Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Challenge

"Up the Hill"
Oil on Panel
24 x 18"

Well, today was my first full day back in the studio since being sidelined by the crud last week. I lasted four hours until standing at my easel had totally exhausted me, then I spent the rest of the evening trying to be an interactive mom while lying on the couch. Hopefully things will go better tomorrow, because I don't want to waste the time when Aspen is with a sitter!!

Anyhow, I managed to spend an hour at the easel last week and finished this painting of aspens that I had started the week before. I don't know why, but I have the hardest time painting aspen trees. I swear, I've probably trashed more paintings of aspens than any other subject matter. They totally frustrate me because I would love to be able to paint them well - I love the way their white trunks just glow in the landscape and their knots give them character. (It also doesn't hurt that the galleries are always asking for them and they always sell!)

Anyhow, since I'm not under much pressure to meet deadlines right now, I've been tackling some scenes that are challenging for me, and this was one of them. For starters, it's got the aspen trees which I know are always hit or miss for me. Then there's the fact that there is no strong light and shadow pattern on the grassy hillside, which I have a hard time with because I'm so much more comfortable with strong value contrasts.

At last year's OPA national show, I had my work critiqued by one of the master signature members, and his main suggestion for me was to explore more intimate scenery and concentrate more on the character of the trees and plant life in the foreground of my paintings. So that's sort of what doing a painting like this is all about - it's all very organic, much more so than my usual subject matter of mountains and vistas.

I don't know if I really succeeded here or not. It looks nice in a frame, and I like the luminous color of the aspen bark, but I'm still not sure about the hillside. Oh well - I'm learning!


  1. This is a lovely piece don't fret too much. I hope you don't mind some thoughts from the peanut gallery.
    I think what you are feeling when you look at it is your lack of confidence in trying the up close and personal brush in the foreground. Put your love of the outdoors into the foreground( make us smell the weeds)and warm it up a bit to contrast with the cool hillside in the back. You've got a great piece here. The star of the show is the front tree. Pamper the star and you'll have a hit.

  2. I NEVER mind comments from the peanut gallery Peter! Thanks for the suggestions - I think you're right, so I'll have to do a bit more work on this one. The tough thing is finding the motivation when you're past that point of being excited about a painting anymore - I might have to wait a week or something!

  3. hi stacey, i am glad to see you are starting to feel better. i think this is a lovely painting, i always enjoy how your vertical compositions have this immense sense of height to them. i agree with peter about trying some warm tones up the foreground, it will really bring it forward and draw your eye right into those gorgeous aspens. i admire you for painting while sick, i make such a mess of paintings when i try to paint ill. this painting will sell quickly.

  4. I think this picture looks pretty flat and the colors are too muted in the foreground. It lacks the crispness and poetic feel that these kind of trees evoke.

    I say, work harder. You have more talent than this.

  5. Stacy--I hesitate to comment being a relative newby to all this. But I will. I note that in most of your work, your colors are subdued and value range narrower that most of us are tempted to use. But it's very calming and beautiful. That's what you do. You saw the aspens as they were and painted what you saw. Some of these suggestions are good, but that painting is done. Maybe you should go back and paint the scene on a sunny day, or darker day, or at sunset--a different view and a different look. Exploit the scene and let your talent take over. I have a feeling that more great painting will come...