This is one of my painting from Los Gatos, durlast week. It didn’t win any awards, or receive much recognition because I didn’t choose to enter it into the judging on the Gala night.
It was clearly the best thing I painted during the week. I was walking back to my car after an artist’s lunch and saw it. The light and shadow patter was so evocative I had to stop and paint it. I never thought to enter it because I just didn’t believe it had the story or narrative to appeal to a large audience. So I entered something else instead.
In retrospect I would lead with this painting…
“Contre-Jour” is a French term for backlit, and this kind of lighting is found in many French and California impressionistic paintings. Choosing a backlit subject, or setting up light this way creates large masses of shadows and lights — shapes which play off each other. Both being visually to find in a painting.
This is definitely something to explore further.
To successfully pull off a contre-jour painting an artist must be able to organize a subject’s values into two large masses: a light and a dark shape. And then be able to add a plausible bounce or fill light that illuminating subtle modulations within the darker mass. (As seen in the flower heads above.) Again, a beautiful effect when everything somehow manages to hold together.
I don’t know if the French invented this treatment of light — the way Italians of the 16th century invented sfumato — but contre-jour is breath-taking when you see it expressed with a masterful hand. Fatin-Latour could do it, as did other Northern Flemish painters of Europe, but contre-jour isn’t something you see often in contemporary painting these days.
I’ve got to spend more time on the effect.
And remember to enter the best d*mn painting I paint during the week. Regardless of whether or not I think it has a story or not.
If you are interested my upcoming August ‘Essential Plein Air Techniques’ workshop, click here. We have only three spots left on a first-come, first serve basis, so don’t delay if you want to join the fun! Learn to paint en plein air with a knowledgeable and respectful teacher. This class will be limited to 12 participants to guarantee quality one-on-one time with the instructor.
UPDATE: Because sign-ups this year have been so quick I may offer a second workshop the following week if there is enough interest. That will be decided after the first week closes.
– Posted from my iPad