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Perspectives No. 433 - Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire

Perspectives No. 433

Prairie Fire, 12 x 12", Oil, © J. Hulsey
Prairie Fire          12 x 12"          Oil          J. Hulsey

   Spring is slowly working her magic here in the Midwest, gradually presenting us with visions of beauty as flowers and shrubs start to bloom. Over a couple of decades, Ann and I have turned our yard into a canvas of successive flower compositions which arrive, fade and are replaced with the next set throughout the spring. If the weather is cool, especially at night, the show lasts longer and we can get some real painting done. We have already enjoyed and captured the fabulous blooms of our big Prairie Fire crab tree. That is followed by a large American Fringe tree—a white sensation which lights up the yard and smells like Gardenias. At this moment, the early peonies and iris are fading while the later-blooming ones are starting to open. We live for these moments!

Artist John Hulsey Painting a Prairie Fire Crab Tree

   Building a successful garden takes some thought and planning, much the same way that painting does. Perhaps that is why so many artists have built gardens—it is a natural fit. Monet, Caillebotte, Bonard, Renoir, and many other impressionists, Nabis, post-impressionists, abstract expressionists, and so on, have built gardens as another form of expressing their creativity. See: Beyond Giverny - The Gardens of Caillebotte, Bonnard and Renoir Both activities are remarkably similar except for one important factor. We paint in three dimensions, but we build gardens in four. Understanding the fourth dimension—how time will affect the look of the mature version of a garden—is crucial when we are imagining our composition. Inevitably we will make mistakes and wind up moving plants later, or, heaven forbid, removing some altogether which have either grown too large, or not grown at all. That’s when the painter in us appreciates how much easier it is to paint a garden than make one!

   In paint, we have complete control, but not with Nature. We always learn valuable life lessons in the garden. When we consider what elements make up a good landscape painting, we are also saying the mantra of good garden design. We need to structure a composition which has a strong focal point that is supported by all the other parts—what gardeners describe as “good bones”. We will want to consider major and subordinate masses, textures and edges, repetition of form, variety of color palette and temperatures, symmetry and asymmetry, light and shadow. In garden design, as with painting, we have to try and imagine the finished subject before we begin. When I am painting, I often ask myself questions as I am composing my picture: “What if I move that conifer over to the left ten feet, or perhaps create an opening here to lead the eye to a view framed by those tall shrubs? Maybe I’ll 'zoom in' and crop out the rest of the background to focus on that old barn in the trees”. When Ann and I were designing gardens for other people years ago, our guiding principle was always, “What would we like to paint?” That’s how we create a painting and that’s also the best way we know to build a garden.




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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