The Silver Thread V, ©John O’Grady
8.1″ x 8.1″ x 2″, acrylic and mixed media on deep edged panel, ready to hang.
Whenever I’m making one of these filigree cloud paintings, I start with a large mass of tone for the clouds and gradually add sky, reducing and altering the shape of the clouds as I go along.
Deciding when the forms are finished is purely intuitive and not referenced in any way by a photo.
While writing this, I was pondering what responses help decide a shape or shapes are finished and how one mass relates to another?
A few considerations sprang to mind and might have guided me:
Movement and Static
The movement in this piece was from left to right in a very shallow curve, this is echoed in the shapes of headland and where the light reflections touch the still land.
The slight curve opens up the space to give a feeling of immensity, perhaps like a fisheye lens, don’t you think? Whereas we appear small in comparison.
Detail and Vagueness
Or what some might call hard and soft edges where detail and sharp lines hold our attention and vagueness moves our eye around the painting to blend with or alight on the next detail.
This helps to give movement and direction to a painting.
Shape and Size
Varying shape and size again moves the eye around the piece and adds variety and interest.
Transparency and Opacity
Achieved through shifts in light and dark. In this seascape there are around five or six shifts from dark to light tone.
Placing lightest next to darkest are big shifts and often add points of drama and interest, such as at the top left of the large mass of cloud at the centre, where the light is brightest.
Lightness and Heaviness
This one is a bit vague and is no more than a feeling.
When we look at the painting, I want the clouds to have a solidity and presence but also a feeling that they are light and vaporous while still shifting form. Impossible I know but one can only aspire…
There might be other things I have not thought of. When painting, I do not check these off consciously as if going through a checklist. Balancing one against the other would drive me into an awful mess.
I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on my thoughts!
I gasped when I saw this. How you elicit that gorgeous silvery quality is a wonderful mystery to me. The range of tones is masterful.
Love the description (an art lesson in itself) and marvel at the fact that while all of this is working unconsciously and intuitively through you, you can still unpack and articulate it so well.
This powerful land- and skyscape has an almost mythic quality that could describe an actual place as well as an internal atmosphere. I know I have been there.
Just breathtaking, John.
It’s great to hear that the description made sense, it did take a fair bit of ‘unpacking’ and that is probably just the surface scratched. I found it interesting to do as well. I totally agree with you that it is as much a landscape ‘atmosphere of the internal’ as much as descriptive of a place. Thank you very much Jo
I think the monochrome nature of the painting helps one to focus on the subtleties of the cloud forms, texture and depth, and the land/seascape below. Sometimes a full colour image can I think ‘take over’ and mask these subtleties.
I agree by paring it back to a monochrome it really bring those things into focus that you have mentioned. Thank you very much.
In this painting the ‘silver thread’ appears more silvery than ever! It is almost a masterclass John and the fact that you reflect and articulate your feelings about your work so eloquently enhances the viewing experience for me. I love that you aspire to achieve the impossible – you are doing a great job. In this one I particularly noticed the delicate ripples of what may represent wet sand on the right and the delicate falls of rain from those wonderful clouds.
Thank you for your encouraging words on the painting and my efforts on aspiring. It’s good to hear that my little break down of the painting made sense and was interesting to read. Yes I too picked up on what looked like the ripples of wet sand bottom left, they were a happy accident!
Your descriptive aspirations for this painting John represent an inner longing in the clay of our hearts..
you describe wanting “the clouds to have a solidity and presence but also a feeling that they are light and vaporous while still shifting form”…One could interpret that we long to feel connected in life and experience the immensity of our own presence, to remain steadfast and true to our gifts we have been given while finding courage to fly on the wings of change.
The “points of drama” and where “the light is brightest” could represent the significant milestones in our lives. In effect it is a map of life.
John, you are truly an artist of the invisible!
Thank you for your reading of the painting, you clearly see the relationship of the landscape to the human psyche,(which I agree with) filtered through a poetic sensibility. I found it really interesting to read your thoughts and how my small painting could touch you so. Thank you very much