following the landscape thread

On the Hilltop, gouache painting by Bridgette Guerzon Mills
Bridgette Guerzon Mills| On the Hilltop, gouache, 6 1/2 x 6 inches, 2020, sold

I have been continuing my dive into color studies this past month. I have really been enjoying doing these studies in gouache as well as in oils as I get lost in the mixing of colors. I literally lose track of time. It’s pretty great. In general my encaustic mixed media pieces are very muted, which is such a big part of my visual expression, so what’s the deal with all this color?!

I think because this past year was so hard and sad and uncertain, and then this winter was pretty drab, cold, and dreary, something in me just needed color. I’ve been painting flowers, fruit and landscapes. I will post more of my explorations soon. But I wanted to post he above landscape first as I feel very excited about it.

I limited my palette to ultramarine blue, cadmium red and cadmium yellow, and then white. I used a photo reference of a hilltop I took a few years ago and always wanted to paint as the big shapes of trees on the left was such a contrast to the golden fields to the right. And that tree on the top right! It was a beautiful golden autumn day and I remember standing on top of a hill looking over a valley that led up to another hill.

For years I have been painting my landscapes and wanting to capture a landscape that seemed almost quilt-like, like different bits being brought together to form a larger living organism that is the land. I want it to read as a landscape, but more than just a scenery of what I’m seeing before me. Each landscape I’ve painted through the years was an attempt to get to that feeling, that I am still have trouble articulating here. It’s a feeling that I know in my gut, but can’t put into words. Yet. And still working on how to get it down on paper and canvas.

This painting above felt like yes- this is what I’m trying to say with paint in regards to a landscape! There was a certain point too while I was painting that I stopped looking at my photo for reference and just responded to what was happening in front of me. I felt a freedom that was thoroughly enjoyable and I hope I can get back to.

A few years ago I took a plein air class and I remember starting this thread of work- of not wanting to capture what I saw, but rather what I felt, as well as wanting to create that patchwork feel.

painting plein air, Cromwell Valley Park, MD, 2014

This photo shows how I did indeed paint what I saw when I was on location. It was fine, but I was like, meh. But then I went back to my studio, planning to develop it more but then I ended up completely painting over it in a way that was way more expressive and vibrant and felt more like what I wanted to say about the land.

Gathering Love and Light
Bridgette Guerzon Mills|Gathering Love and Light, oil, 9×12 inches, sold
painting plein air, somewhere in MD, 2014

Here’s another example in the same time period of painting what I saw on location…and then going back to my studio and completely painting over it.

Bridgette Guerzon Mills|October Fields, 12×9 inches, 2014, sold

I also painted both with a palette knife, which I love to do with oils. It keeps me from going towards the detailed. What I liked about this exercise of painting outdoors was that the painting on location was a way to study the land and the light and take notes on what I saw. And then when I left, I took that experience and expressed it more fully to something else.

It’s interesting for me to look back at this path that I’ve been following as I’m looking forward to continuing with this thread and I’m trying to understand and articulate what it is that I am trying over and over to say. I started a larger oil painting, 24×24 of the On the Hilltop gouache study and have been working on it off and on this past week. I’m really enjoying this exploration. I’m also so happy that my gouache study already found a new home.

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