On the corner of South 11th and Filmore was a fallen cedar tree covered in massive loopy wisteria vines had been catching my eye for a month. Finally I decided to photograph it and use the photograph as a reference for my final painting project. I did several detailed drawings of the tree and was satisfied with the variety of marks which I thought would lead to a successful painting. The format for the assignment needed to be large so I bought a 3’x4′ canvas upon which to paint. To begin, I toned the canvas with a pale blue cool color for the background, a neutral pink for the mid-ground, and a warm citron color for the foreground in horizontal bands across the format. I let it dry on my patio; in the photograph you can see pecan tassels that have drifted onto the wet canvas. It was immediately apparent that the size of the canvas would change the approachability of the image. Rather than an interesting pattern of juxtaposing loops and interesting bits of negative space, there was now an ominous quality to the vines which took on the aspect of tentacles. Already I had a painting problem to solve: could I control and manipulate the image using color and value so that it pleased rather than intimidated or would my painting ability wimp out in the face of the strong lines of the original composition? Jackson suggested moving the middle vertical axis counterclockwise to the left to create movement and give a way out of the tangle of vines. He mentioned that blurring the brushstrokes would help give depth to the piece, breaking up the flat aspect of the whole thing being created on one plane. I worked on the painting and still hated it so i sanded it down and put a glazed it with cobalt blue and burned umber. Maybe foliage would soften the image? Looking at the new photograph of the same wisteria vine, I dropped into the wet surface areas of yellow, red, and a darker blue/umber/green mixture. I continued to manipulate the paint layering glazes on top of one another. This time rather than hard edges, I wanted to colors to merge into one another.
The composition still did not please me so I laid the painting down under a wisteria vine and painted with Gesso the shadowy shapes of the leaves onto the canvas.
This method kept some of the interesting glazing from the previous step as the background and added some improbable shapes of leaves and branches. It also left some of the surface freshly gessoed so that it might take up more washes of color rather than sit on top of the old painting.