Road with Cypress and Star...
Van Gogh painted this master work in 1890, and it is a beautiful, atmospheric study of the road leading home after a long day of physical labor.
Vincent's version (which you see at right) is SO much better than my hack at it (left). In his painting, Van Gogh's precise and absolutely exquisite use of color lends a language to the painting that transcends the image, allowing the viewer to not only take in the scene, but to feel the tired ache of well used muscles (both human and equine) and the welcoming warmth of a house readied with an (undoubtedly) blazing hearth at its center.
But, like the latter part of the day that is depicted in the painting, this is where my week ended, rather than where it began...
When I asked Margo to assign a painting to me, she was torn between Van Gogh's Fischerboote (blog posting 5/13/13) and the (previously painted [by me - see blog postings 8/7/12, 8/9/12]) Almond Blossoms. I told her that I would rather do the little boats because I had not painted them before and I thought that they would be the best challenge.
In keeping with Margo's specifications, I had selected a very small (5X7) gesso covered board to paint the boats on, but after I had finished, I flipped the painting over to the empty back of the board, and thought to myself... why not give her both...?
So that is what I decided to do.
First, I painted on a rudimentary bluish background, which I figured would make things easier as far as painting into what was going to be a very tiny and detailed foreground. I sized, then traced a copy of Vincent's original image onto the painted surface.
The brushes I used to paint the image with were microscopic, and frankly, a little annoying to use. I had to break out my super strength reading glasses to see what I was doing.
At left, you can see how the painting lined up with Van Gogh's original (from a book).
The addition of yellow highlights, as well as grey, black and blue shadows were giving the branches both dimensionality and roundness.
I had a growing concern was that the image seemed overly busy, and I was beginning to wonder how I would add in the additional depths of blues that would be required for a believable background.
This was not going to work if I wanted to produce a finished looking image to send to Margo. And the boats, which were good, were already on the other side. Hmmmm.....
So I set to work on the background. I added a few more blues onto my palette, then, with the tiniest of the tiny brushes, I started filling in around the branches...
then filling in the sides and entirety of the branches... then covering the damn branches with paint and brushes that would not behave!
My fingers felt like kielbasa sausages in terms of fatness and control.
And the more I painted, the worse it got.
I was not a happy camper.
I didn't get on my big girl panties, but I sure as hell got out my big girl brush.
Do over time.
So now I was ready to make a fresh start.
Then, taking a page from the Henry Ford playbook, I painted the backs of the three boards with intense blues, and retraced Vincent's branch scheme on top.
Oh, how could I have missed this!
The technique that I had used before involved painting the wet green into the wet black, so that the branches would shadow and "round" properly.
But I was trying to shove wet into dry!
My assembly line system had left me with absolutely complete, beautifully dry and completely unworkable black outlines.
So now I was further behind!!
Why was I doing this voluntary project in the first place?!?
The line you see above in this blog will forever be known as a cuss line. Nuff said.
That's what they say about all the great painters - "Oh yeah, he painted really fast!"
Blah, blah, blah... you've heard it all before...
Here is the leftover paint that was on my palette. I knew right were to look for each color because I was painting Sisyphus style....
In my own self disgust, I just started painting, and again, forgot to take the photos. But I started to feel better just looking at the little pinky, creamy flowers...
which I put on the back of the tiny Starry Night (from my blog 5/21/13).
I used the same tracing method as before, which worked out very well because most of the paintings in my little Barnes and Noble Van Gogh book were sized at just a bit smaller than the 5 X 7 boards.
With the intricacies of the Iris image, I was glad that I did the tracing and transfer with a colored pencil, so I would know where I had previously marked the transfer onto my board.
You have seen me paint the Irises before, so I won't bore you with the details, but it was many tiny layers of tiny blobs of paint with tiny, tiny brushes.
I decided I was liking the feel of the gessoed boards, so I cracked open another one for the Road with Cypress and Star picture.
Note how I taped down the three layers (support, tracing paper, photocopied image) so that nothing could move while I was doing the tracing.
There is my little Starry Night drying between its coats of varnish in the background. It is propped up on two restaurant service (aus jus, horseradish, drawn butter)cups, which I use to hold varnish or other small bits of paint or liquid. Available at a restaurant supply store near you...
OK, with my tracing complete, I am ready to:
A. Start painting, and
B. Forget to use my camera!
I did leave out the horse drawn buggy, as well as the secondary small star on the left side of the canvas in order to simplify my composition, which at 9" X 12", was much smaller than Vincent's original, which was about 36" X 29".
You will note that in the book, the color of the original is quite different than what is shown on the net (below). What gives with that? Without seeing the original, it is hard to know precisely what colors Vincent actually used. I decided on the Wikipedia version (below) as the definitive one for me.
I was haunted by that minty green.
Haunted by that minty green, which I could never get to be quite as refreshing as it needed to be...
Below, you can see where I stopped for the day; note the unfinished area around the moon and at the horizon on the left.
Easy for him to say....
Three new paintings are already done for next week, so I am sort of kind of keeping on schedule. I will blog about them soon.
Stay safe, make some art, and go ahead and eat a cookie. I will be pouring some scotch. Into a bucket.