it’s there. The pentimenti of another picture underneath is never coming back to hinder it.

    It will correspond more nearly to the kind of charcoal drawing that you’re doing now.

    I use this paper myself, began using it after having heard artist Quang Ho recommend it on facebook. I like it. It’s a wonderful surface. I don’t recommend it as an “only” surface, but then I don’t recommend anything for “only,” — it’s great for sometimes. Various things I’ve posted were painted on it, many of the things I called “studies.” My recent fish and frog still life was painted on it. I actually enjoy painting on it more than on canvas as regards how the paint moves around; it’s smoother. But for my main paintings I still have to use canvas for other reasons ….

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    1. Thanks so much for your extensive, caring comment Aletha. I can say from experience I know what you mean about the transparency of oil paint. The few times I did paint over a dull, dark painting, it was a fair disaster, unless I first covered the old image in white mixed with something like Raw Sienna a few weeks before.
      This particular painting was painted over a very light, colorful image. Some of the yellow and blue is still visible in the finished painting, but where it is is my little secret.

      I actually do have a pad of Arches Canvas Paper, I enjoy the feel of it, it the recommendation by Quang Ho (what a great painter!), is comforting to know about.
      BTW – I actually prepare my own panels using sturdy 6 mm MDF and then buy primed canvas by the roll. I glue the canvas to the MDF using a thick layer of Acrylic Gesso, then put some weights on it for a day or so before trimming off the edges. In this way a 8 x 10 inch canvas panel is quite cheap to make.

      The main reason for painting over the old images is so that they do not stand around staring at me in my studio like hungry children I made. But perhaps using paper 2 / 3 times could solve that, so I may give it a bash in the near future.

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  4. Aletha…..took the words right out of my mouth. I say ditto that! I love your painting, there is so much feeling, ambience, peacefulness and a calmness. You tapped into that place that the spirit can speak and do. Often our minds and even emotions get in the way when we paint and especially how we should, or “if only” or “what if I can’t?” or….or…..it stifles the inner spirit/artist that resides quietly hoping for a voice or a chance. I say bravo, you have had a painting that emerged from your true self and it appears to be far more calm and happy than a lot of your paintings appear. That melancholy is perhaps all the striving to get what you really want to say or convey out! You have to move more into this realm of painting, because you have freed a part of yourself that you simply can’t hide no more. Anyway, I got carried away here. I admire you so much. I am too much into trying to depict what I feel about a scene rather than going deeper of which I want and prefer. I say embrace it and keep flowing in that river of creativity and discovery.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment Margaret, it is a great encouragement for me.

      I hope you realise that we are both on the same journey, going in an upward and sometimes downward spiral, and I am in no ways ahead of you!! When you say “I am too much into trying to depict what I feel about a scene rather than going deeper of which I want and prefer” – I can identify with it so much, you won’t believe. But all striving is perhaps not only useful but necessary for us at this stage. Nietzche said something like: “Thou shalt obey someone, and for a long time, before you can be free”. I take that to mean – you have to stick with the discipline, acquire skills, etc. before that great freedom of the brush comes to us.

      I think every painting that you make – I am thinking specifically of your last one with the grasses in the foreground and the cliffs further back – you are picking up signals and subtle skills that push you slowly forward toward what/who you want to be. We just have to believe and trust that the pace of progress is right for us, even when our personality does not agree!

      The true search is perhaps to become a more sensitive person, able to feel, sense and lean slowly, kindly, deeper into what we long for in the deepest part of our beings. Robert Henry stresses this over and over. He says:

      “Whatever you feel or think, your exact state at the exact moment of your brush touching the canvas is in some way registered in that stroke. If there is interesting or reasonable sequence in your thoughts and feelings, if there is order in your progressive states of being as the paint is applied, this will show, and nothing in the world can help it from showing”. Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit (p. 54). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

      Upward and onward for us, there is no other choice!

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      1. oh thank you! I think that you hit it on the nail head…..I agree whole heartily and yet I place you closer to that ideal and desire and yet….I am going at the pace and on the journey that is specifically mine and no one else’s. So intriguing how we bounce it off from each other. You are correct, I am aware of it and yet am very impatient and in the meantime, I am looking over the fence at your pasture discounting my own! Ha! I have to pull my “The Art Spirit” out and get to re-reading it, about time, I say. 🙂 thank you for such an interesting and insightful conversation.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aletha – it came through for me, can see the image above. I really admire Mondrian – I am not crazy about his abstracts, but I think he really searched very deeply. For me it is most apparent in his sensual flower drawings and paintings. Thanks for your comment!

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  5. so glad you made a happy painting for yourself. I agree with Aletha, when I was taught how to use oils to paint my figures, they told me to use a white undercoat to make the colours more ‘jewel’ like and glowy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks FR! I am definitely going to dust off that pad of white canvas paper. For now I am a bit sidetracked into Charcoal and also combining charcoal and watercolour. Will post something on this soon. Thanks for visiting, I always enjoy your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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