This afternoon I took a walk among the cottonwood trees along an arroyo here in Northern New Mexico. This is the first time I've been here at the right time of year to experience their glorious golden luminosity.
A week earlier I was back in Wisconsin for our son Ross's wedding and the leaves there were radiant too, with more reds and oranges than we see in New Mexico. These weeks of autumn color align with a new interest in luminous color that I've been developing in my painting since August. I find myself not just appreciating the leaves for their beauty but looking closely at the effects of light and color. As often happens, nature provides guidance for ideas that are percolating.
Is this new interest in luminous color due to the bright light in my new studio here, or the influence of so many walks in this arid landscape under brilliant sky? Or maybe it's an emotional urge for more color in these anxious times, or simply the desire to try something new. I'm not sure, but my attitude toward color shifted away from earthy neutrals back in August, and I began to think about how to increase the luminosity of my work.
A few weeks before that, a friend had admired a barely-begun painting in which bright colors stood alone without the layers of dark value I typically build in for contrast and depth. I initially dismissed his remarks since the painting was barely started, but in considering how to express luminosity, that conversation came back to me.
I decided to try a painting with only minimal use of dark and neutral colors. Contrast is always important for richness and depth, but this time I concentrated on variations of the complementaries of red and green rather than on strong value contrast. The effect was vibrant and harmonious. I also abandoned the stronger shapes of previous works so that the focus was entirely on color and textural interaction.
Chroma #1, 36"x48" oil/cold wax on panel
I followed this green paintng with a large, bold red one, and two more in an analgous range of yellows, oranges and light greens (below). Each of these felt energetic, even joyous to me, feeding my soul in this difficult time. It's been a while since I have given myself over to the power of color, and for now, it is very satisfying.
Chroma #2, 42"x60" oil/cold wax on panel
Chroma #3, 40"x40" oil/cold wax on panel
Chroma #4, 40"x40", oil/cold wax on panel