November Dawn (Scott Gallery -Huntington Gardens) 12 x 16 oil on canvas
This studio painting depicting dawn in the Shakespeare Garden is based on plein sketches and photos I’ve taken at the Huntington. In fact, I’ve never been there at dawn, but I’ve taken some liberties with a noon photo (below) to imagine how it must look at the peak of fall bloom.
Changing the time of day and angle of the sun was a real exercise in thinking about color, shadows and so on because I had no reference to rely on. I remembered that white marble often glows pink in the morning, but there are touches of warm, too. To break up the wide expanse of the wall I invented shadows, but then I had to think about what color they would be. The same is true of the shadows of the side of the building – where would they cast shadows? The sky is different at dawn. Darker at the top than at the horizon (as usual) but it is warmer in the direction of the sun. So those colors needed to be softly blended to suggest the right atmosphere for that time of day.
I find this kind of exercise a lot of fun because it helps me to break out of painting that is just copying. This can be useful for plein air painting, too. For example, if you are a distance from your subject and you know there’s a shadow there but you can’t see it, you can use imagination and logic to decide what color to paint it.