Thursday, October 2, 2014

John Thompson's Central Park Series, part 2

John Thompson painting
The Conservatory Garden is Central Park’s formal six-acre garden between 103rd and 106th street on Fifth Avenue. It is divided into three smaller gardens, each with a distinct style: Italian, French, and English.

At the south end of the Conservatory is the English style garden. This intimate space has a mixture of trees, shrubs, and perennial plants, with five seasonal flowerbeds. In the center, under a large crab apple tree, is a lily pond with a memorial fountain dedicated to Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of “The Secret Garden”. The main characters from the book, Mary and Dickon, stand at one end of the pond.

I began painting the Lily Pond series on September 1st, 2013, Painting the lilies presented a unique set of problems that I hadn’t encountered before. Besides the usual difficulties of plein air painting, such as the sun moving, and overhead clouds, I discovered that the lilies are constantly opening and turning toward the sun. The reflections of the overhead crab apple tree also kept changing depending on the light, and the leaves of the tree above started to fall into the pond as the month progressed. The Lily pond is also a very popular place, so I was rarely ever alone. Events take place around the pond that I had no control of, such as tour groups and family outings, especially on the weekends. Once I was kicked out of my spot by the pond, because a wedding was about to begin.

But the results more than made up for any problems I was having. The first painting I did of the lilies far exceeded my expectations. I quickly learned that I had to capture a particular time of day in my initial drawing and to paint faster. This would include a specific moment of the opening of the flowers (within an approximate 15-20 minute time frame).  The paintings in this series usually took about 1½ hours to complete, out of necessity.

These small (5 ½” x 8 ½”) watercolors were eventually turned into giclee prints and framed. I leave the originals in a bound sketchbook. The watercolors also were useful as studies for two larger oil paintings (36” x 48”) of the lily pond.

John Thompson

The English Garden, watercolor
Lily Pond 1, watercolor
Lily Pond 2, watercolor
Lily Pond 3, watercolor
Lily Pond 4, watercolor
Lily Pond 5, watercolor
Lily Pond 6, watercolor
Lily Pond I, oil
Lily Pond II, oil

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