a painting evolves

A few years ago, I began a piece on a large, horizontal format.  It seemed appropriate for conveying the sweep of prairie grasses that has been a constant theme in my work for several years. And I wanted a challenge to work much larger- the result was this piece- 

Prairie Lights, 28 x 62 oil on canvas 2013 © Nanci Erskine - SOLD
Prairie Lights, 28 x 62 oil on canvas 2013
© Nanci Erskine – SOLD

I liked being able to create an entire immersive world that could really pull the viewer through a landscape.
And after finishing this one, I embarked on another. But I wanted to move into a more unconventional idea about the color of the environment.

As always, when starting a large format painting, it’s exhilarating to make great loose swipes of thinned out paint, (I often just use a rag to wipe the paint around) to mark the territory and masses of the subject. There’s a lot of energy and not much editing in this stage… it felt wild and dense and someone looking at it might have said it was finished.

early ver. Bunch-Spring

But here’s the issue that comes up in most of my painting.  Creating a picture of something is not the same as having had the experience of living with and questioning and going deeper with a subject than just a surface image.  One of the reasons I need to paint is to have that conversation. The challenge becomes keeping a fresh eye on something that you revisit over and over again- seeing possibility over time, solving technical questions, aiming for a result that doesn’t always reveal itself easily.

I had this one on the wall for a good year, while I was happily side tracked into working on pastel drawings of grasslands nocturnal and otherwise.   The painting was patiently waiting until I had the committed mindset and time to jump back in, uninterrupted.  What I was looking for was more nuance in the color, in the layers of space, more definition of the shaft of the grasses, in their edges, and how they overlapped each other.  So, after a few more weeks, the painting ended up here…

Bunch- Spring, 32x60 oil © 2016 Nanci Erskine
Bunch- Spring, 32×60 oil © 2016 Nanci Erskine

Still gestural, still dense, but now playing with entering and exiting, a play of violet and blue with the dark cool green, and the air around and between the grasses becoming much more defined and intricate.
I don’t dislike the first stage, but the history I have with the finished one means more to me.  And that’s why I paint.
p.s. it’s hanging on my stairwell wall if you come through on the studio tour- June 25 and 26th. More on that subject soon.


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