Original pastel painting, 17″ x 8.5″, 1999
Anything can become a learning opportunity and an inspiration, even a cheap cardboard painting stapled into a rickety wood frame. It worked for me.
I painted “Deserted Cottages” en plein air at a deserted campground in North East along Lake Erie. It was just a quick thing at the end of the day because the sun was going down and the light was changing fast, but I’d been painting all day and I was well warmed up. I quickly blocked in the buildings with just a few simple shapes and colors and their traceries of shadows, then the trees and grass, trying to catch the fluttering effect of the leaves in the wind allowing chunks of sky to show through, the tree trunks simplified and in high light-dark contrast, the blank expression of the boarded windows. I was pleased with the outcome, yet something was strangely familiar.
Six years later I put my mother’s house up for sale as she had moved to personal care, and took down her collection of cardboard art in plastic frames that I’d studied in depth growing up. It may not have been expensive, but there was a lot of it, in every room, including the basement. I particularly remembered the one long narrow painting with the signature J.E. Warfield because I liked the way the trees were leafy, not solid, and opened to the sky, the shadows traced across the ground and the buildings were very simple; after studying it as a child I felt that I could do that. Again, something was familiar.
I looked at “Deserted Cottages”, and looked at my cardboard Warfield. The tree trunks, the leaves, the simple buildings, the shadows—there it was! I could clearly see what I’d been aiming for as I’d painted six years before—this painting I’d been studying all my life practically.
So it was a cheap cardboard painting stapled into a rickety wood frame—never underestimate the power of any image to inspire and teach! And I haven’t found out a darned thing about J.E. Warfield, but apparently this painting was a popular one judging by all the ones I’ve seen being sold as “vintage”.
Nothing is ever wasted for a creative person. I’ve learned to never dismiss something that impresses me for some reason, be it the cover of a bodice-ripper romance or a velvet painting or a doodle on a notebook, it goes “in there” somewhere and comes out somewhere else as a way I learned to work with color or shape or medium or just something that caught my eye and would catch others’ as well.
The art is 17″ x 8.5″, triple-matted with a quarter-inch deep slate blue, eighth-inch deep rust, and 2-5/8″ natural white textured parchment finish top mat, weathered walnut frame with blue wash, and it’s hanging right here above my desk as well as available in my Etsy shop.