Evoking the Mood of Autumn

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Still Life Painting

Hues of Autumn by Melody Phaneuf, 18 x 25 oil painting


Light, dry, colorful, transitory–Autumn enchants the spirit and sparks an elevated state of awareness. I’ve tried to highlight these characteristics by design choices made in the painting, Hues of Autumn. The selected objects have an obvious connection to the theme but the selection of abstract design elements is to me, the more subtle and intriguing aspect.

The chosen lighting effect, a high major key, creates the sparkle so characteristic of the angle of the autumn light. The tall and anthropomorphic shape of the earthenware vessel evokes a sense of awe, having much to do with its verticality and especially by the open areas cut out by its handles.

A warm, analogous color scheme expresses the transition of the season, its movement away from the dominion of the sun. The angular shapes of the colorful, curling leaves echo the fabric pattern and provide a contrast to the curves of the jar, the seasonal pomegranates, and the oval arrangement of the draped satin. This subtle contrast provides enough disorder to engage the eye and focus attention.

The eye spirals pleasantly through the picture vertically downward and is buoyed back to the top by the placement of the leaves. The movement is reminiscent of autumn winds and suggestive of gradual change.

From the time of my first memorable aesthetic experience, my quest has been to identify the abstract combinations that evoke certain responses. Viewing excavated murals from Pompeii left me astonished. I hadn’t been aware of how the design was drawing me into a state of trancelike sensitivity, poised to fully experience the finale, a cracking strike from the Dionysian flagellation ritual.

That experience opened my eyes and transformed my purpose. Many years later, and with a better understanding of geometry and visual dynamics, I continue to be intrigued by the forces of perception. When color, light, shape, and movement are fine tuned to express an idea, the picture becomes a powerful talisman.