I bought the biggest canvas I could fit into the trunk of my car. One that would also fit into the small corner of my art “studio” area in the kitchen. A 36-inch square canvas vast and white with pure potential. A creative story waiting to be told!
Weeks went by as I made other smaller paintings, swiping the unused paint onto the large canvas as a sort of underpainting in the works. At last, I was ready to begin and I had my vision.
I’d seen a photo of a garden area close-up with a Buddha statue. I was in love with the perspective, like this photo here, like you’re sitting on the ground and all the plants are much nearer to you.
Some of my most relaxing, meditative moments have been when I’m close to the earth, taking in that world from a more intimate distance. This is what that felt like to me, and I wanted to make it big. Like macro photography. Take something small and magnify it in all its glory.
I wanted to change the Buddha statue in the reference photo, and I found this seated statue that I found particularly attractive. Simple and beautiful.
And then I was ready to start. I brushed the outlines of the statue, the plants and a small lantern roughly onto the canvas that I washed in red. Then I colored in the leaves first with their underpainting. I love underpaintings, and how the final color on the top is richer and deeper when you see the contrasting or complimenting colors beneath it.
Can you still see the sort of abstract darker paint beneath the red wash?
Once that part was done, I added origami strips. They are red, just like the background, but I planned to build up the color around it. Then I darkened the background behind the origami and sponged on the moss.
This picture doesn’t show it so much, but when I was first applying the paint for the moss, it looked like a long snake winding its way around the painting. It looked like something a pre-schooler would do, and if it is intended to be a snake, then great! Not so great if you want moss and ground-cover.
It disturbed me, but I kept working on it, playing with shading and highlighting and I ended up with it looking a little bit more like this one. The trials and victories I experience as I paint are like mini-versions of a life. I felt that with the frustrations and feelings of elation. Every day I spent with this painting was a creative story unfolding.
Elated that my rocks turned out pretty good. Doubt about whether the lantern and the Buddha statue were both tilted too much to the right.
The photo above is what I worked with just getting started on the Buddha’s face. I had his head in the wrong proportion and had to modify it. His ear was gigantic and his forehead too high, which in turn made his top-knot too tall. I’ll get to that part later.
I got to tackle his robes next.
I’d never been very good at drawing the folds and creases in clothing. I should say I’d never focused on practicing that skill. Fortunately, since I was working from a reference photo, I just looked very carefully and painted what I saw. Now that WAS something I had practiced. Draw or paint what you see. That’s the hard thing for artists is to get down on paper or canvas what it is they see. Of course the beauty of art is that often times, it is what you INTERPRET that becomes the piece of art. Beautiful, inspiring art. Anyway, I digress…
I use black and white printed copies, that way I can use whatever color I want to, and simply work the values between lightest and darkest. This part took a long time getting it just right!
Next was the lantern.
The metamorphosis of the garden lantern.; the first version was way too dark. The light was also shining the wrong direction. So I painted over it with a brilliant orange and then repainted it lighter with the light source shining on it from the right, just like on the statue. Now it looked much better and it made sense.
And here is the finished piece. Little ground leaves have been added and proper lighting shows you the true color palette of this painting. My best friend said that the big leaves looked like something from the movie Avatar. Hmm…. She’s right! They kind of glow! See? The end product never ends up as I first envision it in my mind.
Take a closer look at Silence in the Garden with different detailed shots and a video tour.
Photo credit: Leaves on a Forest Floor by Rennett Stowe.