Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Artistic Endevour

Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf states. Shortly afterwards lady I know went to New Orleans a help out. There was devastation everywhere. One morning she saw something that summed up her visit. In a tree she saw a large battered birds nest, and a magnolia bud. The magnolia bud promised hope and rebirth for the city while the nest, no longer in good shape, could be rebuilt. She took a photograph so that she would remember.

When she got home, and had the photo printed, what she had was the full tree, and it was hard to even pick out the two objects that had caught her eye. This past year she mentioned what she had seen to me, and said she was going to bring me the photo, to see if I could paint a clearer representation of what she had tried to capture.

Someone kindly cropped the picture for her, so that it showed just the nest and the bud in the tree, but she was still disappointed. Magnolias bloom before their leaves come out, but because there were other trees behind it that were fully leafed out, they created a rather cluttered background.  She brought me the cropped picture, and mentioned that maybe she might have had a better shot if she had taken the picture from the other side of the tree.

Now, I admit that I usually paint from a photograph, painting what I see.  It still amazes me that I actually agreed to see what I could do with this, when clearly I could not paint from the photo on this occasion. She assured me it was just the idea that she was after, and I took on the challenge.

First I did some searching on the internet for pictures of large nests and magnolia buds. I found several that looked like they would be of help to me. I set out to draw how I planned to fit things on the canvas. Originally I intended to do this painting in acrylic, as mistakes can be painted over, numerous times if necessary. I fully expected to need to do that.

In the beginning I still saw what was in the photograph, and pretty well laid the painting out the same way, though I exaggerated the size of the magnolia blossom.  I knew the painting would be pretty ugly if the magnolia blossom only took up a small portion of the canvas so I wasn't happy with that plan. Then I remembered her saying that she should have walked around to the other side of the tree.

In my mind, I started moving bit by bit, like I would if I were the one taking the photo. I didn't have to go to the other side of the tree. I just had to go far enough so that the magnolia was in front of nest.  Yes, that would work.  I had a new plan.  The magnolia bud was in a much better position to make the painting interesting.  The painting was no long horizontal with lots of unneeded space. I now had a vertical plan.

I tested the idea out in watercolour, just to see how it was going to look. Since I had a much clearer picture in my mind of what I wanted the finished painting to look like, I just kept going.

Today, ten years after the worst natural disaster in American history, they are still rebuilding. I thought it was the perfect time to deliver the painting to the kind lady who took the time to try to help out so many years ago.

Have you paid it forward lately?

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