In the Woods

I headed into the woods last weekend to find mayapples in bloom. The flowers are hidden underneath large leaves, so sketching them required squatting at ground level. Within a few minutes, my knees sent me packing, which is, in part, why I only filled half the page with mayapples. I also wanted the white space as a place to rest the eyes and contemplate this thought on painting:

In painting, as in any art, persistent practice is not working on the object or the image or the performance alone, but rather, working on yourself, which is the constant behind all the “product” of your art. (From Learning to Look Carefully; the Art of John Morra by Ned Depew.)


Tips and Techniques– I painted this using negative painting techniques, and in trying to get deep darks to bring out the white flowers, I lost much of the light and transparency that I like to have in a painting. I would have preferred to convey a more dappled light, like that in the woods where mayapples grow. One way to avoid this is to select just a few colors — 3 or 4 — to work with for the entire painting. I started with just three, but they were too light to give me deep darks when mixed at full strength. So, I experimented with adding some dark staining colors, which gave me good darks, but began to muddy the page when added on top of the previous washes. In the process, however, I discovered why many artists have Phthalo Green (PG7) on their palette. It’s garish on its own, but when mixed with Transparent Pyrrole Orange (PO71) (and other reds) it produces a range of very nice dark greens. I plan to add these to my palette and continue seeing how they perform.

19 Comments on “In the Woods

  1. I like the result. Your tip is appropriately consistent with the quote. One can and must work on one’s practical skills, but practical skills without the individual behind them mean nothing. The individual can always grow. For me, the most important single personal skill is to remain open and flexible. That’s what you did here.

    • Thanks Michael. For me, continuing to learn, explore, and push myself are important parts of the personal work. But I like that the quote urges us to consider how WE are part of the artwork.

  2. This is very pleasing. And I’d like to add that you’ve given me the incentive to give negative painting another go. Beautiful!

  3. That’s an unusual quote, and there you are, learning as you go, as always. I love it! (And you know I love this plant). 🙂

  4. As always, Jean, your work gives me such pleasure. You are truly a master of the art.

    • Hi Melissa- I’m glad you enjoy it! I just keep on pushing myself and that’s good. I’ve been reading and learning a lot about color (how they’re made, how they mix, warm/cool relationships, transparent glows, etc.) so I’m enjoying having more in depth background knowledge to inform my practice. Hmmm…maybe that should be the subject of a future post. Be well!

  5. I think it is a success and a lovely painting. I’ll pass on what my mother used to say, “Never let on that the recipe didn’t turn out as expected.”

  6. Is this your quote? Love to use it. Lovely work, didn’t know about May apples are they part of a tree like cherry blossoms?

    • Sue- the quote is from an article by Ned Depew that I recently read, “Learning to Look Carefully, The Art of John Morra.” Looking at the article again, the statement was written by Depew, but is based on his conversation with Morra, so I think the idea should be attributed to John Morra. Mayapples are a spring wildflower that grows on the ground.

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