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When a Painting Speaks…

July 8, 2011

Dreamer's Trail, 20x16, Gouache (Click to see full image)

I’ve mentioned before the idea of letting a painting “speak” to me.  Some paintings speak.  Some whisper.  And there are those that sit on the easel, dumb as a fencepost, and never say a thing.  You don’t usually get to see those.

I started this painting with the intention of taking my time, leisurely building a quiet, light-filled, leaf-rustling, cricket chirping image of quiet serenity.  Instead, greens almost mixed themselves and leapt from the brushes onto the board with a vengeance.  And, just as suddenly, the painting spoke.  “Stop”, it said.  “Put the brushes down.   I’m done.”

I’ve been known to overwork a painting.  Just a little more detail… if a little bit is good, then a lot must be better, right?  Wrong.  And certainly not in this case.  I had visions of a Hudson River School kind of painting.  Leaves and bark and weeds and clumps of dirt in the trail.  But once I blocked it in and started laying in some really bold strokes, the die was cast.  This one revealed itself fairly quickly.  I could feel N.C. Wyeth and some of the early California impressionists looking over my shoulder, whispering “Easy does it now… not too much.  Don’t overdo it…”

I’ve had the reference photo for this for quite a while.  It’s next to the Mohican River, near the Bridge of Dreams in Knox County, Ohio.  The light coming down through the treetops was almost a glare, and there just was something magical about the scene.  For some reason, yesterday felt like the day to give it a shot.  I’m glad I did.

And I’m glad I was listening.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2011 4:17 pm

    Ralph, love your work. This is a magical piece.

  2. waysideartist permalink
    July 8, 2011 4:23 pm

    I enjoy your blog very much. Each post has a great lesson along with a painting I savor. This lesson is one I really need to take to heart. I “heard” it, finally, yesterday in my watercolor class, and am “hearing” your words on the same topic. It’s so hard to step away from the brushes. I’m glad you stopped when you did because it looks to me just the way you described with words: light-filled; cricket-chirping; serene…like a perfect summer day.


  3. July 8, 2011 4:52 pm

    Ralph, this painting certainly sings loudly to me, It is a beautiful painting. I would say it is the best I have seen for some time. I love it, and I shale be looking at it for some time to come. All the best Ralph.

  4. July 8, 2011 9:36 pm

    It feels alive!! So inviting!!

  5. July 8, 2011 9:37 pm

    This painting feels “alive”!… So warm & inviting….. Ralph, you just keep getting better!!

  6. William R Moore permalink
    July 9, 2011 1:28 pm

    Really, really like the tree grouping on the left. The way you painted the edges and hue variety of the trucks and leaves in that area is great. Glad to see you have recently been very successfully exploring the use of more color. I think John Carlson would appreciate this work.

  7. July 10, 2011 6:20 pm

    Great one! I love the colors you used to create the bark textures. The atmospheric perspective is great, and I really enjoy the way you use negative space to paint sky/branch interactions.

  8. July 15, 2011 6:49 pm

    I know I already commented on this magnificent painting on Wetcanvas, but I just had to post here as well. What a beauty – the subtle mix of light and shadow, the dappled glow along the sycamores, and the path leading off into the distance – it all makes for a stunning painting.

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