The foregoing was
directly concerned with showing how this painting was done. This
discusses some of the thinking behind it.
Painting a scene like this is not
about landscape, but your position in relation to the landscape –
the place you are observing it from, and particularly your position
relative to the light. I paint light first, landscape second.
Light in your painting – where it is
in the stream of time.
Light implies not just place but
time. Impressionist painters sometimes painted a fragment of time as
with Monet’s poplars on the River Epte, working several canvasses at
a time work several days, working each for a specific time period
each day to capture the light at that time of day. Australian
painter Ken Knight is an exponent of this, with an article in
International Artists featuring him working several canvasses
throughout the day in this way. Light changes from one moment to the
next. Light behaviour is specific to this moment in time. In times
gone by many traditional British painters where more concerned with
mood and atmosphere. The impressionist’s approach was actually quite
scientific. The approach shown here is influenced more by French
impressionism than the traditional English one. It has little to say
about mood, atmosphere, and it avoids sentiment.
Does that leave anything for the
artist to convey? It leaves a great deal. It is a passionate
treatment of the subject – bright light in the landscape. Colour,
heat, light, form, shape, line, texture and much more, combining in
relationships on the paper. Textures and patterns of light have to
be kept distinct and separate to paint light, and just as important
– where it isn’t.
Light approaches the subject from a
point on the compass and in the sky. Backlight and sun glints change
according to the precise angle of the light – a point on the
compass. Glint – bouncing or reflected “mirrored” light, is returned
from a myriad of objects and not always shiny ones like leaves. The
sun is powerful enough to turn matt surfaces like wood, stone, even
a brick wall into a mirror. The mirrored light can be rendered white
on the paper. The textured distribution of this white light on the
paper is key.
In other words, don’t paint light,
paint what light is doing.
So why not paint light directly?
Sun light is fantastically
powerful and you cannot paint even remotely as brightly. Similarly
the eye and visual mind have coping mechanisms for bright sunlight,
visual responses. Painting these visual responses to bright light
makes the viewers mind respond as it would to real sunlight. The
white seems brighter than the paper. Knowing how to paint what light
does is similar to putting a gearbox on a car engine. The power
source is the same but it will do more.
This article was first published some
time ago in Paint magazine – the journal of the Society of All
Artists. I am a member of the SAA and you can join too. Myself and
fellow artists help all painters develop through the SAA.