painting a day

A Veil of Light

Red Barn, Golden Light, 16 x 20 inches, oil on linen.

As we drove home from my folks place last fall, we went past this barn in the beautiful light of a fall evening. I loved the light peaking through the partially opened door on the backside, and the overall peaceful feeling of the place. A one minute sketch and we were gone.

The next week at the studio, I roughed out what I remembered, and started painting. Layer over layer over the next several days. But I had several pieces going, trying to get finished up for an upcoming show, and I lost focus. At some point I set the piece aside, not quite finished. Over the next couple months, I pulled the painting out several times, set it on the easel to work on it.............. and left it alone. Something wasn't quite where I wanted it, but I kept mining my memories, trying to remember what it was I had seen. It wasn't holding together. Finally, I set it aside, halfway to the burn pile.

How many times do we have to learn the same lesson? A painting is a painting, not the "thing," the subject of the painting. Color, form, value, design, surface, line - the elements of the image relate amongst themselves first and foremost. That they combine to represent the subject is secondary, or possibly irrelevant. I think the scene may have been too strong in my mind, tied to the last visit of the year with my folks, Darby and the kids. The memory may have been too loaded.

Or, I am one of the worlds truly sloooooooow studies. Anyway, I was working on several of the Small Works pieces this week, and as I scumbled a glaze of gold over a small piece, the barn painting popped into my head. I think I've been subconsciously puzzling over the piece all along. And there was my answer. Years ago, while apprenticing to Richard Beale, he had taught me the importance of what he referred to as a Mother Wash, a single wash of color, layered over the entire painting, tying things together with a unifying tone. Robert Genn frequently employs a similar idea in many of his pieces, and refers to it often in his weekly newsletter.

The painting needed a unifying tone, and I pulled out the painting and laid a semi-transparent, sorta scumbled, gradation of gold over much of the image. Essentially a golden veil settled over the landscape, tying all the separate elements of the piece together in a wash of warm light.

And I had another reason to be grateful to Richard Beale, for passing on many lessons I may not have been ready to hear at the time, but somehow absorbed. He was instrumental in helping to set me on the path to what I do today, and I still use much of what I learned from him. At least the stuff that I remember.

And he was patient with my slow study.

Let's get small.

A selection of the small paintings to be offered at Richard C. Harrington Small Work.

As I have been working larger and larger over the past couple years, I have been very excited about the growth and development I have found in my work. From the thinking necessary to conceive the larger pieces to the drawing and paint handling required, the challenges have pushed me further than the work I have done before.

And at the same time, I have been frustrated. I learn something from every piece that I do, even when exploring a previous theme. The larger work requires such an investment of time, I produce far fewer pieces each year- one nine foot triptych has been underway for over a year and a half, leaving me much less opportunity to play and experiment with color and design. In talking about this with my friend, the artist David Oleski, he suggested I set aside some time each day for smaller work. When I explained I didn’t see small paintings fitting into my current body of work, he described how he had been working through ebay.

After contemplating it for a while, I have begun setting aside some time most days to work on these small pieces. The small paintings will be available in an auction format through a new blog, Richard C. Harrington Small Work. As the son of a couple antique collectors, I have always loved auctions and hope this can be a fun format for people to acquire these small pieces.

I see this body of work paralleling the development of my larger ideas. David had mentioned that the daily involvement with the smaller pieces started leading him in new directions. In fact, one aspect of the really big pieces I hope to pursue is a more intimate exploration of the landscape. The small pieces may become integral to that.

So there you have it. Going small to get bigger. I think Brad Pitt has a movie coming out about something along these lines. Oh great, now I'm trendy.

Or not.