Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pennsylvania Farm #1 - pastel

Here is the third in a series of paintings from the cross-country drive across the farmland of I-80.   I have no idea how long this series will last (probably a few months, at least - I'll keep painting as long as I'm inspired by the reference material I have), but I'll probably aim to do it sequentially, by state, from east to west.

One ubiquitous feature along the farmland of the northern midwest and high planes are cornfields.  They are everywhere.  If one visiting this country from somewhere far away did not know better, he or she would think that all we eat is corn.  In a sense, this is true; corn and corn derivatives find their way into more of our food than one can possibly imagine.  Having read Michael Pollan's amazing book The Omnivore's Dilemma, I was already well aware of this.  Nonetheless, it's something amazing to behold as you drive across the US.

So, obviously, it will stand to reason that many of the paintings will have cornfields as the subjects.  I found them fascinating.  In some places, they make up perfectly straight, even rows on level land, and perpendicular to the interstate.  Elsewhere, the rows followed the contour of the land, over gently curving slopes, or down a hillside.  Often, a cornfield would be right up against the edge of a stand of trees, making the most use of free land not covered by buildings or trees.

This painting was edited slightly from the reference photo; extra buildings were left out.  I did keep the main barn and two others.  I liked the geometric shapes and bright contrasts of the roofs against the darker trees and curving landscape.  Also ubiquitous to farms are the grain silos, apparently referred to by corn farmers as "bankruptcy tubes".  They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and constructs.  Here, we have a solo silo behind one non-descript building.

"Pennsylvania Farm #1"
11x15" on 140# watercolor paper with Golden pumice ground

I started this with a quick pencil sketch on the untinted paper.  I usually use charcoal, but I was thinking that getting the buildings accurate as to shape, etc, would be better with pencil.  I blocked in the basic shapes and colors of the sky, tree line, and fields, and finger blended them in.  Later, I decided to use an alcohol wash to turn it into a more permanent underpainting.  This surface lends itself well to underpaintings.  

Then, I went back and began working back to front, leaving the buildings for last.  I am trying to avoid putting lots of detail into my landscape paintings, but I felt some was necessary to depict the edges of the cornfields in the foreground.  Not sure sure about the lower left hand area; I may rework it and tone it down.  

I'll probably alternate these with a series of local landscapes, of the trails, forests and mountains where we have been hiking, and probably more skies - they have been tremendous!

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