Palette Study: Observing life as an open-ended mood board.

A large part of my artistic practice is based on real-time observation and recording. When I first started painting landscapes regularly in 2008, I was using it as a way to reset my mind. All that gets accumulated over the years, in my case all that I had learned about art and being a working artist became a burden to the person within me who just liked to make things that felt right without concern about who "likes it" or not. Particularly in school when I was asked to write about the concept for bodies of work before I even started making them, I struggled. 

Later on, I came to understand why writing is introduced in the beginning of the creative process as a planning method for organizing thoughts before action, but of course not everyone goes through the front door of thought. In fact many artists who I relate to on a personal level share my method of reflecting upon creation. This process of creating a statement based on an amass of actual experience presents quite the challenge, because I could easily work from photos and make an entire body of work about Tokyo without actually being there, but I believe being there and working through the experience of being there makes the quality of my work more authentic, and it is my belief that we need authenticity in our lives - not just vibes, but a true understanding of what makes the vibration what it is. So what happens if I make a shift in my way of thinking about how things should or shouldn't happen? Do we all arrive at the same result when experiencing a person's art either way, or can YOU tell the difference between surface work and the deep stuff?

And so I carried around this conundrum when it came to mood boards...rejecting the idea of collecting stimuli that was not taken directly from personal experience. How much easier it would be to collect images of things that already existed from all over the world instead of relying upon myself to create a personal palette from observational scratch. Maybe I chose the long way around with my rules and such, but in doing so, I can tell you what's growing in my back yard because I've been there studying it for years. I have become quite the expert in documenting the subtle temperature changes in color found in the landscape as seasons change, the corresponding palettes and blooming cycles. So it seems that I have been creating mood boards all along - but in reverse! I'm delighted to share with you a brief synopsis of my findings, in the form of these swatch palettes, with selections of my favorite colors from each time of year.

October/Fall Palette. Marsh painting from Big Branch Marsh NWR. 

October/Fall Palette. Marsh painting from Big Branch Marsh NWR. 

Autumn is about letting go of all the beautiful things we relished in Summer, embracing the natural transition of life into earth. My favorite colors in Fall are actually the ones that play between the crisp, soft blues on cold days and the golden wheat, chestnut, and deep earth tones that create a wonderful foundation for their evergreen accents. Without a foundation of these yellow ochres, raw siennas and burn umbers, we wouldn't have the same appreciation for the rest of life's colors.

January/Winter Palette. Painting of trees in my backyard in Lacombe, LA.

January/Winter Palette. Painting of trees in my backyard in Lacombe, LA.

Winter palettes are distinct from Fall palettes because they largely represent the evergreen population which gets so much play during the holidays versus the bold changes that occur when leaves change, but my favorite thing about Winter is moments is when I feel so c-c-c-cold, and then the sun comes out. So while the color palette is rather stark - icy ultramarine blues, muted bark tones, and deep cool greens, there is that wonderful hint of peach which represents the sun hitting the bark of the cold trees, and this peach becomes more prominent as the year continues. 

Spring Palette. Painted from the gardens in my front yard which house a variety of lilies, wildflowers, grasses, jasmine, and a Japanese Plum.

Spring Palette. Painted from the gardens in my front yard which house a variety of lilies, wildflowers, grasses, jasmine, and a Japanese Plum.

There is no time of year that rocks the world of minty greens, sunshine hansa yellow, corals (remember the peach?) and plum hues like Spring. A lady I adore once described her friend's style as "fauvist at heart", and I think that's really what Spring is all about...pastels balanced against their bold complements. 

June Palette. Painted from Bayou Liberty in Slidell, LA. 

June Palette. Painted from Bayou Liberty in Slidell, LA. 

When people discuss hallucinations from heat of the dessert, I can relate from my own sphere. It doesn't take an ounce of peyote to feel the electricity of a hot summer day in the swamps. All of the colors are on fire, with perhaps a little relief in the delicate summer blooms, but Summer is and will always be the most passionate palette in my book. My favorite colors from this time are the deep cadmium yellows and reds, the cobalt and prussian blues.

In between the changes throughout the year, there is one thing that seems to remain consistent, and that is the colors that happen at dawn and dusk each day. When mixed with these seasonal palettes, we experience a complex harmony in our environment.

And so this idea of studying nature is not new, but following the path of studying these small changes has given me an appreciation for details that I had missed when I only knew the surface, and a deeper connection to life itself.

I'll leave you with this look at the seasons according to artist David Hockney, where he documents the same path from his hometown at different times of year, and how he used his love of painting these changes to influence how others see the world.