Winter, spring, summer, and fall. The four seasons on our calendar are inextricably woven throughout the fabric of our lives. We celebrate them, curse them, look forward to their changing, and bemoan their passing…songs are written in their honor, poems recited to mark their coming and going and they mirror the passage of time in our lives.
I’m not sure if it’s the signs on garden centers already saying, “closed for the season” or the fact that craft stores are bedecked in their fall finest, but I’ve been thinking about the upcoming changes ahead. I do realize we’ve still got some summer left, and yes, yes, I know…if you’re in the south, the next season won’t come for quite a while yet; in fact, the first signs of fall will most likely be the return of Friday night football rather than changing leaves, but it’s got me thinking about painting seasonally. We’ve all heard of eating seasonally, embracing each season’s bounty to its fullest and appreciating it when it’s at its peak, but I’m suggesting we incorporate creating and painting seasonally as well.
Each season brings with it a unique environment; things which will perhaps only exist during that particular season not to be seen or experienced again until the next year. (That is unless you’re in San Diego, where it is a beautiful sunny 72 degrees year round!) We should embrace the fleeting. Whether it’s the beauty of ice-encased branches, or bluebonnets blanketing a Hill Country field, find what makes you happy within each season and celebrate it. Celebrate it through the food you eat, where you eat it and the things you see and do. Time passes so quickly, and we are all too easily distracted by outside influences whether it’s a phone, or computer, or binge-watching a favorite show; it’s good to distract ourselves from our distractions. I think one of the best ways to do that is through your art.
Claude Monet painted his Japanese Footbridge again and again throughout his life and in different seasons. “ It took me a long time to understand my water lilies…. I grew them without thinking of painting them…. And then, all of a sudden, I had the revelation of the enchantment of my pond. I took up my palette.”—Claude Monet, 1924.
Embrace the opportunity to have fresh cut flowers from your own garden or local garden center during spring and summer to explore painting flowers. Giant sunflowers are one of my all-time favorites. Recently on Instagram someone I follow posted a picture of herself walking through a sunflower maze. I would love to find a giant sunflower maze to get lost in. I also thought what a neat painting it would make…the back of someone walking into the maze. There’s always the traditional still life, but if that’s not your thing, go abstract and paint the essence of the flowers. Think Georgia O'Keeffe and focus on the up close, or go Monet and paint an entire field with dots and dabs and streaks. Replace the flowing lines with hard geometric ones, or make a statement on the importance of color by painting it entirely in grayscale.
If you’re not into flowers then how about the changing landscape… that’s a great one for all seasons. Monet painted the same scene at different times of day, and in different seasons to show the effect of light on color. It would be fun to pick a scene you like and depict it in all four seasons, to honor a year in the life of a place or setting that makes you happy.
Pull over at a farmer’s roadside stand or peruse your produce aisle and pluck up some gorgeous red ripe tomatoes, an artichoke or something you’ve never tasted and paint its portrait then grill it up for dinner. Hit a winery for a tasting then happily paint the vineyard, or if there are no vineyards nearby fake it with a few bunches of grapes and a bottle of wine, no need to show the shrinking wine level in the bottle. The point is to pause and reflect on what’s happening around you; to take it in, appreciate it, work it into your art and then later when the moment has passed you’ll have it saved on your canvas forever, even if you then let it go to a new home for someone else to appreciate.
I also don’t think it’s necessary to fully develop every painting unless of course, you want to. Painting supplies can get expensive, so if you’re considering something like this as a frequent exercise then you might want to consider painting on paper instead of canvas and perhaps using student grade paint instead of professional grade. If you’ve painted something you want to more fully develop than just switch over to your professional level paint and consider the student grade a base layer. It will be fine as long as the student grade is a good quality also. By working on paper you can then also use these as unique collage papers. “Seasonal Collage”…I may be on to something here…
Painting seasonally doesn’t mean you have to change your style or technique. If you are an abstract painter, then paint abstractly. If you are a color field artist, show your subjects that way. That’s the beauty of it…anything goes. It’s about choosing your palette to represent what the season means to you, lifting the simple to the sublime, capturing time not passing it. Here’s to eating, painting, and living seasonally. Until next time -
My own interpretation of the season, And So It Begins.
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