Sunday in the studio
...catch the 10:15 at Redeemer and come home to see what can be done to wrap up the current painting. What is it about? The quickest paintings know this from the start. Others start with a sky that I want to see translated to canvas--some swirl, veiling, color, or wonderful shape to celebrate. Then some bit of ground is wanted to anchor it and here's where it gets tricky. For the minute we drop to earth, there's a commitment to make: how do the earth and heavens reconcile? When they mirror, that's a kind of grace. I have folders of photos to sift through, watching for the right combination of shape and place. This painting pairs a sky taken from the elevated road across Mobile bay with an afternoon on the Magnolia river. It's the little point that leads to the river as I remember it, like a fluid street. The oaks near the river are less tortured, being more sheltered from the winds off Weeks bay. But this one on the point is half tame, caught in the winter sun, the same time of year as now. I'm considering painting out the distant bank, doing a bit of a Hopper on it. Maybe imagine that we are approaching from the other direction, and it's Mobile bay, that Weeks bay empties into. Or I could break up that mass of trees that remind me of shrubbery. Pick out the shapes of a few pines, detail the marsh grasses that rim the waters edge. Once the water is resolved, the clumps of grasses that taper the point can be painted. I'm thinking of tucking a fisherman, or perhaps a child in a boat, partly behind the grass. Until I can get to that point, the balance of the whole thing tips too much to the right. It's hard to be patient and hold back that detail till the rest is ready and dry. And then, I may find I've miscalculated and it's still off. I've had a similar bet with the sky. I thought at first I could do a very golden sky. But the storminess of the clouds demands a bluish gray, or else I'll be left with an ugly yellow yuck color. I'm remembering an Isobel Bishop painting of a woman, glazed golden over a beautifully brushed underpainting, somewhere between Rubens and Turner in its transparent glazes. But that's for another sky, not this one.
3/2/2014 10:11:06 pm
Susan, thank you for referencing your blog. Your work is amazing, and the thought processes behind each painting are poetic and truly inspiring.
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About the artist
Susan Downing-White’s work has been featured in American Artist magazine and exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Mobile Museum of Art.