We’ve all had the experience of feeling like one particular day is the first true day of the new season. The sun is a bit warmer than it has been all winter and the grass is greening out. Or a chill wind blows a few of the first fall leaves down to the ground. Mary Bentz Gilkerson painted one of those days, and the picture aptly captures the feeling.
“I find myself drawn more and more to those moments when the atmosphere is changing — when a storm is moving in, the passage from afternoon to evening, transitions from one season to another,” says Gilkerson. “I think one reason is that those moments spark dramatic changes to both the light and color in a scene, both in the broad and specific sense.
“For example, in the Deep South, the dominant colors in the landscape during the summer months are blues and greens. But as fall arrives, that changes and the colors change to a palette that becomes influenced by lavenders and oranges. By November those colors have ripened to deep purple and a brilliant reddish gold that shows up especially in late afternoon or early morning.”
The view that inspired “Winter Evening II”
Gilkerson recalls, “On that day a front was moving through, and what started as a 70-degree day became a 40-degree day in just a couple of hours. The clouds quickly became snow clouds, and we had snow and sleet on an incredibly early date.
“I wanted to capture that period of shift, just as the temperature started to drop. I used a shift in blues in the sky to signal that shift from warmer to cooler, going from phthalo to more ultramarine blue. I wanted the quick marks I used in creating the clouds to convey the movement of the storm’s wind. I exaggerated the dullness of the color of the hayfield to emphasize the end of the growing season and put more emphasis on the streak of light in the sky.”
The artist explains, “Working on a smaller panel with a large knife means that I can quickly and economically capture those changes. I usually mix my colors before I start painting so that I can work fast and know that the colors are going to speak to each other. My Open Box M palette stays charged with that paint, with more added as light and weather shifts.”