One of the landscape paintings that stands out among the semi-finalists selected by Michael Zakian in the September/October PleinAir Salon competition (www.pleinairsalon.com) is “After a Storm,” by Philadelphia artist Patrick Connors. We wanted to find out more about how Connors created the piece he calls a “breakthrough painting.”
A photograph of Patrick Connors taken by William Thomas Ternay during a workshop Connors taught in 2010
“‘After a Storm’ was created from sketches made directly from nature, my memory, some perspective studies, and several oil bozzetti,” says Patrick Connors. The artist frequently uses the term bozzetti to refer to his plein air paintings, including those he creates in the summer when teaching drawing and painting in Rome, Italy, through the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. He says, “A bozzetto [singular] permits an unfettering of the imagination in that it is not a record of circumstances, but, rather, instances of experience.”
He goes on, “The painting was a commission, and I felt a greater sense of freedom creating it because I knew the collector wanted my personal response to a landscape that included the Columbia Bridge over the Schuylkill River. It turned out to be a real breakthrough painting for me because I was finally able to balance my desire to work directly from nature outdoors with the challenges of developing a large, complicated oil painting. I know lots of other artists can handle large paintings outdoors, but I wasn’t satisfied with the big plein air paintings I attempted. When one of them blew off the easel into the river, I knew I had to work smaller on location and larger in the studio.
“Il Gesú,” by Patrick Connors, 2011, oil, 9 x 12 in. Private collection
“I love the immediacy and freshness of small plein air paintings, but for larger paintings I prefer to do careful perspective drawings when composing the images, and I build up glazes of transparent color to capture the sense of light and atmosphere. ‘After a Storm’ was one of the first landscapes I created that effectively maintained the qualities of plein air while I developed a relatively large studio painting.”
“West Falls Bridge, Summer,” by Patrick Connors, 2011, oil, 16 x 20 in. Private collection
Connors goes on, “I always work on a toned surface, so I started ‘After a Storm’ by making a tonal drawing on a canvas that was the color of faded denim. I did that by covering the surface with a mixture of earth orange and earth blue, and then immediately wiping out the light masses of the design. Next, I secured the light masses with opaque oil paint and then opaquely painted the mid-tones and the shadow masses. From there the process was one of building numerous layers of glaze using oil color thinned with Liquin alkyd medium. It took me about nine months to complete the painting to my satisfaction.”
Commenting on “After a Storm,” Michael Zakian wrote, “This romantic landscape draws upon the traditions of J.M.W. Turner and George Inness in using light as a powerful expressive force that reveals as well as conceals.” Connors’ painting and the other semi-finalists and award winners will be eligible for the $20,000 in cash prizes to be awarded during the Plein Air Convention & Expo, to be held in Monterey, California (www.pleinairconvention.com) from April 10-14, 2013. For more information on Connors, visit www.connorsfinearts.com.