Originals by Synkroniciti: Outgoing Tide

After a few years and two floods, I’m finally painting again. Nothing calms me down better than putting some color on canvas and seeing what crops up.

The section of wall to the left of our fireplace has some damage from whatever hung there in the past. It’s a rather tall footprint, and I didn’t have anything to fill it, so I headed to the craft store and bought a canvas. I hung the bare canvas briefly and realized that I should have bought a taller one, as part of the damage still showed clearly. Instead of returning it, I decided to make this a mixed media piece and attach a fabric skirt to the bottom to extend it.  I went through my fabric stash and, after some deliberation, settled on a gauzy green fabric embroidered with vines. I gathered it in the lower right corner and tied it off with some twine. To make the transition work and help anchor the fabric, I glued pine bark gathered in my back yard across the top of the skirt. Then I applied gesso to give the canvas some personality and texture.

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The next step was to make the piece more cohesive and cut down the contrasts between the canvas, bark, and fabric. I began shading the canvas with tones of yellow with red and pink mixed in. I painted the bark, favoring metallics, yellows, greens and blues that would give the bark more color and some iridescence, exaggerating the edges and patterns that were already present. White gesso, which has more body than paint, created a smokestack effect across the upper third of the painting, while a blue creature with arms appeared in the middle third. At this point I had not yet made a conscious decision as to what this painting was going to present, but the hints were all there.

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With the encouragement of Facebook friends, the painting became a beach scene featuring a starfish. As I began to paint and overpaint the starfish, building a nice layer of impasto (texture achieved by layering paint), I also detailed the foliage of a plant, intending to place a flower between the rocky bark and the creature, who appeared to be stranded on the sand. I worked more pink and red into the sand, which I later toned down.

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I could not leave that beautiful creature to die on the sand, so I began to shade in some water, thinking he was in some inlet or tidal pool. The water grew deeper and more turquoise, then I decided it was deep enough to splash where it hit the starfish. White gesso created the illusion beautifully. The flower had its first incarnation and other plants sprang up on the shore. At some point, I noticed that there were pockets under the bark where I could put items… a bit of pine cone, some fuzzy dried plant matter. Have you ever cut up a pine cone? It’s a daunting task.

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During the next phase I tried out some things that I liked, messed them up and then came up with better things. The only time that painting gets stressful is when I get attached to a particular item… a texture, a line, some shading… and it gets destroyed as I’m working. I’ve learned that, most of the time, the thing that comes next is more well-suited to the piece as a whole. Here are a few nice near misses.

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Here is the final product, Outgoing Tide, my seventh completed painting. The shading on the sand and the plants took me some time, but I am pleased. There’s a painted seedpod added that I find a happy touch. Painting the sides black makes the piece stand out; I went back and did that to 5 of my other 6 paintings. They won’t need framing now. As far as perspective goes, I decided we are on our stomachs looking down over a rocky ridge past some plants in the foreground  toward a tidal inlet surrounded by sand. The tide is going out, and that starfish will be carried back out to sea, far from the yellow flower that reaches out to him. From a damaged wall comes a vibrant new piece of art. I’m going to have to paint more.

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