Sant' Antimo (Tuscany) painting complete

It took longer than I would have wanted to finalize my latest landscape painting of Tuscany, but I am really pleased with the final. Picking up from my prior post about this painting, here are a couple of additional progress shots: Continuing work to further articulate the background landscape:

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...and here I begin to work on the Abbey:

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Here, at last, is the final!

 "Path to Sant' Antimo" Oil on Linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer Young

"Path to Sant' Antimo" Oil on Linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer Young

Sant' Antimo Abbey is a beautiful Romanesque (formerly Benedictine) monastery dating back to the 1100's. It is situated in the stunning landscape of the Montalcino commune, and rests about 10 km from the town of Montalcino, (home of the gorgeous Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello wines).

In springtime the landscape of Montalcino and surrounds are strewn with poppies and other wildflowers, and the hillsides are often touched with the soft yellows and greens of golden broom.

I have a lot of reference photos of this abbey from my visit there several years ago. But I particularly like this view, which shows the focal point as a hint of the abbey in its lovely setting, but doesn't scream "portrait of a building". I also enjoy the point of view, which puts the viewer firmly on the pathway beneath the tall cypress trees, and nearly eye level with the abbey, adding to the sense of "being there".

A consuming commission

When I last posted here, I alluded to a project that has consumed quite a bit of my  time and creative energy. Given that this blog has suffered a great deal of neglect lately, you can assume that still holds true!  Unfortunately, because this is a commercial project for a product yet to be launched, I can't post any progress shots or share specifics about it right now, except to say that it has been very exacting, time consuming work that leaves little time for fun things like blogging. Compared to how I normally approach a painting, this work is quite a different animal. Designs have to be made according to a certain format, of a certain scale, and there is nothing done "on the fly". Everything has to be very well planned in order to get the placement exactly right. So even though I am using my own creative skills and imagination, I am also working within a lot  of structure and constraint.

While I love working more spontaneously, I think this work has been good training, as it has compelled me to work in this deliberate fashion. It has been a good experience in terms of the structure, forethought, and preparation I have had to do before ever picking up a brush. Given that I can sometimes be a little quick to "jump right in" with my own painting, I hope to carry over some of the things I am learning about process into my other studio work.

Spring is springing here in Richmond (albeit slowly) and it's always so exciting to me to see new life re-emerge after the cold dormancy of winter. I find it very appropriate, personally, as I have felt a bit like a hibernating bear. But that should be changing soon. Already the April calendar is marked up with dates, deadlines and "to do's". In addition to wrapping up this commission, I have two shows that will open (more about that in a future post). Shortly thereafter things should be normalizing, and I can get back to my usual studio work, and the blogging that comes along with it. I am determined to get back into plein air work again too, and am already planning and plotting my course to make that happen. Enjoy the spring, everyone!

Happy New Year!

Just a brief post to wish you all a very happy, prosperous, and creative 2013! Santa Claus pretty much hijacked my studio for his own personal workshop over Christmas, but things are normalizing again. My daughter goes off of Christmas break and returns to preschool later this week, so I can get back to painting and promise more art related postings soon. Here's to good things and happy painting in 2013!

French water garden W.I.P.

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20120824-161723.jpg

As much as I love the sweeping vista, I am also very drawn to a view of the intimate. This is the preliminary sketch (on canvas) for a new painting of an old French country farmhouse flanked by lush vegetation and a lovely little water garden.

I painted a plein air piece of this location when I was visiting the Lot Valley village of Frayssinet a few years ago:

 "Bassin a Poisson Rouge", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer Young

"Bassin a Poisson Rouge", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer Young

Since the plein air piece is still in my possession, I have the opportunity to use it to inform my larger painting. Here it is just a step or two beyond the color lay-in. I have eliminated the building in the background to simplify and unfiy the painting. The color is off in this pic, and that shadow going across the top is being cast by my easel, (the joys of mobile blogging!) but at least it will give you an idea...

From the ashes a fire shall be woken

Have you ever had a project that invoked a phrase something like, "I can't wait till this  @!% thing is over!" ? Well, that was my thought every time I showed up at the easel over these past few weeks (WEEKS!) to work on the Venice painting I posted about eons ago in my last blog. Awesome way to inspire creativity, eh? For some reason though, I couldn't let it go. I don't quite know why. It was like slowing down to look at an accident when you really didn't want to . Okay, that's a bit melodramatic.  Maybe more like continuing to watch a bad movie because you'd already invested so much time in it. Makes no sense, but  I guess I kept hoping that by overworking an already bad painting I would somehow be vindicated in the end.

Well, as you can imagine, it did not, in fact, end well. The painting was, I felt, dreadfully bad. And to add insult to injury, I had just spent multiple sessions of my precious new painting schedule (more about that in a minute) completely devoted to trying to fixa mess that I should have trashed after the 2nd session. It was pretty demoralizing and I still don't know why I put myself through it. The only thing I can come up with is that I am incredibly stubborn. And I think when I am tired or stressed, I must be moreso (ask the husband). I think I was out to prove that I could, at long last, finish SOMEthing (the effect of which took me about as far away from creative joy as I care to go.)

So no, I will not be sharing that painting here. It went promptly from the easel  into the trash and I wasn't about to photograph the ghastly thing. But something good has come from it, I think. It taught me more about surrender (a hard lesson I thought I'd "gotten" given the personal challenges of the past couple of years) and it revealed pretty much every one of my artistic weaknesses in a single painting, (now that's an accomplishment! ;) ) so it gave me a very clear picture of what kinds of things I need to seriously work on.

It also made me feel incredibly free, relieved, and happy to be staring at a blank canvas again. And this painting, I will share...as it is it so far after about 2 sessions:

Regarding my new schedule, due to my need for sustained energy to care for a very active toddler at home, I have determined that mornings are by far my best time of day (by nightfall I am pretty much toast). So I have arranged to get up before the rooster crows, and get out in the studio for 2 hours before the husband leaves for work at 8:30 (whereupon I toss off the artist apron, superhero-style, and assume the role of full-on mommy!)

At present, I can only do this 3 days a week due to schedules, etc., but it gives me 6 hours of dedicated painting time, plus maybe a few more (if I play my cards right) on the weekend. Other than the fact that it is very hard  sometimes to be getting up so early, it so far it seems to be working okay. It's nothing like the vast swaths of luxurious time I had before my daughter, but there is a structure in place now, to in the very least, start developing some positive new artistic habits again. Hopefully with regular work habits  it will also mean I can get back to blogging regularly too! But first things first...