Hollywood Rapids, Richmond VA, 2008 - 2015.
Oil on canvas, 3ft. 5in. x 4ft. 5in.
(click through the slideshow)
This large landscape painting represents an idealized view from the Hollywood rapids on the James River, as seen in mind of the artist. From the vantage point on the rocks, we look northeast towards Oregon Hill, on a late morning in September. Some elements have been shifted, reduced or altered. For example, on the opposite side of the river, the artist chose to exclude the buildings for a more pristine setting. The grassy hill-top has been included because it characterizes the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont topography. Some of the islands and rocks have been condensed (the water currents synthesized accordingly) to intensify the essential character of the scene.
The painting was made in the studio, based on many sketches and 3 oil studies made on–site. Work began in 2008 and was revisited seasonally. The initial composing of the scene was first worked out with a 10 x 14” oil sketch. Next, two more on-site color studies were made in order to provide enough source material. As the final painting was worked up in the studio, the artist adjusted some of the features of the actual scene, for added visual interest and drama. Throughout the entire process, the artist revisited the original spot regularly, to make detailed sketches of rapids, branches and clouds.
The paint is thickly and opaquely applied in the lights, and thinly and smoothly in the darks. Varieties of brush strokes and paint textures give the surface a sculptural quality. Brushwork in the clouds is soft and blended, with subtle shifts in tone, in contrast with the crisp textures of the rocks and trees below. The brushwork of the river reveals its natural splashes, bubbles and reflective surface. The depth and translucency of the shadows of the clouds, trees and rocks are described with thin, rich glazes. Many areas of the canvas, when examined closely, show traces of previous layers; these were purposefully painted over, or partially sanded away, when making adjustments.
What was the most challenging area to paint?
The arrangement of the clouds in the sky. The difficulty is that clouds are transient, and do not provide the artist a “ready-made” object. After lots of sketching and trial and error, I found that cloud dispersion and formation follow slightly noticeable patterns, which, when applied to the designing of the sky, give the illusion of movement.