Afternoon on the Chatahoochee

A wider view with a bit humility

Afternoon on the Chatahoochee
Afternoon on the Chatahoochee

I spent a few hours making some new boards last week and decided to try a wider format. I shy away from panoramas  because I think they can be a bit overdone— but I enjoy looking at a wider picture and it does offer some interesting opportunities for new compositions. I spent Saturday (7/20) on the Cattahoochee at the scull dock nearest the Roswell bridge crossing. I like this spot because the dock goes out about thirty feet from the shore and takes a T shaped turn in both directions. You can really get a good view of the river looking North towards the bridge and South past a small island and up to where the river widens out before it hits the damn. It’s used by the sculling clubs and has large shed where they keep their boats but this is the second such facility on the river here and this one is not as well used so often I find myself alone.

For this Southern facing view I mixed a light wash of  alizarin and ultramarine with my medium and shaded it to the red side.  Then I blocked in the the shapes of the trees and used a rag to wipe out the lights.  It was cloudy day and the light was consistent for most of the afternoon. At 12 x24 inches this is big for plein air anOntheHooch2d I spent nearly four hours on it. As the afternoon wore on the light started to strengthen I had a chance to put some light in at the horizon but was not too bold with it. It’s interesting that camera like, I tend to simplify the darks and see them too black—only with some keen observation, especially on a clear day do you notice that the lights are less so and the darks are less dark as they recede. This is pretty basic, but as a painter you have to push that a bit and this to me is sometimes uncomfortable. Here it works pretty well.

Also the inevitable green problem. I combat this by using the red toned wash that browns up my greens as I put them down over it but with oil it covers so well that you still need to ad the compliment in with every shade or it just turns too brassy. John Gurnsey is so good at this and his greens always seem just right—really not green at all. Also a variety of shades is important so I do use a bit of  pthalo green—but only a bit. It’s bluer so it’s useful for pines and in the far background. I’m still working on my approaches but when I look at my older paintings I realize I’ve come light years.  As I was working on this several kayakers paddled bye but it was this guy in a canoe that caught my eye. Boats are great for water scenes because you can move them to the perfect spot in your composition. If you notice I’ve got him rowing, not paddling. This was just the way I put him in and I was fearful to tun him around after the fact.

I was pleased with this and the next day I went to Mountain Park to try another wide one and did a view from the small park on one of the two lakes. It’s a view I’ve painted before and I was confident from the previous days success. I was a complicated with a few too many lake houses and boats and trees in front and ducks…and you get the picture! After getting it home and seeing the overworked, overstated mess I painted over it. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out.

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