Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Greenwood Project, Take 1

Greenwood, as seen from
Main Road

I don't often take my inspiration from local architecture, but I am making an exception for a very special reason.

This year, my town of Hudson (pop. 5500 or so) celebrates its 150th anniversary. Local artist Daniel Gauthier has mobilized 14 artists to produce a series of canvases on the theme of Hudson. Each of us has been assigned an aspect of Hudson's history as the subject of a contemporary 40" x 30" painting. All will be displayed together this summer.

Greenwood, seen
from the water's edge.

I was pleased to learn that my commission is Greenwood, a heritage home that serves as a regional historical museum and as the home base of Storyfest, our local literary festival. My fascination with buildings led Daniel to choose this topic for me.

Greenwood is known for its beautiful lakefront garden, so I waited until the enchanting blue scilla carpeted the lawn before visiting the site. I prefer to portray architecture without a lot of foliage obscuring the lines of the house.

One of the challenges of the project is that all canvases must be vertically oriented. It wasn't difficult to settle on this photo, at right, one of thirty I took for source material.

Nickel (for the roof) and Hollandaise (for the walls)

I knew I wanted to stay true to the actual colours of the house, so my first task was to dye a pale, soft yellow for the building, and a grey-green for the roof.  My dye supplier suggested Hollandaise and Nickel, and that proved to be a good match.

I had a mottled blue and white fabric on hand for the sky.
strips of printed cottons
cut and ready for piecing

After much thought, I decided to use strips of printed, commercial fabric, together with hand-dyes, for the layers of grass, stone, scilla and scrub in the foreground. The technique of strip-piecing is one I used some years ago. I included some cotton printed with antique text to suggest the layers of history that Greenwood is built upon.

getting a feel for how
the colours work together

It was useful to have a mock-up of the colour palette on my design wall as the strip piecing progressed.

At right, you can see how the pieced foreground looks positioned against the sky background. The lines of the building are faintly visible, drawn onto a film of heat-soluble stabilizer that acts as a placement guide for the walls, windows and doors to be fused into place.

The project is challenging because of its size, the vertical format, and because I am combining a representational technique for the structure with an expressive approach to the foreground.

How will it evolve? Unexpectedly. Check out the next post for an update!

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