As the Harvest Moon has passed and the Autumnal Equinox approaches, I’m sensing signs of autumn everywhere, in the angle and color of sunlight, leaves beginning to change from green to their autumn garb, geese flying south and my bird feeders mobbed by birds on some day, and cooler days and nights.
Just as I have galleries of summer and winter artwork, so do I have a gallery of autumn artwork; I’ll feature just a few here in this post, but you can read about others in my Etsy gallery. As much of autumn artwork has to do with trees doing their autumn thing, and Western Pennsylvania is largely tree covered, I’ve had a lot of material to work with through the years. Some are painted en plein air, but some are studio pieces, like the birch trees above.
Birches 1 and 2
From the time I met the paper birch in our front yard I have always been attracted to the delicately detailed white bark of birch trees which seemed to emit its own faint light in any season. Here, in the darkness of the woods, the grouping of white trunks looks like a crowd clustered for discussion, decorated by a maple branch in Birches 1: Autumn Showers.
The technique was an experiment borne of an off-hand remark from a fellow artist. I had just been experimenting with oil pastels, which at first felt like slippery crayons but soon grew to have their own life as I understood the best ways to achieve the colors and textures I wanted. The artist friend mentioned that you could also work with them using turpentine, either softening the crayons in it or drawing on the paper, then painting turpentine over the oil pastel to blend or spread. I chose to use a combination of these as well as wetting the paper with the turpentine and drawing on that area with the oil pastel. The resulting painting actually looks dimensional, and I know it’s only because of the different textures in the work.
Here’s a detail of Birches 2: Radiance.
We have lovely birch groves here in Western Pennsylvania, and this image was reminiscent of one I had encountered while hiking somewhere near me. Not just the white bark, but the contrast with the thin dark twigs and ripples in the bark, is eye-catching, but that autumn display of yellow leaves is nearly blinding. Add a few other leaves to the mix and it becomes a classic autumn scene.
This painting is a real favorite in any color or size; I think others react to the details and the colors as I did when I saw the scene and visualized the painting.
The original is quite large, 22″ x 23″, and drawn in a very fine line black ink. I used a technical pen (a Rapidograph, if anyone remembers those) to draw all the details of the birch trees, taking nearly three weeks just to draw the trees. Even though I’d been visualizing it with the color added for the leaves, after all that work I was hesitant to start painting into the drawing for fear I’d mess it up and ruin all that work. But I got over that and began filling in the leaves in all shades of yellow.
Other subjects too
I’ll review other individual paintings as well, including their meaning to me at the time I painted them since, for some reason, most of my autumn paintings have a story having something to do with family, or my career, and even my cats.
I do have most of those stories posted along with the images on Etsy.
I have several originals still available, but I also have prints of each of them, framed and unframed, in all sizes from 8″ x 10″ to the full size of the painting, whatever that may be, and in grades from high quality digital to high quality giclee.