Monday, November 4, 2013

Morning Light on the Jackson Court House

This painting started as a plein air study and ended up being completely repainted in the studio.  My friend Howard Rees and I met in Jackson (Howard's home) and visited the old courthouse, now a museum, to paint.  We both set up in the same location where the morning light coming through the trees and skimming across the side of the building made a striking scene.  (Fortunately I took a picture as I was setting up - the one thing I did right that day!)

I made the classic mistake of 'chasing the light' which very quickly lit up the entire building as the shadows fell away.  Doing that, I lost the very thing that was so appealing earlier in the morning.  On top of that basic error, I had committed a number of drawing mistakes.  My perspective wasn't correct and I had placed the building too far to one side of the composition.  There were a number of simple drawing and relationship errors as well. In short, I had done a very poor job of planning the painting in the beginning and then compounded that mistake with lousy, rushed execution.  Normally I would have wiped the painting down to save the RayMar panel or simply set it aside to join a pile of other failed works.  But I was bothered that I had missed the target so widely on this effort and I decided to try to learn from it.

After the painting was completely dry, I redrew the building directly on the panel with charcoal.  I paid attention to the perspective in particular.  The colors in the original plein air work were dull, particularly in the sunlit areas, including the side of the building.  I pushed the color a bit in some places....or so I thought....but interestingly it turned out much closer to the 'real thing' than I would have guessed.

In the end, I felt good that I had not given up...that instead, I found solutions and worked through the problems.  The next time I go out to paint on location, I'll have this little exercise to fall back on.

Morning Light On The Jackson Courthouse   Oil on 16" x 12" canvas panel

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art


  1. How comforting to hear that even an accomplished painter can have a bad day, and rescue a work to turn it into a stunning piece. Well done.

    1. DJ, thank you for your compliment! Let me assure you, I have my share of the 'bad days' ...but they are the days that really matter if I use them well. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that, and this particular painting and the day that went with it are good examples. Thanks again for stopping and commenting.