Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Blue Heron at Dawn"

While Tommy Thompson and his wife were on their way to the Leiper's Fork, TN, area early one morning, they were lucky enough to spot a Great Blue Heron wading in a marshy area at the corner of Hillsboro and Berry's Chapel Roads (across the street from the Legends Ridge Subdivision) in Franklin, TN. After parking near the side of the road, Thompson quietly removed his tripod from his minivan so that he could get a better photo of the beautiful bird. According to the Cornell University's Ornithology Lab, the great blue heron is the largest and most widespread heron in North America. The blue-gray bird has long legs, an S-shaped neck and long, thick bill. The heron has a head-to-tail length of 36 to 54 inches, a wingspan of 71 inches, and a weight of 4 to 8 pounds. It is found in shallow marine waters and marshy areas near lakes or ponds. Although the Great Blue Heron eats primarily fish, it is adaptable and willing to eat other animals as well. Several studies have found that mice are a very important part of the diet. It feeds in shallow water or at the water's edge during both the night and the day, but especially around dawn and dusk. Thompson painted "Blue Heron at Dawn" after returning to his studio because of the unpredictable nature of the bird.

Tennessee River Serenity

To celebrate his 46th wedding anniversary, Tommy Thompson decided to do some plein air painting while his wife, the writer, wrote this blog post. In rural Lauderdale County, AL, we are blessed with many creeks (like the Cypress and Shoals Creeks), lakes (like the Wilson, Wheeler, and Pickwick Lakes), and the Tennessee River, which provide an abundance of subject matter for plein air painting excursions. We remember well the sage advice of the master painter, Ned Mueller, during the 2003 Scottsdale Artist School/Plein Air Painters of America workshop in Old Lyme, CT. Mueller said, "It does not matter what subject matter you choose to paint; what matters is your perspective--the idea you are conveying."

In other words, when you paint like Tommy Thompson, you begin with one compelling idea or theme and focus on that. For example, he studies the effects of light on the subject. The play of light on elements of a landscape--trees, marshes, water, bogs, grasses, and reeds--can be extremely dramatic. As a painter advances in his painting skills, he is compelled to capture not an entire scene but only that portion of a scene that "tells" his story.

"My purpose in painting this scene was to capture the serenity, the quiet mood of this river scene," Thompson says. "There were no sounds other than those of the buzzing of insects and the bubbling water created by splashing fish and geese. I focused on the patterns created by the light on the trees and the large mozaic patterns of algae on the water's surface."

When you squint as master painter Kevin Macpherson teaches, you can see the main "puzzle pieces" of the composition of this painting. This attention to the large masses is the foundation of all good landscape painting. The "puzzle pieces" of this scene are similar to a marshy area that Thompson painted in Old Saybrook, CT, near the home of the late actress, Kathryn Hepburn.

In creating "Tennessee River Serenity," Thompson painted "thick over thin" using a palette knife, with his Open Box M stationed near a rusty old iron bridge overlooking a tributary feeding the Tennessee River. The marshy area in this scene is home to a family of Canadian geese that were swimming about almost oblivious of their human observers.

To order this painting, click on this link: "Tennessee River Serenity." To see other paintings by Thompson, click on http://www.tommythompsonart.com/