Ongoing Art Project: Colors of Autumn

With only a few weeks left to go in 2019, I’m coming to the final entries for my daily abstraction project. As we continue working toward the winter months, today we’ll take a look at what I’ve been painting this autumn.

Colors of September. Still pretty green (and hot and humid), but you start seeing the hints of red or yellow.

By far the one subject that has preoccupied my attention has been the foliage. Growing up in New England, I’ve long been accustomed to seeing the trees turn bright red and yellow come late September, and watching that transition is what makes autumn one of my favorite times of the year.

Williamsburg area foliage, early October to late November.

Indeed, it never really feels like fall if I don’t see those kinds of color changes, and I’ll go out of my way to experience them if I can. When I lived in Roswell, for example, I used to drive 2+ hours to Cloudcroft, the nearest place with maple trees, just so I could get some autumnal color. Knowing that I can see those changes here in Virginia just by walking through my neighborhood is yet another reason why I like living in this area.

One major difference between fall color here and in New England is the duration. It doesn’t really pick up here until well into October, but it lasts well into November. From what I remember growing up in Maine, a frost or cold wind had usually stripped off the leaves by early November, but as recently as last week I could still walk along forest paths in Williamsburg and see them glowing with yellow or red.

Colors of October. The fall foliage is definitely becoming more prominent.

It may not be quite as saturated as what you see in New England, but I really appreciate how long it lingers here. Looking back through the abstractions I’ve painted these past few months, it’s fun being able to follow along as the season unfolds, with the various greens giving way to reds and yellows.

Autumn-themed bouquets from Brandon. The chrysanthemums on the right were especially fun to paint.

While foliage has been the most frequent subject in these recently color blocks, it’s not the only topic I’ve been exploring. Brandon, ever the wonderful person he is, has periodically gotten me bouquets reflecting the season’s palettes, and these have made their way into my painting. What makes Brandon so thoughtful is that he picks out flowers based on what he thinks I’ll enjoy drawing, and these latest bouquets have been no exception.

Whether they’re inspiring jack-o-lanterns or watching strange cats outside, Gustave and Iris never cease to entertain.

The cats have also appeared with greater frequency. With the weather getting cooler, they’ve been snuggling up with us more often for warmth, so I’ve simply been seeing them more regularly. As the foliage slowly falls away and the landscape becomes more dormant, they’re always there to entertain with their antics, whether it’s chasing each other around the house, pilfering my blanket, or having a staring contest with a strange cat outside, as they do in one of the abstractions here.

In terms of technique, I’ve continued incorporating the kinds of mark-making I’ve been exploring in previous seasons, such as splatter or scraping. The most notable new addition is my exploration of duration and time.

Same tree, different days and abstractions.

These blocks, for example, all show the tree outside my study window, but on different days. What started out as mostly green with flits of yellow turned increasingly orange, and finally brown. While painting these gradually changes abstractly is new for me, the idea of revisiting the same scene at different times of day or year is not. On my previous blog, for example, I described a project where I took prints I’d made of a silo in Roswell and painted the sky to show sunsets I’d recorded at different times of year.

Same sunset, different times. I used the tree branches I could see outside my window as dividing lines between the different sections.

What is new for me is showing the shift in time within one painting. With this sunset scene, for example, I divided the colors into sections, with each part showing how the sky appeared at a specific time. So what started out as a subtle peach sunset flared out into brilliant orange, then gave way to purple. Rather than limit the block to one time, I painted it over a duration so that I could render all of its colors. I didn’t do a lot of this kind of time recording but I may continue exploring it in December.

Colors of Williamsburg, November

Autumn technically lasts for a few more weeks, but Christmas decorations have already overtaken what foliage remains, so the cultural ether has already begun to shift toward winter. In the meantime, I’ll keep finding interesting things to paint as I round off what has been a most illuminating and enriching experiment.

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