Barns: Trifles along the way

JOU,  Silo, Eastern Oregon, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

This is not a barn, or at least it’s mostly not a barn, but I did it as I was doing the others in the barn series, so I thought it could use posting also. I once wrote a poem about silos. The rejection I got was  memorable; the editor wrote: “this is very nice. It’s not a poem. I don’t know exactly what it is. But it’s not a poem.” Actually the “poem,” called Silos, was eventually published by an editor who didn’t know it wasn’t a poem. This is only to say that while I have less experience with silos than with barns, I do have some history with them, however peculiar.

When I was doing the barn paintings, I was not only thinking about composition ala Thomas Hart Benton (see my  artblog commentary here), I was also absorbed in the color brown.

Barns are brown, and brown, like gray, is a widely varying color made up of complements of colors: red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange, often with a dab of something else. I mixed a wide variety of browns starting with the complements, using warm and cool versions of both, mixing and matching, and had a large span of brown hues on my palette. The papers pictured above were my test samples.

However, a funny thing about those mixed browns. It is possible that they gave the painting a richer surface (I used them liberally and somewhat indiscriminately except for light and darkness). But I disliked a lot of them intensely. Often they slid out with a sickly yellow cast. It drove me a bit bonkers; Jer said (reluctantly) that that particular draft of the painting was “awfully brown;” and in the end, I resorted to raw umber, with a tad of burnt umber and alizarin crimson when I needed strong brown, and a bit of charcoal gray and ivory black when I needed deep shadow. And I changed out the sickly yellow, whitening or warming it with titanium or red oxide. Muuuuch better.

This is a detail from  Barn Memories:

There are quite a few browns, seen even at this resolution in a small image. But I’m startled by how much I like the detail view. Perhaps there’s a quilted piece to be drawn from this detail. Ta-ta, and so that’s how I find myself going off. Tangents become main stems. I’m sure there are more barns in my future. –June

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2 Responses to Barns: Trifles along the way

  1. Kathy Hodge says:

    I like the idea of using browns “from the tube” because I feel like I am painting with elements from the earth like umbers and siennas, Williamsburg even make browns that feel a bit gritty, which I like. I may try gathering some colors from the earth while, appropriately, in the Painted Desert. I like your detail shot too, could be an interesting painting as well.


  2. Sheila says:

    Always dangerous when you start cropping photos for detail shots…


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