The Blue Hour II, ©John O’Grady 2015
Oil on deep edged canvas, 12″ x 12″ x 1.75″
It does not require framing and is ready to hang.
To start a painting is simple in theory but not so easy in practice.
To find one true colour that moves you so much that it has to be used…
Today I created a blue that did just that. Not because I wanted to make a colour for the sky but purely because of the emotional high that blues contain. Often they release in me a direct and visceral response when layed down on canvas and then other colours tumble out. It’s great when this happens, it’s a bit like having a good conversation that flows nicely.
My blue was a muted blue/violet grey.
As soon as it was on the canvas, mauve, turquoise and rose followed quickly. The colours were graduated and diffused. The coolish light of an Irish twilight sky and sea appeared before me in an instant.
I was now in the painting. Across the water I could see in my minds eye the port gradually being enveloped in darkness and the lights coming on punctuating the twilight while slowly the full moon rising was spreading a cool silver blue light across the water.
You may wonder what this previous paragraph say about painting and its process. In this case, the painting reveals itself after it is made, whereas often painters start with the end in mind and choose a subject to paint.
What the painting revealed is that the piece perhaps is concerned with the passage from light to dark, a reoccurring theme in my work. it’s the special time when the seconds passing can be fully brought into clear focus if we stop to notice.
This time is the cusp when material becomes immaterial. This can be incredibly moving as our eyes adjust to the dark and other colours gradually appear that we often miss in the full glare of daylight.
I would love to hear what you think.
Wow…I’ve never heard the process described like that. I thought painters ALWAYS began with the end…your process sounds much more difficult…but so much more rewarding. It sounds a bit theological, as if your spirit is moving over the waters prior to creation…well done, John…it is a beautiful, beautiful piece…and very satisfying, to say the least.
Yes most painters do start with a subject and that changes through the process of painting, but I do find it more rewarding if I can leave it open to what comes from within me. Often a fragment of memory emerges from a place and time or the atmosphere of a particular painting from art history. All of that is grist for the mill that hopefully will result in a painting at the end of it. Often it is crash and burn, scrape off the paint and start again. To limit this I ask myself to find one true colour that resonates with me, so hopefully I will end up with a piece that resonates with the viewer as well.
The part about moving across the water is me envisioning actually being in the painting, so it hopefully will have a physical as well as an emotional dimension. I suppose like having religious faith Terry, the leap of faith is trusting that something will arise on that journey into the painting. Thank you for your comment and giving me food for thought.
John, what a beautiful painting. There are several things in what you wrote that I hadn’t thought of before; just starting and seeing where the painting leads, for one. Without having a solid example (photo, or object) in front of you. I do that naturally in my decorative oil pastels, but not in my oil painting.
And secondly, the transition in light as a day moves into darkness. All of this enriched my experience of your painting.
I also relate to how colours can spark a deep response. I’d say my own work is about colour more than anything else. At least the motivation for painting for me is to be able to use all those luscious colours.
A last thought, though they are very different, this painting has associations for me with Jeroen Krabbé’s, ‘Champane Beach’. Just in the elements used and the different shades of blue.
Thank you for your comment on the painting. I do find I have to be in the right state of mind to work in this ‘seat of the pants’ way. Connecting colour to an emotion, memory or feeling which are often intangible and fragmentary is where it’s at. I use a few different ways to open up a piece and try to keep things fresh.
I can certainly see in your own rich work that responding to colour is of great importance. I don’t know whether the line Picasso/colour Matisse divide is valid but often people tend to fall into one of two camps don’t they?
Thank you for the link to Krabbe’s work and ‘Champagne Beach’. Now he is a colourist! He is someone I don’t know of but I could see how the central placing of the moon reminded you of the painting.
I hope your own work is going well.
The idea of being a draftsman or more emotionally oriented (?) colorist is interesting. I think I’m both, and unlearning the perfectionist draftsman side to learn more about seeing form as mass and light. A years long transition, but worth it.
Krabbé is a famous Dutch actor, in the same league as Rutger Houwer(?) who is better known outside of Holland. But Krabbé is also an accomplished painter who has always inspired me with the way he mixes playfulness and decorative work with realism.
My own work is progressing, thanks for asking. Sarah
It sounds like the best of both worlds Sarah. form and colour.
Thank you for the link to the Dutch artists, unfortunatley I am a bit ignorant after Mondrian
Wow, this is breathtaking! I don’t usually like representational art but the evocative colours in this painting are moving and emotive, brilliant work.
Glad it made an impression on you. What’s interesting about your comment is that the piece really started in an abstract way, just colour and only later moved into representing a feeling of a place. Perhaps that was part of the appeal. Thank you.
Hello John, once again you have created wonderful subtle light suffused with colour. It emerges across the horizon through reflections on water and piercing man-made light. However, it is the silvery luminosity of the moon, slap bang in the centre at eye level which dominates as the blue hour generates a sense of harmony, calm and balance with a suggestion of mystery. Lovely.
Thanks very much for your comment.
Yes I think the harmony part comes through the subdued colour but also in the moon’s placement at centre, flanked left and right by lights to form a sort of triangular composition.
I love this painting very evocative. I have just received a cheque in the post for my first ever sales! 6 out of 11. I now have to do another 10 or so before the end of August so will be busy. I paint in exactly the way you do although not with your results, because the paint seems to suggest to me where to go and what subject and yet people who have bought my paintings ask, where is that painted,but it comes out of my head or memory or I have just come back from a course in Devon which was very useful but kept being told ,make a plan But all the paintings I sold evolved the way you described and some people even recognised places and named them, mostly wild places in Ireland or the hills in mid Wales although they were from my imagination !. Also apart from sketching I am never going to paint plain aire again! I am fairly disabled and I know I can only work in a studio and so let things happen on the canvas and this kind of way seems inconceivable to teachers! Although I have just found one on my last course. Who was a help in freeing up my mind while also giving really helpful criticism .
Thank you Jane, for your comment on the painting. Great news on the sale and future sales, good for you. Yes it is a particular way of working isn’t it. Long may your rich vein continue!