| 08 December, 2013 10:33
About six months ago Mehri asked me to come take a look at a thick, beautiful frame that she had at her gallery at the frame shop. She had an idea in her mind's eye that I could paint a Tuscan Landscape to go in that frame. I agreed and then thought about all the places I had painted in San Gimignano and one place seemed like it would be right for this size rectangle and this kind of frame. The rectangle measures 46 X 38 inches.
I had already painted one version of "Strada Bianca", started in 2007 and finished in 2010. It was a quiet spot, no passers by except the occasional hunter. I especially liked sitting next to a young but tall male cypress tree.
I went straight to my spot when I got to San Gimignano in July and observed the light at 7AM. It was good. Plenty of light and shadow.
I spent about two weeks going to my spot every morning at 7AM and working till 10AM.
And something felt wrong. The heat was unbearable, hitting what felt like 100 degrees by 9 AM. And there was nothing spectacular about the light, either. I resolved to go earlier, much earlier, even in the dark before the sun would come up and look at this landscape in a new light and during a cooler moment.
And that was really kind of frightening. I've never painted a sunrise or a sunset because my teacher had told me not to do it becasue it was such a cliche´. But I tried to imagine what a sunrise would look like in the painting by doing a photoshop version of it.
So this was on my mind and when I got out there, in the dark, that I should not attempt a sunrise, that I would ruin a good painting... And there were patches of flatened grass where wild boars had slept and I was terrified one was still around, I thought I could smell them. But I set up my umbrella, easel, and put out my paints and waited for the sun to come up.
It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Maybe the sun does this every morning? That morning the sun really put on a show for me and I was painting and taking pictures so quickly I got paint all over my camera.... the whole thing took less than seven minutes and then it was gone, over!
I worked on this painting on site for eight weeks from 5:30 to 9:30AM. The sun moved a lot. I found out how hard it was to see the shapes in the cypress tree bark on the left and I tried very hard to envelope the hills in the early morning atmosphere so typical of Tuscany. And I felt a divine connection to religious paintings of the seventeenth century and tried to put that in it, too.
But here I am now, six months later and painting from the several pictures I took while painting en plein air. I could not have made up this sunrise, I needed the pictures. I could not only paint from the pictures, I needed to be there eight weeks.
Layers of color on top of color and glazes will be bright enough to describe the light coming directly from the sun. Each layer has to dry and then another painted agian, on top. Some how working from light to subsequently darker layers is turning out to be right. Normally one works from darker to light in oils.
For me it is not enough for a painting to look like the place where I painted it. It has to have drama...