"Then, And Now" or "Then & Now" in the blog search feature, is an ongoing occasional series where themes of progression, time, and memory are explored.
This painting has an interesting backstory, starting in 2015 when I took an amazing plein air landscape painting workshop in New Hampshire from Thomas Kegler, offered through the Grand Central Atelier.
I was brand new to the genre of landscape after having done still life painting for years, and on this evening a sunset painting meetup with renowned landscape painter Erik Koeppel and others was scheduled, which would be my first time ever attempting the extreme challenge of capturing a live sunset in paint.
I was thrilled to be painting alongside these legends of the genre and did my best to soak up any knowledge I could while absolutely speed-panic painting my way through a much too short sunset. It was a memorable experience for me and the artistic result was far less important than the practice and mental impressions made.
As such, I was never happy with the results of my painting and it sat on my studio drying rack since that trip, offering a great memory and calling out faintly to be resolved into a product I can be more happy with.
As fate would have it, and I won’t attempt to even speculate why, these past few months was when the random spark of an idea and inspiration finally came to me after 8 years, and I knew it was time to rework this thing. I focused on accuracy this time around, as it had been so long that I was resigned to using photo references from that evening rather than relying on memory, and I always hated how inaccurate the mountains turned out the first time.
The rest of the original study was encouragingly accurate to the hazy color diffusion of those moments and the rest of the spatial proportions. I regret losing that hazy pastel color chord in my reworking, which ended up being based on a later stage of the sunset when the forest and mountains had become much darker and cooler, no longer bathed in amber glow. But despite changing its palette and color harmony, I believe it to be a better painting now overall, and feel a sense of closure that this at least won’t be haunting me from the studio wall anymore.
Side note: improvement is guaranteed if you just show up and put in the time and effort consistently! So if you’ve been grinding, don’t be afraid to revisit old work when the time finally feels right. Finishing paintings, no matter how long after the fact, allows an artist to learn more lessons and ultimately improve more than abandoning unfinished projects for good.