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Eruptive Past Revisited

By Vicente Collado Jr.
Biñan, Laguna
September 23, 2015  


Many scenic spots of the Philippines are often the favorite subjects of painters. When I was beginning to paint, I had the same fascination for them. Among my early landscape paintings were water-color depictions of Mayon and Taal volcanos copied faithfully from some postcards and pictures.

That was a long time ago. Now, having added more tools to my creative arsenal, I feel the urge to redo them in a bigger scale, with oil as medium and more in accordance with the principles of a good composition.
These are my early renditions of Mayon and Taal Volcanoes.  

Any good composition has all its elements revolve around one focal point. And herein lies the difficulty in painting mountains as the main subject. If you want the whole mountain to be the center of interest, you will have to reduce its size relative to the canvas. Doing so will make it appear as a distant object which, because of atmospheric perspective, will blur many interesting details you would rather want to highlight. But, if you want details in sharper focus by enlarging the mountain and bringing it closer to the foreground, then it will be extremely difficult to make the whole mountain as the main center of interest.

Of course, there are ways out of this dilemma. But, in these two paintings I decided to avoid the problem altogether by relegating them to mere supporting roles. This doesn’t mean that they are no longer points of interest. They still are but not just the main points of interest.

  For the Mayon volcano painting, the focus is an area nestled at the right side which includes the nipa hut, a portion of the river and all the trees, shrubs and flowers around it. Notice how the brilliant colors are located in this place. A similar but smaller cluster and having the same color scheme is painted at the left side to achieve balance. The same color combination is repeated in the foreground in order to establish unity. The volcano, although pushed backward, remains interesting and becomes a relaxing resting place for the eyes after feasting on the scenery in front of it. Being distant, the volcano appears flat because atmospheric perspective diminishes contrast and makes distinction between shaded and light areas virtually nil.

Sa Libis ng Mayon
Oil on Canvas
50cm x 60cm

  For the Taal volcano painting, the same arrangement and color scheme of Mayon volcano are used since both were meant to hang as a pair. This time, the main center of interest - nipa huts and adjacent objects - is placed at the left side balanced by a smaller cluster of a nipa hut and foliage at the other side. Unlike the gigantic Mayon, Taal is much smaller and so there is no danger of it dominating the canvas even when brought closer forward in the middle ground. As a result, more details can be painted into it.

Overlooking Taal
Oil on Canvas
50cm x 60cm

In both paintings, three ducks - two white adults and a yellow duckling- appear in the foreground. They were placed there to enhance color unity and to help balance the clouds above. Initially, there were only two white ducks, but when my only child saw the paintings he demanded there should be a little duckling that would aptly signify him.

It should be obvious to anyone familiar with the localities of Mayon and Taal that none of these paintings depict a real scenery. I never intended to replicate an actual instance of these natural beauties for the simple reason that it is doubly difficult if not impossible to catch nature in a state or form suitable for painting. It is always necessary to add or subtract elements in the picture in order to come up with a perfect model. After all, painting is not just a matter of capturing likenesses; it is above all creating beautiful compositions. Thus, many times the painter needs to enhance reality in his mind in order to come up with a visual harmony worthy of being transferred into the canvas with his paint and brush.

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