Painting Down the Rabbit Hole

By the Trees 5 x 5 (c) Mary Hubley. Available.
By the Trees 5 x 5

I live through artist eyes in a world of vivid color and abstract shapes. My mind breathes in a transcendent tangle similar to Alice’s Wonderland. My mind perceives people as super-animated, grays as radiant purple, and trees actually dancing.

I dwell in this alternate reality when I paint every day. Regular practice keeps me completely engaged with a living surrealism. Here, blank white canvases are not intimidating, but inviting. Rather than being sucked in by mundane distractions of clothing that goes unwashed and tonight’s dinner potatoes still unbought, I pick up the brush and jump single-mindedly down the rabbit hole.

The Big Jump

When I begin my painting frenzy, the landscape vibrates with invisible brilliance as it plays out across the canvas. While I’m so completely engrossed, it’s a trick to not go overboard. I try to capture raw intensity while keeping it from being distracting. I balance perfection with hodgepodge. As my painting emerges over the next few days, I observe before-unnoticed nuances; this is when I soften overenthusiastic edges, fix unfortunate shapes, and tone down the purples and oranges.

The Wonderland of the Mundane

Victorian Window 5 x 5 (c) Mary Hubley. Available.
Victorian Window 5 x 5

The magic lives on when I come up for air. I notice exotic tree contours as I drive to the supermarket for tonight’s potatoes. Unusual color combinations insinuate themselves as I fold the wash. Few of my non-painting friends understand my strange consciousness. They call it eccentric. It could be madness.

Sometimes, I find myself staring at a bush or a sidewalk. It’s the color. Or the shadow/light.

If you’re an artist, I’ll bet you know what I mean.

 

 

— Mary Hubley

Quick Demo: Village House Study

Last week, I painted in the gardens of the historic Fatio House in downtown St. Augustine, Florida – a museum surrounded by beautiful Spanish Colonial-style buildings. I often paint small when I’m in the field to get the basics quickly. If I like the painting after I get back to my home studio, I’ll often repaint it in a larger size. Here’s my progress on a tiny study:

1. Here’s my paint box and plein air gear sitting in front of a Spanish Colonial building.
2. The building is located on tiny Aviles Street, in downtown St. Augustine.
3. I started by doing an initial quick sketch and then blocked in the main shapes. I did this in about 2 minutes.
4. Then I added color – which was way too bright. That doesn’t matter – I can always dull it down later, but at this stage I just wanted to plan the main color scheme.
5. Fixed! The colors are better, but not perfect yet. Toned down. But there were still problems. I wasn’t pleased with the placement of the building, the contrasts, or the colors. I packed up and went home.
6. Back in my studio, I sat with a glass of wine and thought about what it needed. I removed the building to the left, moved the little house over, changed the colors and details, and finished the trees. Yay! Happy with the finished results!