Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Definition of September

For plein air painters, the month of September brings some welcome relief from the heat of summer, and an introduction to the wider, and sometimes wilder, variations in color that the autumn landscape shows. Sometimes your subject looks like it could have been painted in July; sometimes it will show the landscape fading and worn, and sometimes it will look like summer intends to take its leave in splendor.

For a landscape of the latter variety, look here. Queen Anne’s Lace was painted mostly during August of 1992, but I finished it in the first half of September. Poison ivy and Virginia creeper are turning red in the meadow and at the edge of the woods; goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace are blooming, and some of the trees are showing shots of color. Cornfields have “tassled out” and hayfields are clipped short and dry. The air is less humid, the distant vistas have some crispness in their look, and the cumulus clouds trail shadows across the countryside.
Cloudy Prairie, oil on panel, 12 x 16, private colletion
Copyright Peter J. Bougie  2007

Cloudy Prairie was done in September 2007. Low clouds ride on a raw breeze. Light breaks out in the upper left and in the distance along the horizon. Some of the trees, like the basswood (linden) on the left, and some oaks in the center distance, are still full green. Others, in this case a lot of box elders (an invasive species), some maples, and some unidentified, are more yellow green. The prairie grasses depicted here, notably the big bluestem, are their mature color and seeded out.

Riffled Water, oil on panel, 16 x 8
Copyright Peter J Bougie 2006

Riffled Water is dated September 4, 2006, but could have been painted in July. Okay - September 4th isn’t far removed from August either. The setting is heavily wooded river banks. You don't see much of the banks, but you see evidence of what the fast water does along them in the leaning and fallen trees. The sky is overcast, hence the gloom. Even on brilliant sunny days, the sun only makes bright patches in a setting like this.

Silver Riffle, oil on panel, 12 x 16, Private collection
Copyright Peter J Bougie 2008
I painted Silver Riffle in a remote valley in Pierce County (Wisconsin) on September 14, 2008. My wife Nora and I were guided there by her brother John Koch, fly fisherman, who has sought trout in the waters of Cady Creek for years. It was an overcast day, and that overcast had settled on my outlook; I was having trouble finding a subject. I stood on a bank above this little defile and when I looked down it was like the sun had broken through the clouds - I had my subject. It’s a definitive September subject. Goldenrod and asters are blooming and the grass is bedraggled and exhausted. Water slides in a hard turn out of the larger main channel of the creek through a little gap over some rocks, and the result is the staggered ripple pattern. I haven’t been back to the spot since I painted there. Seasonal floods have probably changed the look of it.