Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Old Hotel in Arroyo Seco"

Another day of my recent trip to Taos, New Mexico, we ventured to Arroyo Seco, a quaint hamlet that has colorful shops, cafes, and hotels on the main street and a church and adobes on the lanes to the north. Since this day was pretty warm, we looked for shade first, as I often do. If I'm comfortable, I paint better. I set up my easel just off the main road in the shade of several trees and it as foreground in this view of an old hotel. Its crisp white trim and adobe walls were nicely lit and there were trees on the near side that were morphing into autumn hues.

The first thing I discovered was that I was out of 11" x 14" Raymar canvas panels, but my dear friend Geri Acosta loaned me one of her Gessoboards. The surface of these boards is much more absorbent and the paint won't move around as well as I am used to, so I knew that I had two choices. Either paint broad and thin or paint thick enough to overcome the absorbency problem. I did a little of both. The foreground shadow was painted thinly and the building and trees got a heavier dose.  

Unfinished painting after plein air session

When I looked at the painting back in the studio, I felt the purple shadow was too strong and detracted from the rest of the painting. Additionally, the spot of light within the shadow jumped out too much. The dark accents were not well distributed and the work lacked contrast in the architecture. The tree tops on the left lacked interest and form.
Finished painting

""Old Hotel in Arroyo Seco"   11" x 14"  Oil

Working in the studio, I reinforced the lights and darks. I put darker lines at the eves and clearer and more carefully drawn shadows on the columns, downspout and balustrades. 

I wanted a better "storyline". A storyline is detectable in most strong works and is a line that leads the eye from side to side in the painting. It must not create a painting with two halves, but should traverse in an interesting way, letting the viewer's eye pass over it in places to explore the entire scene. I used this device from right to left along the front of the low adobe wall, by the front and side of the building, and through the shrubs and trees to the right.

I softened the top edges of the trees on the left, changing the value and color slightly to add form. Since the foreground shadow of the tree would have more blue reflection from the sky the farther it went from the base of the tree, I used that to temper the strong purple. Lastly, I darkened the light spot in the front shadow so it no longer grabbed the eye.

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