Return to St. Joseph’s Oratory
One can’t help but notice the Oratory – it’s positioned on the crest of Mount Royal, above a rolling lawn and series of wide steps. The enormous copper dome is visible from almost any part of the west island.
It’s somewhat of an optical illusion. There’s a trick of scale between the dome and the massive pillars at the entrance – at first it looks likes any old chapel on the hill – but if you begin the climb up the steps, you quickly realize just how gigantic it is.
This particular sketch led to a new thing for me. I made a painting on location, as I normally do. Sketching rapidly, and painting with energetic washes.
I’ve drawn the oratory before, but have never really been satisfied with last year’s rendition. I felt this one was a much better version. (You be the judge!)
After bringing it home, I couldn’t shake the feeling I had *still* not captured the scope. The impression of the Oratory is not just the building itself – but the whole effect of its placement on a hill high above you, and the vast manicured lawns and gardens.
So, I did something I’ve never done – (though I’ve been wanting to try this for a while). Instead of going back on location for a re-take, I started again in the studio. Re-drawing the sketch entirely, taking more care planning the composition, and more time with the calligraphy of brushwork.
This new piece is about 5 hours, so twice the time spent on location, and has the benefit of studio comforts. (Not worrying about light, weather or sore feet!).
Overall, I’m excited about this process. I never want my work to stiffen up. It’s always a worry that being too comfortable, or using memory aids like photography or tools like a hair dryer (to speed up washes drying) – that these things might change the work. But I like what’s happening here – I think it still has the living feeling I look for.