River Rising: Visual Effects & The Color of Water

River Rising an original painting by artist Alison Shull

I named this painting “River Rising”, but not everyone sees a river there.  My friend Maria took her first look and told me she loved it because it’s “so Ithaca with the falls”. I always enjoy hearing what others see in my paintings.  Sometimes what you tell me inspires me to have a little more creative fun… Thanks Maria – hope you enjoy the video you’ve inspired!

The Making of River Rising

I did not begin painting “River Rising” with the title or with the feeling of “water” in mind. I started with “blue”. The first paint I put down on the canvas was the prominent blue wedge.  The varying depths of blue loaded in heavy clear gloss gel contrasted starkly with the white canvas.  Looked so good I was tempted to stop right then and call it done.  But no, more needed to come out and after multiple days and layers here it is.

What the Title Means & What the Painting Reveals…to me

I titled the painting quite a while after I painted it, as I took a long time to convince myself that paintings need titles. Visually “River” links to the flowing central feature that appears to many of you as a “river”. The “Rising” link is more subtle – referring both to those circles (some call them bubbles) floating along the “river banks” and to the unknown direction of the flow of the river (is the bottom of the painting downstream or upstream?).

For those who are not satisfied with mere visual connections, I’ll now spill the beans on (some of) what the painting reveals to me. The flow and the float represent the essence of simultaneous transfer of time from future to present to past – the moment that we are always in but can never hold on to.  Uh, yeah, see why I paint – I can’t quite describe it in words. How about you? Any essence revealed?

Perspective and The Color of Water

Ithaca Falls on Different Days With River Rising

Essence and rising waterfalls aside, what is the color of water? Blue? White? Grey? Colorless? While our eyes are eager to recognize “blue” as “water” in “River Rising”, in the real world the color of water depends on factors like the water’s thickness, purity and optical conditions, including the viewer’s vision and perspective. Similarities here to the clarity of glass (and I’m tempted to, but won’t, go off on a tangent about the amazing science and technology of fiber optics…want a little taste? Go here or here) Instead I will end with what writing “the color of water” reminds me of:

The Color Of Water By James McBride

Click on the bookcover image to go to author James McBride’s website.  Then click on the video tab there to listen to this talented writer and jazz musician speak a few simple truths.

Ahhh, more inspiration!

Alison Shull painted River Rising in 2011 and only today got around to writing about it. View more of her art on-line at www.alisonshull.com . In person in Ithaca, NY you can view gallery wrapped canvas prints of River Rising on display at Fine Line Bistro (through Apr. 22, 2013) and at Contemporary Trends (year round).

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