Spot relationshipsPosted: January 12, 2016
If you’ve purchased Charles Hawthorne’s book “Hawthorne on Painting”, you might want to do what my friend Suhita is thinking of doing, which is to take one of Hawthorne’s ideas at a time and work with that. I tried that today. In the introduction of the Landscape chapter, I read this: If you will only put a spot of color in the right relation to other spots, you will see how little drawing it takes to make form. Let color make form, do not make form and color it. Work with your color as if you were creating mass — like a sculptor with his clay. Interest yourself in the relation of one color to another — in this way your color rather than drawing creates form. The value rather than the drawing make a boat stay behind the piles of a wharf.
With that in mind I went out in search of a nondescript place to paint, nothing too pretty or picturesque (which is easy to find when there’s no snow in January in Montreal) and with no central structure (like a house) in the middle of the scene. Just a bunch of light and dark stuff. I did a bit of pencil drawing to set up the placement of elements on the page, and then with a limited palette of Raw Umber, Cerulean Blue, Organic Vermilion and a touch of Quin Gold, I tried to paint the relationship of shapes, one next to another. Near the end of the sketch, I dipped into some Phthalo Blue because I couldn’t get the darks dark enough to make the wires and the outside staircase. It’s not a great sketch, but it’s a really interesting process and I encourage you to try it next time you go out. Every time you put your brush down, ask yourself a question about what is next to the shape you are painting. How dark is the pole against the sky (very dark) or the pole against the trees (almost the same)? It’s a great exercise in looking. And keep this final quote from Hawthorne in mind: When you go out to paint and things mean only spots of color to you, you have your painter’s eye with you.