Any time you make art, you face constraints. These are either externally given and imposed on you or chosen for whatever reason. Invariably I am constrained to a greater or lesser degree by things like the dimensions of my surface, the shape and size of my brushes and the paint colors I have. To the extent that I have experience with color mixing and persistence in doing so I can mitigate many problems presented by a limited number of starting colors.
I often realize that a particular color scheme resonates with the scene/subject I intend to paint. In this case, the more I worked, the more it occured to me that a secondary color scheme predominated the landscape and Pronghorn. At that point I began to lean toward a more limited palette. This meant using more greens, purples and oranges and trying not to use as many blues, yellows and reds. You will find primary touches here and there, but overall I tried to limit my color choice, in the same way a musician choses a particular key.
I took the photo I worked from for this painting in late December last year. Yellowstone was blanketed with snow at that point, which meant I would have lots of "whites" in this painting. If you look carefully enough and give your eyes time, you'll see that most "whites" are really subtle pastels. This is because white objects almost always reflect colored light from somewhere, which is why most shadows on snow are blue. They are reflecting the sky. In some cases I painted the snow to represent this phenomenon, in others, I exaggerated the coloration of the plant life in the back ground to create a tension with the colors of the Pronghorn. By doing this the foreground and background compete spatially, which helps with the illusion of depth.
Finally I have a bad habit of making "tonal" paintings, which means being too literal when I try to recreate color. When I try too hard to color match what I see in a photograph, my colors tend to have one "volume." This means that because I have mixed them to the degree that they lack their original intensity, none really sing out. Alternatively, not mixing colors (literally or spatially in terms of mark placement) the painting will be "loud" all over, like music turned up all the way. In light of these twin realizations, I try to incorporate a range of color intensities in my paintings. For example if you look at the back of the Pronghorn you'll see intense red-oranges juxtaposed with larger areas of darker earthy reds. Of course my more vibrant intense marks didn't show up in the photograph, but then I'm not trying to recreate that experience in its totality. This painting preserves something essential about that original scene but also gives you something new and imaginative to consider.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.