Painting from imagination is a challenge for me. I get stuck on reproducing colors I see on location or trying to imitate what I see in photos. I’m always looking for ways to move away from these self-imposed restrictions.
This summer while it’s too hot to go outside, I’ve been watching videos of an artist who starts with a general idea of subject matter and a loose, drippy underpainting. He then develops the painting from his imagination. I gave myself a challenge to paint, as he was doing, an imaginary tree line. I chose a color scheme of blue and green with some touches of warm ochre. I painted over an old painting and let some of the original colors show.
As I painted, my trees didn’t look like his because his shapes weren’t familiar to me. Mine wanted to be palmettoes on a marsh. I pulled out some photos references that I had used before to check shapes, but I rearranged the elements into the composition I wanted and stayed with my chosen color scheme. The characteristic bootjacks on the trunk identify the tree, and the ocher grasses place it in the salt marsh. Very few details were needed to complete the painting.
This type of painting exercise builds my visual vocabulary and helps me to bring the feel of my favorite places into my studio work.