Bridge Paintings at Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island

For one of our next tasks at the New York Studio School, we were asked to select a new motif and render it as we saw fit. I chose a scene somewhat reminiscent of Claude Monet’s bridge paintings from his garden at Giverny, a risky proposition since Monet painted his bridge scene so many times and so exquisitely. My first effort appears below.

Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens I

“Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens I,” 2015

Post-critique, Professor Graham Nickson asked us to paint the same motif again, except using a limited palette, in this case, the warm colors beginning with yellows, extending through the oranges, and ending with alizarin crimson in the red spectrum. We were also allowed to use a warm black; I chose lamp black. The challenge in this case was finding an equivalent experience of the motif with so few colors, and because the scene had so many greens in it, a color not available to us, we had to be quite inventive. Fortunately for me, I knew that one can mix a variety of “greens” using yellow + black, a possibility many students were not aware of. The very first thing I did with this second painting was to take each yellow I had available (lemon, cadmium light, cadmium medium, and ochre) and mix it with black to see what greens I could come up with. The resultant painting (below) has quite a different, somewhat mellow and serene feeling to it, and ended up being one of my favorite paintings of the two-week course.

Bridge at Old Westbury Garden II

“Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens II,” 2015

The next day at Old Westbury, we were asked to paint the same motif once again, except this time using the cool spectrum of colors, beginning just to the right of alizarin crimson, which for us was magenta in the purple spectrum, and extending through the greens and into the full range of blues. Although an interesting exercise, I felt I got a bit too “patchy” with my brushwork, an effect that resulted from my selection of a flat brush rather than the round brushes I had been using (see below).

"Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens III

“Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens III,” 2015

For our final effort with respect to this given motif, we were simply asked to paint the scene again using the full palette, drawing upon what we learned through these various investigations. Sometimes it takes a good while before one can fully draw upon important learning experiences. My effort (below) represents, for me, a step in the right direction, but I am still processing the information gleaned from these limited palette exercises. I will continue to consider the implications of a limited palette and intend to more fully realize the potentiality for expressivity based on this knowledge in future work.

Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens IV

“Bridge at Old Westbury Gardens IV,” 2015