Friday, May 9, 2008


'Arcola Spring' - pastel - 8x16 - field study

You might be saying, "Spring!?". That's what I thought, so I thought some more. My first thought was "Am I color blind?"..."This looks like fall, not spring???" If I have any faith in what I do it's that I can mix the colors that I see in front of me, with some creative input that is. But these colors look like fall no matter how many excuses I come up with. However, my faith in mixing color holds because while painting this one, any color with a hint of green in it jumped out at me screaming, "NO!". So I let the faith in my color recognition abilities override what the pre-conceptive area of my brain was telling me and painted what I saw, not what I thought. The result is a spring painting that isn't your 'typical' spring color scheme.

But I'm still wondering why the color is so warm in the new spring growth. Does it matter to a visual artist? No, it doesn't have to. It is important to me however. And I think it is because I come from many years of being an amateur naturalist and painting works that required the co-ordination of flora, fauna and seasons. My thought here is that the maples (swamp maples I think) are flooded and have been for several weeks. They are growing on islands in the middle of the St. Croix River and they regularly have to deal with high water for a short period of time. It doesn't look likely that they'll be on dry ground for a couple of weeks to come yet. It might be that they are not getting the mineral and other nutrient content from the soil that they ordinarily would, and like your houseplants (at least mine), if overwatered....the leaves will yellow. In a normal year, when the high water has receded earlier, the leaves of these maples at this stage are not as warm, are more 'limey' green.

Okay, enough natural history for today. Thanks for looking in.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

it's me, anonymous, again...

i was captivated by this pastel painting of yours, too - then, after gazing at it for a long time, i read your words about it.......thought about it all day...and smells came to me - the way some spring days smell like fall and some fall days smell like spring --- january and july, too....

some years, there's a lot of birth in fall, and some years, there's a lot of death in spring...

i appreciate your honesty to this year's palette - resisting your rightful artistic license to paint it into a fantasy spring that it is not.

but, the delicately persevering new life being born, even in desperately cold and watery surroundings, you tenderly rendered in your work. you remind me in it that true life defies death.

thank you again - the layers and layers of gossamer bud-lace, all there in two dimension - so beautiful. thank you.

Marc R. Hanson said...

anonymous...Thank you, again.

Donna T said...

This is gorgeous, Marc! I wish I could have seen how you did this, especially that delicate foliage. Beautiful water, too.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi Donna...Thank you. If I had to describe the method I'd use the words 'lot's of delicate layering' to do so. I have this thing about how the materials relate to the textures I'm depicting in nature, right or wrong.
In the case of this spring scene with the very fragile new leaf growth just emerging, a heavy 'bold' application of paint or pastel just doesn't make aesthetic sense to me. So I build these kind of pastels by slowly building layers of pigment onto the paper until the shapes and textures start to feel like I want them to. At some point things feel secure, meaning that I feel like I'm getting where I want to go, and I start applying finishing strokes, strokes that aren't manipulated too much once applied. In the case of the leaves here, I used a few sticks of harder pastel, Holbeing or Grumbacher I think, and gently glazed over the sanded texture of the paper to get a feel of the delicacy of the new foliage. Then sky colors were glazed into that, and back and forth.
Hope that explanation helps a little.

Donna T said...

Marc, thanks so much for that explanation. It is exactly what I needed to hear. I've been really frustrated with my pastels lately and I think you just cleared up the problem (at least one of them.) I just got my first Girault's and like the way they behave on Wallis. You're so right - delicate layers are needed for delicate effects. Sometimes the soft pastels are just too soft and fill the tooth too quickly. I need to give the harder pastels another try. Thanks again!