Donald Journey (http://instagram.com/donaldjurney) inspired me with his idea to paint a landscape based on a poem. It is a beautiful idea, and a beautiful poem that Donald picked for his #thepoetryofplace Challenge. Here it is:
The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
Extract from: "Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl" by John Greenleaf Whittier
The poem brought me memories of winter landscapes from Bulgaria. I used these memories as a starting point, but I also wanted to stay faithful to the poem and depict the hills of gray and the cheerless, sad sun.
I started with a couple of thumbnail drawings in charcoal, to explore composition ideas. Next, I did a quick thumbnail study in oil. I was pleased with the small studies, so I started the painting. I painted on two versions of the painting in parallel. One of the two versions was looser and more experimental. It proved very valuable, since I was able to transfer some ideas from it to my primary painting.
Although I explored using some subtle color (on a thumbnail as well as on my second version of the painting), I decided to stay almost exclusively in grayscale. This is because, I felt that stripping down the color was more true to the emotion of the poem. Color simply did not fit into that painting.