I've also been working on a sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project, which I've got to finish and mail off today. I've sketched all kinds of spots all around Calistoga... here are a couple.
Here's the next step in the process... adding hints of an apricot-ish color (the last traces of the sunset).... It's still got quite a ways to go.
(Note: The lower left-hand corner is a little faded in the photo, because of the reflection of the light on the canvas.)
I've had this big canvas (4' x 4') waiting on my easel for a while now – I've been itching to get at it. Finally I've begun! The process may look different than you might have imagined. Since it is a painting of a landscape at dusk, I wanted a dark blue underpainting. Then I draw in my composition.
The dark (nearly black-looking) lines were the first stages of the composition, which I painted over as I refined it. You can see here I've begun to indicate the rows of the vineyards and a big more structure in the big tree.
The next part of the process is to lay in big shapes of color. It doesn't have to be neat. Actually, it's much better if it's not. I want bits of that dark blue showing through and influencing the feeling of dusk in the painting.
It's starting to look quite different now, isn't it? The lightness of the sky makes a considerable difference.... Notice, I'm still laying in big shapes of color, but starting to break them down into some slightly smaller shapes, particularly in the vineyard and between the rows of vines.
Here, I'm continuing to break the bigger shapes down into smaller and smaller shapes, adding the variations within them. The most important thing is to bring the whole painting along together, and not to get obsessive about detail in any one particular place. You need to see the whole forest (or, in this case, the vineyard), not the trees (or their specifics – yet).
Here's where the painting is currently. You can see I'm continuing to develop the hill behind, the trees, and the vineyard and its rows – and I've brought a nice strong robin's egg blue color into the sky. It's not done yet, by a long shot – I'll share its progress as it develops.
My afternoon with Willard Bond and Jean Steubing Maggrett, at the home of Willard's daughter, my friend Gretchen, was a warm and wonderful one. As two creative people, who had not met before, they shared not only their work as visual artists, but also a love of alternative spaces.
Jean lived in a studio on 9th Street in the Village, before moving out to the Hamptons along with many of the other abstract expressionists. For the last twenty-ish years, she has lived in a historic one-room schoolhouse, adjoining the community hall she owns, in the mountains not far from my home.
Willard made his home and studio in an old synagogue on the lower East Side in the early 60s, but later became fascinated with geodesic domes. He knew Buckminster Fuller, and spent six years in Jamaica, building geodesic dome homes. His current studio in upstate New York is a geodesic dome he built.
Both also became martial artists, as well as visual artists. Willard became a devotee of Tai Chi, to which he credits his keeping strong and flexible as he gets older. Jean moved out to California to study Aikido with her Aikido master, and credits the awareness and presence of mind she learned from it with saving her from drowning.
Jean brought her copy of Club Without Walls, memories of the Art Club, of which she and the abstract artists I knew from my art history studies were a part – Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Elaine de Kooning, and more.... (I have my own copy now, and am just beginning to read it.)
And Gretchen brought out a scrapbook, and more, with photos of Willard, including the one above, and books and a poster showing his large watercolor marine paintings, as well as the abstract nude paintings and ceramic murals he created during his days in the Lower East Side.
I hope we can all gather together again, the next time Willard comes out to California!