Returning to Oil: On Beyond Zebra

by Brenda W. Clough

If there’s anything I’ve learned from being creative, it’s that you don’t just stay here. Like in the song, you move on — beyond the photo, beyond the plot, through to something new.Something of your own! What you write is not necessarily all that is there, and what you paint is not necessarily what you see.

So! Like the Art Garfunkel song says, reality is not for me. Here is a run at carrying it on — beyond green, beyond mere representational landscape. One of the things with oils is that you can set the tone by blocking out the work with a color. Burnt sienna is the traditional hue for this, and I used it for the 1.0 version. In this 3.0 version, I used alizarin crimson.

I’ve tinkered with the proportions, losing chunks of the original photograph (which you may view once more at the bottom of this post). I also completely shed the option of green. I like the dark moody lower foreground of the work, and the sky. I waved the artist wand and lost all the slow water and greenish pond scum to insert some actual river. But, what is this with the alizarin crimson of the trees? Pinkish is what you get when you mix white, and yellow, with alizarin. It is boring. Especially over here in the upper right corner, something must be done. That something is going to involve cadmium red, which I have to go buy a tube of. Except, wow! cadmium red is $31 a tube! Maybe I will buy a cheaper red.

Is red the right direction to go? Maybe I should do a 4.0 using blue as the base color? Actually I think that -purple- would be best, and luckily if you mix ultramarine blue with cadmium red you do get purple. Mysteriously this does not happen if you mix ultramarine with alizarin — you get the murkiness in the lower left. Must work on it some more. I am going to repaint all the pinkish bit in the middle instance, and fortunately oil allows you to do that. Maybe some green will sneak in again after all. Should the undifferentiated mass of the foreground be broken up a little? Perhaps with some reflected sky? This is not done yet, folks. Hold on to your hats!




About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Returning to Oil: On Beyond Zebra — 2 Comments

  1. Here it becomes obvious just how far I have to grow as an artist: while I can appreciate everything you’re doing as logical steps of stretching the original just one bit, it would not have occurred to me to do _any_ of them. Thank you for letting us follow along.

  2. If I were more experienced with oils I think I would not have to fall into every hole and poke into every dead end. However, the process is important. (Knitters know this.)
    This class only runs into March, and I have to peel out one of those weekends to go to FogCon in California. So I am not going to have time (at least class time) to take too many more hacks at this. I shall carry this one as far as I can go, and perhaps take one more swing at the ball, with an emphasis on blue or purple. Unless … what if I used yellow?