For the sunset above, I relied on my memory more heavily than on the somewhat grainy and overexposed photograph I took from a boat offshore near Cartagena, Colombia almost three years ago.
I remember it was one of those scenes where I thought, "Now, this will be a painting." I soaked in the warm light of the view and tried to commit it to memory, never imagining that three years would pass before I would try to recreate it in paint. I remembered the picture several days ago, when a stormy day interfered with my hopes of painting outside.
I spent much more time scrutinizing the colors than I usually do. Painting from memory is complicated because I not only have to pay careful attention to the composition, but I have to step away from painting on a regular basis and return to it with a fresh eye. This is because painting from memory requires a lot of imagination with color. (And I'll admit that sometimes imagination gets out of hand!) When I paint from memory, I'm not just trying to create a vivid, accurate impression of what I see in front of me...I'm trying to recreate a compelling (and internally consistent) image that exists only in my mind's eye.
Looking critically at the work throughout the process, I considered things like the following:
- Are the colors I've used consistent for a sunset in this weather?
- Are the reflections in the water realistic without being overdone? (Does it look "wet"?)
- Are my color adjustments maintaining the integrity of the composition?
These are just a few of the questions I mull over in making adjustments to a painting done from memory....