Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Posting again

I have begun posting again after an absence of about three years. If you are wondering why I didn’t post for so long, all I can tell you is this: it was a lot of work to get the website up, and once it was up, I think I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Perhaps, for this blog, I now have a better idea.

The website is down, for good; perhaps we will create a new one someday. I don’t say we in the old royal sense, but am referring to my wife Nora and myself. It is down because the software used to create it (a version of Dreamweaver) became obsolete. We’re talking about a span of about four years, not the duration between the invention of the printing press and the internet, or even between the steam engine and the internal combustion engine. May it please God that gravity does not become obsolete. 

I’ll be posting reproductions of paintings from recent years and from the more distant past, along with my comments about them, and I hope to do it on a regular basis. You are entitled to believe it when you see it.  I’ll also be proselytizing about the Catholic faith, hopefully persuasively. I and no one else will moderate any comments that are submitted. Anything that is submitted anonymously, contains profanity or is not presented respectfully, will not be considered; so if you are a crank, don’t waste your time. You may grind your ax in your own garage. Hunker down; mind that, in haste and passion to hack, you don’t mar the temper of your metal.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Notes on Queen Anne's Lace

   I used the so-called chromatic palette at the time that I painted Queen Anne’s Lace. It is colored more vividly than I would color it today. The painting was done primarily on site. It took several visits to the location to complete it. That location was about 100 miles from home, so I camped, always hoping for the weather to co-operate and allow me a second session of painting. I don’t remember anymore how many trips I made. I worked on it off site as well, from notations I made on site. Time is more of a constraint when working on site. Early or late in the day, the period available shrinks because the daylight effects change most quickly following dawn and preceding sunset. This painting was done in the mid to late afternoon, and I had a window of approximately two hours. I liked to make what I called notes or notations on a painting with the aim of developing them off site later on. This enabled me to gather certain information on site, and make judgments about which things I ought to give the most attention to while on site working, and which things I thought I could work on off site if I had some basic notes to follow about shape, color, tone, etc. Photos were not used in the making of this painting.

   I don’t make paintings like this anymore. I have committed myself to doing paintings that can be completed in a day. On occasion, I will take a painting out for a second time. This is not due to a commitment to any particular principle, beyond my commitment to working from nature. It is due mostly to having limited time available to paint, and happily, I find I have a preference for doing lots of small paintings instead of a few larger ones. For the record, I am not saying I will never do larger sizes again. There is a freshness to a one day painting that is hard to maintain in more studied works. Sometimes studied works have more depth and richness. Sometimes they get overworked. And sometimes, one day paintings are not worked enough. I used to tell students - somewhat tongue in cheek, but there is truth in the statement – that a painting is finished when it has the right number of brushstrokes in it. Too many or too few diminish it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Out of Reach

Queen Anne's Lace  oil on canvas  24 x 32 1992 Peter J. Bougie

In 1992 I completed the painting Queen Anne’s Lace, named for the white wildflower shown growing prolifically in the foreground (see image). That flower did and still brings with it associations recalled from many late summer seasons. In this part of the country it first appears in July and continues to be seen in numbers well into August with stragglers still coming along in September. Summer is passing its peak; the frenzy of growth is slowing, things are maturing and going to seed, and the season is moving along on momentum generated in May and June, as it were. The daylight is already waning, and by August you begin to notice it. It’s a time of the year tinged with the feeling of things passing away, things that were longed for throughout the winter and spring; now they have either come to pass, or the opportunities have passed by.

It was a milestone painting for me. I had been striving to paint long views of the wide Mississippi valley just upstream from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, from the Minnesota side of the river, for several years. I had some success a couple of times prior to this painting but Queen Anne’s Lace was the most successful. Viewing a reproduction after 21 years I am still reasonably pleased to have done it, and there are so many things I can’t say that about. I found reasonable solutions to numerous fundamental problems associated with painting this kind of landscape that I had struggled with for a long time; spatial and atmospheric perspective across a long, expansive view, the contrast and variety of value and color intensity between foreground and background, and composing within the picture plane based on selecting from what nature provides in the way of natural patterns of light and shadow, to name three. And I hope it expresses some of the joyous, extravagant splendor of creation, and of the ordering activities of created human creatures on the landscape, evident in the agricultural fields of the middle and far distances.

On one of my trips to this site to execute the painting I took my stepson John along. I was hoping to both spend time at large in this beautiful country with him, and accomplish some painting as well. I was very preoccupied and anxious with making a name for myself as an artist; consequently I gave the painting better attention than I gave him. It is a regret I have looking back at that time; a holy opportunity that passed by. We tell ourselves there will be another chance, and sometimes there is; but even in telling ourselves there will be another chance, we acknowledge that we are passing over the one at hand.  If we receive grace now, let us not neglect it. “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time’; behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’” (Corinthians 2, 6:2). I asked for and was given much grace to complete this painting, and I asked for grace with my stepson too, in that I hoped for it. When it appeared, I did not respect it, preferring grace in the artistic form.

The painting was photographed and went to the Vern Carver Gallery (not yet Carver/Beard, as it is now) in Minneapolis. Within a few weeks it was sold to a corporation which was itself later sold.  I tried to discover what had become of the painting in the early 2000’s in order to borrow it for a Classical Realist exhibition at Hastings on Hudson in New York, but could not locate it. So it has passed, like those days, not only out of my hands but entirely beyond my reach.