The Valley of Lights, ©John O’Grady,2013
Oil on Panel, 16″x 16″
A friend recently asked me why and how I do what I do so I thought you could find the stage by stage process I’m detailing below interesting. Please read on to find out how I got from stage 1 to stage 6
I chose to use a decorator’s paintbrush to apply the first wash to keep it fluid.
I wanted to keep it loose and had no preconceived idea of what I might end up with.
When I finished, the wash covered most of the blank surface and had what looked like a sheet or veil of rain falling at the top right.
This was my entry into the piece.
I imagined seeing light emerging on the horizon almost glowing through mist so I added touches of white where I thought the horizon might be. (You will see all that changed later on.)
Then, I added a wash of deeper violet and cool blue and below that a dark brown to give a feeling of depth to the piece.
The mark on the top right was a trial of dark colour over the veil of rain to deepen it and start to give a little bit of contrast and drama.
As you can see, things are still not precious. I keep things moving around to see possible further openings.
The horizon line has moved upwards, so I could make the cloud and mist stand out more.
More colours are worked into the sky to give movement, contrast and cool and warmth.
This is done by laying down one colour, then responding to that in an intuitive way, trusting the process of trial and error. Sometimes it works and other times not.
The new horizon line is a coolish light blue/green to give it more depth.
At this stage, I was feeling okay about the sky but didn’t like the middle and foreground.
I quite liked what seemed to be mist floating on the land that you often see in the morning.
I added a deep rich dark brown and violet to build the contrast with the mist and clouds and scratched lines into the foreground to give diagonal direction.
Still not happy though. I was looking for a loose foreground that captured a balance between representation and abstraction.
The biggest change so far.
The painting has taken on a whole series of greens. In the sky I have added a range of turquoises and paynes grey (blue black) to unify the top and bottom of the painting.
The light that appears on the ground adds to the feeling of depth all the way back to the horizon where the addition of a thickish light yellow paint makes it stand out.
Humming and hawing thinking the painting might be finished, I have learnt to leave well alone for a few days and come back with a fresh eye.
A few days later I just couldn’t live with that overall greenish tinge.
It was time for decisive action.
When I am inclined to be precious, I challenge myself to make the same drastic changes whether it’s at stage 6 or at stage 1.
I scraped the paint off the foreground and attacked it with a BIG palette knife in large, bold movements with browns, violet, deep blue, deep reds to achieve a rich black. Then, I found I needed to balance light and dark.
The addition of light yellow into the light falling on the land and more contrast into the clouds did it.
What do you make of the breakdown of my process?
I’d love to read your comments.
Hi John. Thanks for the detailed lesson on your technique. It is really interesting to see how you worked out the various stages and resolved what you saw as problems. Regards Nigel.
Your question on my previous post regarding technique was the catalyst that drove me to finally do this. I am glad you enjoyed it,
I surprisingly did too!
kind regards John
Fascinating, thank you for showing us your process. Another gorgeous painting
Thank you Margaret,
I really appreciate you commenting. It was interesting for me to look back over the images as well to notice how and think about why I changed things.
kind regards John
I found this absolutely fascinating John – thank you for sharing it with us. It must have been hard to break it down and describe the process in words. The end result is a complex mix of light and subtle colour. I think it has a lot of dramatic energy, light and movement: just as in nature.
Thanks a lot Chris,
I am trying to show more of me and what I am about, hopefully it works early days yet. Yes it is quite a dramatic piece, we’ll see where it takes us
Fascinating, John. I like it at quite a few stages, but agree with you that the green in #5 doesn’t work right. What makes the composition compelling (to me) is the strong diagonal on the right that comes in at that same stage, though. So you kept the movement but changed the color – perfect resolution to the ‘problem’. I like the tension between representation and abstraction in all your work and think it’s esp. effective here; the swirling sensation is quite visceral and wild. Didn’t think you’d ever show the ‘magic’! P.S. Are the yellow horizon marks Naples Yellow or did you mix it?
Yes that strong diagonal top right was the focus of the piece from start to finish. The question was how it needed to be altered to make it work better. The yellow on the horizon was a mix of Alizarin Crimson, cadmium yellow pale and Titanium white. I am constantly seeking the balance between that tension of abstraction and representation. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Steven, much appreciated
This piece speaks volcanic for me. The hiss of steam venting from deep below.
Great to see your process. Intuitive painting is such an adventure. I agree with Steven, you had a beautiful piece at several stages in your process. Though I have to say that I particularly like the glow of yellow beneath the foreground in the final piece. It adds such energy and promise.
Thanks for sharing, it was great to see how it came to be and to have a window into how your artistic mind works.
Thank you Liz for your insightful comment it is much appreciated. I learnt a lot in writing the post too
Thank you, John, for sharing your thought and creative struggle. The piece is stunning and at least for me, captures the Ireland in my mind. Keep up the great work and keep us informed of your trip back to Ireland. All the best!!!
Thank you Terry for the encouraging words, I am really glad that it has made that connection for you.
Terry if you wish you can suscribe to my blog for painting updates @www.johnogradypaintings.com/blog