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  • Writer's pictureHilda Van Netten

Wheat King #9

Yesterday, a yellow wheat field appeared.

I will probably feel the need to go over the entire field again, deepening the colours. We'll see. The colours I used were W&N New Gamboge, Burnt Sienna, a bit of Yellow Ochre and a bit of French Ultramarine to darken the browns.

Notice the shadows of the heads of wheat on the man's pants. Shadows are so important in creating depth. Just like the deep shadows on the lady's arm next to the man. Helps her to look more three dimensional.

For me, the most stressful part of this painting has been the thought of painting the sky. I rarely paint skies. Because the reference photo contains no clouds, I used some online examples of skies over wheat fields in Washington state. They remind me of seeing the skies in Montana years and years ago. So big.

So, what design? To test out the design of the sky, I printed the image on card stock and did a couple of thumbnail paintings. The top one has the diagonal movement of a larger cloud behind the people and the bottom one has clouds along the horizon and a peaceful blue sky above.

My trusty design expert (Ted) agreed that the top one created more interest than the bottom one. After all, we were farmers for over 20 years and farming is rarely peaceful. The sky should reflect the uncertainty of farming, I think.

This morning, I began to paint the sky. I have a difficult time using large brushes. Tried that for a while and gave up. Back to my Alvaro Castagnet 8 round brush, a fine tipped brush that holds lots of paint. If I could only own one brush it would be that one.

As I write this post, I am waiting for the paper to dry. I'll be going back in and smoothing out the blue sky. Might have to glaze over a few times to get the consistency and depth of colour that I am looking for. Speaking of colour: Winsor & Newton's French Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and some of Daniel Smith's Iridescent Electric Blue to give the horizon area a little zip. The moody greys in the clouds were picked up from my pallet: leftover greys from the painting with a little ultramarine thrown in to blue them up a bit.

Most of the right side of the sky is going to be a solid blue..... I think....or I could turn it into one big white cloud. I think I am going to look at this for a while and let it speak to me. There is a lot of hope for a farmer in a clearing sky.

I came across a poem I'd never read this morning by Wendell Berry. It's called How to Be a Poet (to remind myself)

I think these words could describe how to be an artist too.


Make a place to sit down. Sit down. Be quiet. You must depend upon affection, reading, knowledge, skill—more of each than you have—inspiration, work, growing older, patience, for patience joins time to eternity. Any readers who like your poems, doubt their judgment. ii Breathe with unconditional breath the unconditioned air. Shun electric wire. Communicate slowly. Live a three-dimensioned life; stay away from screens. Stay away from anything that obscures the place it is in. There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places. iii Accept what comes from silence. Make the best you can of it. Of the little words that come out of the silence, like prayers prayed back to the one who prays, make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.

I love the lines: There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places. They remind me of the feeling I often had behind the fence at Brookside Youth Centre. Even though we were in a concrete, echoing room with locked doors and fences and double gates that clanged when you closed them, there were occasionally times of sacredness. I sometimes felt I was standing on holy ground.

I kind of feel like that today.

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