The Pond at Night

Journal excerpt 12/26/11

Image: Pond Study 18, pastel on paper, 7″ x 11″

The holidays have come and gone, but yet we wait for a significant snowfall. What dusting was received last week is now long gone. The pond has become bare and boring. I find myself waiting for something to happen- anything. The browns, grays, and dirty blues of this quiet winter are now mundane to me. A brilliant white snowfall would surely make the scene come alive again. So I have resorted to seeking out new visions.


The most obvious solution was to paint the park at night. I will confess upfront that I used a bit of photo trickery for this one. I took a nighttime picture, which as you would expect was pretty colorless. I took this picture a few weeks ago, and have already written about the quiet cold and silence of the evening. Now I will reflect on the art making process I undertook. Using Photoshop, I exaggerated the saturation and contrast a bit until the underlying blues and yellows of darkness revealed themselves. The streetlights made the sky glow softly yellow, and the silhouettes of trees become deep pthalos of blue and green. Sticking with this somewhat limited palette, I rendered the image twice. First in pastel and then in oil. I allowed myself a bit more color diversity in the pastel, pulling purples and reds out of the blackness. With the oil painting, as with most of them, the colors simplify. This is in part due to the size of the mark (a large painting knife edge) and to the process of mixing. I am aware of the ways in which medium contribute to the result and I find it informative to use both mediums in approaching an image. I have been exercising this processes for most of my works lately. The pastel drawings become a preliminary color study, though stand alone as works themselves. I wonder what if anything would change if I did the oil painting first and the pastel second? In any case, as I wait for snow I think I will attempt to capture more of the dramatic moments. I feel a little dirty about using Photoshop, but do not think I am sacrificing the intention. I want to make interesting paintings, and sometimes the truth of an image is boring. The artist’s job is to walk the line between adding interest while maintaining a connection to actual experience that is real enough for people to still care. I suppose novelists walk this same line in many ways.