The oil paintings of artist Muriel Timmons go beyond her ability to capture the flora and fauna of the American Southwest; they offer a glimpse into the inner being of her subjects. Visit her website to see more.
Creating a painting is always quite an adventure, and it often seems the greatest excitement of the entire process occurs when I’m physically far from my studio and when my studio is the farthest thing from my mind.
No thoughts of canvas dimensions, composition, pigments or paintbrushes are to be found anywhere in my head – I’m totally focused on “The Thrill of the Hunt!” Toting a stowed camera and meandering through Mother Nature’s Southwestern back yard, I’m on a hunt for, well, I know not what!
And so I remain alert for grand, or tiny, events. Usually a subject will “speak-up” first—from then on I’m all ears and eyes. That subject could be the wooden skeleton of a long-since fallen Saguaro cactus (they’ll softly tell their story, if I listen through heart, rather than ear).
Or perhaps it’s a “way-too-fast-moving” ground critter who will not slow down for me; but he will still gladly share a slice of his daily life, if I settle down and wait long enough for him to circle round.
Somewhere, in the midst of this chance encounter, my camera comes out of hiding to snap visual notes. This adventure’s tail end is spent taking many reference shots of various foliage and terrain in the area. Although a lot of information is gathered, the most important aspect of the event is the time spent observing and connecting directly with my subject.
Back in the studio, another nearly as intriguing “hunt” begins with a different mission – to recapture that initial excitement, along with the subject’s character, in paint. Although many processes are involved, some are more critical than others. The canvas size is determined. Then, working with paper of the same size, the placement and form of the main subject is resolved with a reasonably detailed, freehand pencil drawing.
The rest of the composition is then built around the subject. This drawing is transferred to the canvas with graphite paper (like old-fashioned carbon paper, but backed with graphite, instead). Once the canvas has been sealed with retouch varnish to protect the transferred drawing, brushes and paints come into play!
Portions of the painting requiring a certain level of luminescence are initially left blank, allowing the vibrant white of the canvas to glow through the later-applied layers of translucent paint. All others are blocked in with midtones of their base colors and transformed to three-dimensional appearance with various shading and highlights. As work progresses, some unexpected elements might pop into mind, and if they will enhance the painting, they’re allowed in.
Throughout this second phase of the journey, there’s a near constant stream of thought, assessing color balance and emotional content—sometimes calling for major adjustments, other times just a bit of tweaking.
But it’s this continual, almost subliminal, monitoring that keeps the work on track and most often takes me to the point of “near completion” where, at long last, I realize that it’s time for brightest highlights… and signature! Finally, it’s a painting!
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