Week 17: Backyard

Collage in process

My usual approach to landscape painting is to create unpopulated scenes, where the viewer may be coaxed to insert him or herself into the experience of the landscape. But last week I had so much fun drawing the Lacrosse Kids that I decided to continue experimenting with combining figures and landscape imagery. While I took plenty of figure drawing classes back in my art school days, I have not included figures in my own work for many years, so this is some new territory. Watching my husband patiently teaching our young son how to garden in the backyard, I was inspired to include them in this week’s collage.  I wanted to capture both my relationship to the place, as well as my relationship to the figures, imbuing each small drawing with a sense of careful attention, whether plant or person. There is an interesting balancing act of tenderness and objectivity when dealing with such dearly loved subjects!

We have created a special place in our backyard, and it is even more special now that my son is contributing to its on-going development. There was a steep slope in the back when we moved here, and over the last several years we have improved the backyard with retaining walls and multi-level garden terraces. Once the last phase of hardscape was completed last summer, we were able to really enjoy the fun part of shaping the space with beautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers. We have put a lot of creativity and love into this place, so of course I have been wanting to paint it.

Here is the finished collage, followed by some close-up images of my favorite details. I allowed most of the ink drawings to visually float on the surface of the collage, rather than embedding them in layers of paint. I wanted to retain the simple and spontaneous character of the ink line, which I think best expresses the subject matter. My approach to the figures is influenced by E.H. Shepard’s illustrations of Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh, a favorite of mine since childhood.

Father and Son in the Garden, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

Detail of Patio, Father and Son in the Garden

Detail of the Black Gum, Father and Son in the Garden

Detail of Max, Father and Son in the Garden

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