A painting a day: #19, Looking Up

If you haven’t kept up with this project, here’s a quick summary: I did the first 12 paintings all on the same big sheet of paper. Those were all fairly realistic still lifes. For the second sheet of paper, I’m doing more free/abstract reworkings of all the paintings from the first sheet. The idea is that since the first sheet gave me practice in rendering objects accurately from life, the second sheet will be practice in painting freely, without so much care for the way things really look.

I’m especially fond of my original autumn-leaves painting from the first phase of this project. I’ll confess I keep looking at it and feeling pleased with the bright, glossy appearance of those leaves. But I wanted the reworking to look entirely different, to capture something about the movement of the leaves rather than just their surface texture. I thought of the leaves I’ve seen around Boston in the past few months: fluttering in the wind while still on the branches, detaching gently or with violence, coming to rest in singles or in piles on the ground below. Maybe it was the thought of movement that made me skip my usual pencil sketch, choosing instead to go in directly with my brush:



I liked the look of the “leaves” bare against the white paper, but I wanted to keep something of the “rain-washed sidewalk” feel of the original grey background. So I started to put in some dark grey:


Then I realized it might be interesting not to do grey over the entire background. I thought if I left some white, it would feel a bit like looking up at the sky through treetops — that variation of light and dark, space and shadow and form. So I only added a bit more grey:


Here’s an awkward side-by-side comparison with the original:


It’s not the greatest painting, as far as technique goes, but it makes me very happy. It has a sense of motion and freedom to it that the other pieces haven’t always had — and it feels somehow joyful to me, like the feeling I get from lying on the grass and looking up through treetops high above.

Music: I intended to make a playlist of contemporary instrumental music (the composers still living), but somehow some older classical sneaked in there as well… and then some music from the non-Western world. Selections: