When there is no colour to be found

Subtle Hues 10 x 8
Spring is coming but not all at once.  That would spoil us.  After another demoralizing dump of snow, I went out on Friday to prove my mettle and to paint it before it melted.  

The day turned warm and the snow was gone by the time I left the river, but I did catch the remnants in this painting.  What struck me as I mined the scene for information, was how little colour variation there actually was.  The receding bank was unrelieved from one end to the other.  Flat light from a cloudy sky meant that there were no shadows or highlights to create form and there really wasn't any sense of the land appearing cooler or bluer as it receded from my view.  

That left me with limited means to create depth and interest in this painting.  Diminishing scale in the tree reflections and the brush and trees helped the illusion of depth, as did overlapping shapes, but I was stuck on the "interest" part of the problem.  The colours were variations on grey and there was no pleasing warmth to latch onto.  An obvious fix would have been to make a tonalist painting of this but that seemed the easy way out and didn't help to prove my mettle at all.  So I went with a narrow tonal range and mixed a lot of mud. 

Every time I paint a grey picture, I'm struck again by how little actual colour I need to make an area come to life.  In this, the water got a touch of true(ish) blue and a somewhat warmer hit of colour at the point where the rivulet meets the river.  These were almost non-existent colours, but they really stand  out beside the cool neutrals of the rest of the piece.  

I like this painting for it's subtlety and light; it does capture the character of the place and the day.  Still, I'm hoping that spring will hurry up and give me some colours to work with soon. 


Dean H. said…
As you said, Ingrid, I love the subtle touches of color that whisper,"look at me".
Your wonderful use of a gray, last breath of winter day, has resulted in a fine painting.
Spring is just around the corner!
Dean, you're a poet! Thank you for the thoughtful and elegant comment.