Intimacy implies proximity in relationships. A sense of private confidentiality thrives in intimate relationships. Building an intimate relationship with nature can begin by getting close to your subject. In the 18th and 19th century landscape painters found intimacy with nature making closely observed studies or etudes. These were not meant to serve as finished fully designed pictures. They were the result of getting close to a particular subject for purposes of scrupulous observation. These etudes could be placed into later larger exhibition pictures. This was standard procedure for Hudson River painters as it was for European landscape painters.
In the mid 1800’s Edward Lear, the poet/painter, traveled widely to create paintings of exotic destinations. As a part of his method he began with etudes of small patches of nature as you see in example 1. You see how close he got to his subject in this study.
At the same time artists like Robert Leopold LePrince were a part of a trend in which artists visited commonly accepted subjects like the Fontainebleau forest outside of Paris. Here artists made small studies in close proximity to nature. These were not like the specific etude of small patch of nature but rather, they were more complete designs at a small scale. This example (example 2) of LePrince’s is a small oil on cardboard. He places himself alone in a secluded woodland with a meandering stream. He is in close contact with nature here.
Late spring offers a view of lemony immature greens as trees leaf out. Finding a quiet corner of nature fed by a stream and filtered sunlight has been a strong tradition in landscape painting. I wandered through local woodlands discovering intimate scenes as you see in the following examples.
My first example is early spring with a close up of a vernal pool. My point of view is low to the earth, like a raccoon’s. Evidence of winter’s recent passing can be seen in the cool palette and the bare forest floor but, yellow sunlight and green luminance are on the horizon.
I began this by overpainting an older landscape. I thought I might be able to harvest some of the qualities of the older landscape while building the new one. Example 3 presents the older landscape before being sacrificed my experiments. Example 4 presents the first stage of the overpainting. Example 5 presents its further development and reveals of the substrate. This example (5) presents the painting in its present state.
The genesis of the next painting (see examples 6, 7 and 8) begins as I wandered along a trail and slipped down a muddy embankment to find myself in a small glen with stream that appeared to be swallowed by a forest. My back still shows scars my mishap.
I found a natural arched frame of trees and foliage over a shallow stream. I recognized a familiar composition. Light could bleed from the back and spill with quiet reflecting colors across the stream. To improve analogous color harmony I began this painting on a panel of brushed gold enameled laminated aluminum. This helped amplify the experience of reflected sparkling light.
In step one (example 6) I cover the panel with translucent yellows and blues and vaguely establish the design, a dark circular form surrounded by light and resting on a dark threshold.
I hope you can join me in one of my online zoom classes with demonstrations of various techniques, new and old as well as illustrations of historic and contemporary masters and, discussions of the biology of vision and, how to use science and history to your advantage
You can register for my online classes at this website, daviddunlop.com or at silvermineart.org. You may want to check out my new article on how to build a painting in the current Artists Magazine. My work is also featured on the cover and inside the new issue of American Art Collector magazine.