Posts tagged ‘africa’
This waterfall has been two years in the making (started in 2019 and finished 2022). Was it a labor of love? Or something else?
In 2019, I went on a safari trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana and came back incredibly impressed with Victoria Falls and enamored of waterfalls in general. Based on some of my many pictures, I started painting. At first, two small paintings, which were okay but more representational than I wanted. I thought of them as practice … getting the kinks out.
With them behind me, I was ready for a bigger waterfall. My biggest canvas (at the time) was 30×20. Vertical, it seemed perfect for a waterfall. Ahh, hubris! My first attempt was fortunately lost(I didn’t take a picture and barely remember what it looked like). My second attempt (painted on top of the first) went from the rack at the Art Students League to my easel at home during the Pandemic, where it languished, untouched, for about a year. I had no idea what to do with it. It was okay. It even looked like a waterfall … just not the one I wanted.
When the League reopened, it returned along with my hope that I’d figure something out. Two months later, I decided the solution was to paint the underlying rocks first and then the falling water on top. So I painted the rocks.
The middle of June, I added the water.
But everything was vertical (look at a real waterfall…it’s not just vertical). It needed a diagonal somewhere.
Fast forward to early July (I’m skipping a few steps) …
Skipping a few more steps and putting the finishing touches on at home, et voila! The final version, or The Nth Waterfall.
So it was definitely a labor of love. Though in the middle there was a lot of frustration and certainly a lot of temptation to gesso over it and start fresh. But the waterfall in my mind just wouldn’t give up.
I’ve been fascinated by water for years: water flowing around rocks in a stream, waves and ocean currents, foamy water alongside a boat … and ever since my trip to Victoria Falls in Africa in 2019 … waterfalls. But none of my waterfall paintings are satisfying to me. The effects I want continue to elude me. Why should waterfalls be so hard?
I started with a fairly representational painting of Victoria Falls in 2020:
Next came a bigger painting of Victoria Falls, more abstract, just focusing on the movement of the water itself. Fortunately or unfortunately, I never took a picture of it and it has undergone several iterations since then. It’s still not finished.
Then I decided to test some different techniques in smaller paintings, just to see what might work. In one, I put the rocks down first using a palette knife and molding paste, then added the “water.”
That didn’t quite do it. It wasn’t clear if it were snow or water.
So I tried again, and this time it looks more like Victoria Falls, more powerful, but still not abstracted enough, still not what I wanted.
So I decided to try to really paint a more abstracted waterfall, more like the beautiful ones I saw in Iceland. Having used most of my creativity for the painting itself, I simply called it Falling Water.
This is much better, but still no cigar.
And, of course, the 3rd (but not final) version of my 2020 waterfall painting is still sitting on the rack at the Art Students League waiting for me to finish it. One of these days (months? years?) I’ll know how to do that.
In the meantime, I don’t have the answer to my original question: Why should waterfalls be so hard? (shrug) They just are.
It’s a month since I last posted something and … I’m losing it. When asked (not often), I say I’m doing fine. And I mean it. I’m not severely depressed or suicidal. I’m home with my husband and neither of us is sick. We argue about the small stuff, but agree on all the big stuff: how ridiculous Trump is but how hillarious Sara Cooper on Twitter is, what program to watch on Netflix, what to eat for dinner. After checking our phones, we even agree on what day of the week it is.
And there is some really wonderful news: at our advanced age we have become grandparents. Our son and his wife have just had a beautiful baby boy. We couldn’t be happier, unless we were actually there to hug him/them.
My painting is coming along. I’ve painted a couple which I like:
I’ve gessoed over three canvases which I didn’t like (from earlier, not painted since Covid19).
And I’ve started another African Skies sunset, similar to Hwange Sunset, which I think I’m gonna like.
But the excitement isn’t there. I used to rush to the League, eager to start on the next painting. Now, I spend as much time avoiding painting as I do actually putting paint on canvas. I still spend time thinking and planning what I’m going to do next, but the tingle, the oomph, just isn’t there.
And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. All this talk about everything opening up (and I really can’t wait to get back to the League) is music to my ears, but I’d have to figure out how to get there. It’s way too far to walk and I’m not getting on the NYC subway for the foreseeable future. And assuming I could get there, masks and gloves would not be a problem. But safely social distancing in otherwise crowded studios is hard to imagine.
My husband says, “If this is retirement, it’s not so bad.” And it’s not. It’s just not great either.
Over the years I’ve painted rivers, clouds reflected in the water, water churning next to a ship, rapids … well, it’s still about water for me. Water in all its forms continues to fascinate.
For instance, it’s amazing to me how similar frozen water (glaciers) and falling water (waterfalls) are. Several times last year I tried to paint one and ended up with the other. None of them turned out to be very good and I was very frustrated.
But now, I think I’ve figured out how to paint a waterfall using my acrylic on raw canvas (atmospheric) technique. Dry Season was a test case and it worked well.
First, I painted the sky (very pale violet), the distant mountains (violet), and the rocks below (varying shades of ultraviolet blue and sepia) using my wet-in-wet acrylic on raw canvas technique. Before it dried I used a paper towel to wipe out the areas where I wanted the water to be. After it dried, I added the trees and foliage at the top of the cliffs. Finally, I started rubbing in the white water with a damp rag, leaving it translucent (to see the rocks underneath) in some places and adding more white to make it opaque in others. Lastly, with a pallette knife or a sponge I added specs of white for accent.
Even though all that water was gushing over the cliffs and falling to the rocks below, it was still the middle of the dry season when I saw Victoria Falls, and it was absolutely overwhelming. During the rainy season I’m told there is no dry land. The fog and mist from the falls keeps everything and everyone wet. I can’t begin to imagine it. Even in the dry season, Victoria Falls lives up to its name: The Smoke That Thunders.
Well, this was my eighth trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OATtravel.com) and, as expected, it provided tons of inspiration for my painting. While most people on the safari trip were focused on the animals, I was busy taking pictures of the sunsets, the trees, the rivers, the waterfall (Victoria Falls) … the stuff I knew I would want to paint.
And boy, was Africa beautiful. Specifically Kruger National Park in South Africa, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Chobe National Park in Botswana and Lake Kariba and the rivers that link to it. Unending inspiration.
Of course, every day I was in Africa there was a beautiful sunset. And I got to see it because it never rained. And it was often reflected on a river or lake, or peeking through the amazing umbrella thorn acacia trees. This is just the first of what will be many African sunset paintings.
Africa is hot, so safaris go out in the early morning and late afternoon to see the animals (usually napping during the mid-day heat). As a result, all my photos were early morning or late afternoon. This painting is a meld of several of my photos from Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe around 9:00 in the morning. We were on our way to see the animals (lions, giraffes, impala, zebra, hippos, etc.) and I was busy taking pictures while everyone else waited ’til we got to the animals.
Southern Africa had just gone through a year’s drought and this was the dry season, so water levels in the lakes and rivers were very low. Often you could see the tops of dead trees sticking up out of the water (they would have been under water absent the drought). There was something very abstract about the composition of my photos and so I decided to do a smaller test (this is 12×7) since I wanted to combine the soft reflected sunset in the water at the top and the hard edges of the trees sticking up…all on raw canvas. I ignored the hippos, the crocodiles, the fish eagles, etc. and just focused on the dead trees and the reflection.