What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Suisun LandingSuisun City Landing, 9 x 12″
soft pastel on Wallis with watercolor underpainting
© 2009 Marianne Post

Earlier this week I blogged about heading into the studio to “resolve” a plein air study done along the slough in Suisun City. You might recall that the day was pretty cold and my study reflected the coolness of the moment. In the studio, I wanted to change the temperature of the light, to warm it up a bit and also enlarge the piece from 8 x 10″ to 12 x 16″.



Pictured above is what initially came off the easel. I let it sit until the afternoon and when standing back and looking with fresh eyes, the first thing I said to myself s “what’s wrong with this?” I certainly didn’t like the bland mass of water in the foreground. I took out my notan and immediately saw (again with fresh eyes) that even at that point I was struggling with the cropping and the resolve of uninteresting shapes. I suppose my subconscious felt like it could deal with it in the painting process and my excitement to get on with the painting overpowered my left brain.

So I got out my “croppers,” pieces of L-shaped mat board to try different croppings. By eliminating a good portion of the water, more interesting shapes appear. Likewise, in cropping the sky mass, the focal point point becomes much stronger.  The light masses in the sky and water lead the eye right to the building. I should have realized in the notan stage when things weren’t going well there to take  a few extra minutes and resolve the issues at that point. After all, that is the purpose behind that whole step of my process. In the long run I could have saved time and pastel. But the learning experience, as they say, “is priceless.”


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6 Responses to “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

  1. Loriann Signori Says:

    What a good post Marianne! Reflective and informative. Beautiful light in the finished piece.
    Isn’t it funny how sometimes we bulldoze through without thought…AND we KNOW better! I am glad to hear you sometimes go through the same thing.

    • Marianne Post Says:

      Ahh, Loriann: Yes the excitement to get on with it is a blessing and a curse. The spontaneity of a cavalier approach is exciting, the methodology of mapping value masses can bog down the creative juices. But in the long run the latter wins in this case.

  2. Katherine Kean Says:

    I admire your resolve!

    I too find that I have to keep balancing the excitement to get started (or finished!) with the wisdom of taking the time to explore key issues.

    It’s enlightening to see how your process deals with it and wonderful to see the beautiful results!

  3. Sally Chupick Says:

    Your cropping really works wonders on the piece, and I like the way you’ve warmed the light too. I really enjoy your light & lively touch with the pastels. lovely work.

    • Marianne Post Says:

      I am so much more happy with the result, too. This painting was another example of how I need to really look for interesting shapes from the very start. Funny thing is, I thought this was something I had in my “intuitive” toolbox. Looks like I needed a reminder in this case.

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