April is the best month.
Because it is when we really begin to feel Spring is here. The sunshine is more joyful and the flower begin to bloom.
There is no better place I could think of to embody the joy I find in Spring than Virginia. It’s where all my happiest memories of Spring are. Another favorite thing about Virginia is its formal architecture and while there are many beautiful places to capture the landscape and the spring, the University of Virginia does feel particularly up to the task. It is an enchanting place of colonnades and filtering the sunlight.
Spring has a certain delicacy in Virginia, I haven’t experienced anywhere else. While I struggled with the route that this “American Road Trip Calendar would take” I went to particularly lengths to ensure that it would swing into Virginia for the Spring- somehow. I know that this is not a real route- and probably no one but me was ever going to trace or even think about if the supposed “route” of this “road trip” was feasible or even made sense. I’d actually prefer if you don’t- because I’m still not sure it does- however- a few things were a requirement— May had to feature Churchill Downs, and April had to be in Virginia.
THE METCALF BRANCHES
Below are some images I used while I worked on this painting.
Some images I pulled to get a sense of the mid-atlantic-touch-of-southern light and shade, as well as the weight of the architecture and columns.
The painting that inspired this piece is a Willard Metcalf, who is arguably one of my very favorite painters because of his subject matter. You can see how this scene appealed to me because the general concept of the composition of trees in front of the architecture— mimicking the Metcalf below. I have done several Metcalf master copies in my studies prior to this painting, and as I painted this I realized that from a very early on point in my painting I have adopted his approach to trees. The movement I deciphered in his strokes have translated from oils (which I studied him in) into my career watercolors.
Most of my watercolor is applied in movement, but particularly my trees- I move very quickly in a nearly-stippling movement that causes a dappled effect. In my mind, I’m moving at the pace the wind blows the leaves.
T.S. ELIOT’S UNEXPECTED HOPE
There is something about Spring that is so universally hopeful, that as I sought an author and concept to bring to mind with this beautiful scene, I failed to find someone who summed up the beauty in flowery and hopeful language. Sometimes, it’s in contrast that we are able to see something so clearly.
What I found most compelling, was a T.S Eliot poem, “The Wasted Land”
” April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
And while this is such a depressing view of Spring, I found truth and beauty in it that I think only an American author could have so successfully penned. True beauty does cause pain (and no, not stilettos kind of pain) but redemption kind of pain. Pain because real growth is required, and beauty because true growth and hope and joy come from it. True beauty is when it overcomes despair. It is along the same lines of the dark is darkest before dawn- and dawn is the most beautiful of all because it is the most hopeful.
There is a sense in his poem the we must confront our disparity and mediocrity in order to be purified; ”Winter kept us warm,” to imply we are comfortable hiding and hibernating, but this beautiful, painful growth has come to push us beyond and toward what is good for us.
”Stirring Dull roots with Spring Rain;” There was none more shocked than myself that I chose this poem to embody Spring, but let the showers wash away the pain and look ahead to the coming glory and beauty of a new season.