Picking and Choosing

Have you ever come across a scene that has a great element or shape but all that surrounds it is less than compelling?  I do all the time.  The question: “How will I handle this in my painting”? In one of my latest painting “Dance of the Pacific” I had to ask myself this very question, it’s a questions I ask myself when I approach every painting.

I’ve posted 3 photos; 1 photo of the scene that inspired the painting, 1 photo of the under-painting and 1 photo of the finished painting.  In the first photo you’ll see the actual scene that inspired the painting, or in this case, the element or shape that inspired the painting.  I really like the the way this small grove of eucalyptus trees were leaning, like in a beautiful dance. I often see eucalyptus tress as an elegant woman draped in an flowing gown, it’s what I imagine when I paint them.  I view oak trees and cypress tress differently, each species having it’s own characteristics, it’s own personality.

What I didn’t find compelling was the view of the valley below. It did nothing for me.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great view, I would love to have a home with this kind of view.  But for my paintings I want something simple, something quiet, something peaceful. It also didn’t help that it was in the middle of the day when the sun is high and the light is flat.

When I look at the world and what I want to paint, I look at in in terms of parts or shapes that make up the whole ( like a puzzle).  From there I choose what parts or shapes to include or not include in my work. This piece is a perfect example of that mental process.  It’s actually found in much of my work.  I’m not often concerned with capturing the specifics of any given location. I’m much more interested in shapes and colors that can evoke emotions and take the viewer on a journey.  These journeys usually involve their memories, memories I know nothing about but are brought out by the use of shape and color.

A view from Sierra Road in San Jose, taken during the Tour of California.

So, “how to handle this in my painting?”  You’ll see in the next couple of photographs how I handled it.  I completely changed the background, something more suitable to my vision for this particular piece. At the end of the day I could have painted the scene just as it was and it may have been OK, a nice painting.  I wanted something more.

Do you want something more out of your own work?  Shake up that box of puzzle pieces, reach in and only use a few pieces to create the image you want.  How many pieces you grab is up to you.

I hope you enjoy the painting as much as I enjoyed creating it.


"Dance of the Pacific", 14 x 18, Oil on Linen