The next day while mulling the problem of the painting over in my mind this thought suddenly occurred to me, "What would an abandoned car look like in that scene?". Of course the first thing I did when I got home was look through my photos of abandoned cars and I found three that I thought might work, out of the three I selected a 1960 Ford Fairlane Club Sedan that I photographed in a salvage yard in Nephi, Utah. The only thing I didn't like about the car is that it was white, but I'm a painter, I can make the car any color I want. I loosely blocked in the car and decided I liked the new direction and continued.
By the end of the second session I decided the addition of the car just might salvage the painting, however it still wasn't quite right, the landscape was still a little dull. When I came home from work on the third day I looked through some of my landscape photos that featured wild ground cover such as grass, bushes and weeds for some possible ideas. I didn't print anything out, just filed some ideas into my brain. In the third session I refined the car some more and added some bushes, adjusted the tree a bit, and adjusted the background. Now I thought I was pretty much done but something was still nagging me. I studied the painting on the 4th day and finally it hit me. I had created several parallel bands of space in what should be a pretty wild and disorganized space. Our minds like to create order out of chaos and that is one of the enemies of a good landscape painting, too much order and a landscape will look unnatural. In my case I had created a band of red bushes, then yellow grass, then car, then yellow grass and then another line of red bushes. I altered the shapes of the two groups of red bushes to break up those bands, in particular I made sure they connected to the car. Finally I decided to call it done.
"Under the Chinese Elm Tree"
Acrylic on panel, 12" X 12"
So, to recap: This painting started out as a portrait of a Chinese Elm tree in a simple landscape consisting of a field and a path...boring. I then added an abandoned car to make a more interesting composition....landscape areas still too plain. I then added bushes and modified the background, much better but too organized. Finally on the last session I broke up the bands to make the scene appear more natural.
I'm sorry I didn't take progress photos, I didn't expect the process on this painting to take so many twists and turns. There is still one question about this painting and it will just have to remain. Is this a portrait of a tree or a junked car? Both I guess but I'll live with that even though it breaks the "rules".