W h i t b e c k  N o t e s
Fall 2019
16" x 12"  oil on panel
Welcome to the Fall 2019 Whitbeck Notes
          All settled in, this is when the majority of my paintings are done. Fall, the gateway to that dark abyss of Winter. The show van is emptied and parked and my nest, the studio, is prepared, ready for the start of large and small paintings; still life, floral, birds and commissions. Focus is a good word to use here. No more am I thinking about the show schedule and trips and where to stay, or squeezing in the start of a painting here or the varnishing of a painting there, it is all one big open and empty void, the Fall, waiting for whatever tickles my fancy.
         Even as I write this, two panels have already been started. A large 18" by 24" which is flooded with all the detail of a beautiful Kashan carpet with its twisting, curving floral stems, their flower heads turning this way and that way, so rich in it's earthy red color. Lemons and limes sitting in my favorite pewter tazza contrast sharply against the red Kashan background. The other panel is a bit smaller, a Baluch carpet this time, is draped over the table, a simple clear glass vase holds a symphony of flowers that travel across the panel, each adding in their own way, finally ending the story, like the sun, in the west at the lower edge of the table top, a red tulip bows down in farewell.
          I think that these set ups and constructions are just as enjoyable as the act of painting the actual piece. I use the word construction here because that is sometimes how it feels; setting the table top at the right height, propping it up a few more inches with some books from my studio library (for some reason that hefty Bosch catalog seems to always do the trick!). The carpet is pushed, folded and draped just so to get the right angle that will trail off to the lower corner of the panel. I try a few different vases; silver with its mirror-like qualities. Clear glass, it's window reflections floating over the dark background. Or maybe one of my reproduction Dutch roemer's with those raspberry prunts, such a great texture. Next, looking through my flower photo's, I arrange their colors and shapes that will work best to give the flow that I want. Not a random arrangement. One bloom leading to another, nodding towards the direction of travel, that flow. Using a view finder now, I test the idea. Horizontal at first, but maybe vertical? And maybe a bright white linen cloth rumpled at the top and cascading down the lower right edge of the panel. That could look great and would make a nice relief from all the dark earth colors of the carpet and background. Pull this, tilt that, a smaller bunch of blooms in the center maybe, slide this to slightly off center. View finder, view finder and view finder again, keep adjusting and checking until it feels right. The Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio all sounds like a good idea but I never get that far and always decide to just go with what pleases the eye. Actually, I have a good golden ratio story that happened at an art show once, but I will have to save that for another Whitbeck Notes.
           Impatience pushes me to continue on and set up my panel and sketch out the composition, even going so far as to jump right into the raw umber underpainting. Take a look at the summer 2019 Whitbeck Notes to read all about this stage. I would say that for most of the time all is good and everything seems to be in the right spot and I feel confident to continue on, this first step a success. Once in a while though, right after I get the underpainting done and get a better picture of the overall-ness of the panel, I might sit back in my chair, observing and find it just is not working. At this point, it is good to walk away from the set up and come back later with fresh eyes, a new perspective. This is what a smart person would do. But for me, hard to leave things undone, I continue pushing and sliding, tilting and draping until all comes out right, to me anyway. It is fun indeed, and I enjoy this process of creation very much. It is just as important as the actual painting stages I think, and having this large plot of time before me each Fall with no interruptions allows for these paintings to come freely and with no restraints.
11" x 14"  oil on panel
          I find myself in these Fall and Winter months also working on and finishing up commissions acquired from earlier in the season. After all of the back and forth of ideas and sketches I can now settle down and focus in on working on these paintings and sending them off. For an idea of how commissioning a painting works, click here for the commissions page on my website.
12"  9"  oil on panel
Dallah with Kiwi and Orange
12" x 16"  oil on panel
          Be sure to keep an eye on my website for all work and new paintings as well as for the 2020 art show schedule as it forms up. There are always a few tweaks in there, adding or removing shows.

All my best,
James Whitbeck
(413) 695-3937
still life in progress
floral in progress
a studio set up