When the sun set and the fog blew in, I noticed the beautiful dispersed light flowing from street lights, cars and neighboring homes.
I ventured onto the campus. The thick fog created soft moving shapes in the trees and the spaces between. All the buildings disappeared from view, leaving the shadowy trees bathed in gold from the street lights.
Mature trees shaped by this type of weather became my mysterious companions. They waved to me. I came closer to see their details. I placed their portraits into my digital camera.
The windy, chilling fog and darkness usually drives me homeward for warmth and hot tea, but this night was different. The golden light warmed me with inspiration. The thick fog surrounded me like a blanket. The mysterious atmosphere left me wondering what might emerge from the woods, so I stayed on, looking and imagining.
In the moist air I walked into the shadows. I felt light as if moving slowly through the clouds, when it was actually the clouds surrounding me. I climbed a tree without leaving the ground—by stepping carefully into its reflection on the pavement.
When this experience settled into my heart, mind and body, I had no sense of time or place—just beauty and inspiration.
I returned home to paint this experience.
I started with a white canvas that I filled with my favorite shade of purple. While it was drying I mixed different versions of yellow, purple’s complementary color, then mixed analogous shades from orange to brown.
I painted a winding road disappearing into the distance. Then with a big soft brush in hand, I painted the golden-orange atmosphere as if the wind was blowing my arm around the canvas. I continued painting watching the purple disappear or peek through between brushstrokes. Colors intermingled on the canvas, similar to the wind in the fog.
With darker colors I painted the foreground trees, giving them soft edges. In the distance I formed shadowy shapes of trees and bushes, all joining together with overlapping branches.
Up close it didn’t look like much, but as I stepped away, the trees appeared through the fog and mystery in the distance.
This is the type of painting with universal appeal. Some will like the colors or the painting style. Others will feel the warmth or perhaps sense the chill in the air. Yet others will imagine things in the distance.
There is a story here in the painting, but it is no longer my story, it is now unique to the viewer.
Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her website is janetarlinebarker.com.