Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't Box Me In

I've discovered that some people dislike boxwood shrubs - the smell (which I can't detect), the link in mind to geometric garden styles (which I like in their place, in lovely Colonial gardens), or who knows. I don't have any in my yard which is a rambling sprawl of lawn and perennials and bushes and trees. However, I do know that I have been attracted to hedges lately, as a theme to paint. I like the pattern of bushes next to each other, the play of light on different parts, the oblong rounded shapes of greens.

Yesterday I went with a group of artists to an alpaca breeding farm. A very large, lush heaven on earth for alpacas - an enormous pond, rolling hills, grass, huge fenced enclosures, able-bodied people taking care of the animals: recording of age and breeding times, pregnancy watches, exercise walks, bottle-feeding newborns whose mothers were unable to nurse. If one didn't want to paint the alpacas, there were gorgeous vistas everywhere you looked, even shady tree-lined driveways and an old manor house, plus tidy barns and stables.

But I was attracted to this over-grown boxwood hedge. There it was, front on, blocking my viewpoint from that vista. I liked it's rhythmic pattern, I liked the shade cast on grass and driveway, I liked the play of light all over.

I'm also pleased by my pencil drawing that I did before the painting. So often I plunge into painting, but when painting outside, with quickly moving sunlight and cloud cover, I've learned to take the time to make thumbnails to get the composition right at the beginning. Find my darks to ground the image, use the pencil strokes to establish brushstroke directions to make a lively painting. Color takes care of itself once I begin.

Oil with palette knife on Ampersand Gessoboard, 11 x 14 inches. "The Boxwood Hedge"

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