Monday, August 29, 2011

Thoughts on Painting Cotton...

 ‎"...the oldness of it all. That is something I always try to capture in my paintings- the oldness of a place...." - Roger Dale Brown (quote form American Art Collector July, 2011)

To be a good landscape painter you have to be able to paint what you see... To be a GREAT landscape painter you have to paint the scene in a way that is "minds eye" beautiful , tasteful, and artistically rendered. Here are photos of a "southern scene" - a delta cotton field scene and church that I'm painting right now:

Combined with:

Actually to be honest, I had neither photos in the studio while painting. If you've seen one of these delta churches and cotton fields you've about seen them all. I just love them - and have about memorized them. I just found these photo references for the blog for you to see in case you've never seen southern cotton fields and churches.  
Here's my small study (11x14):

A Southern Scene 11x14 Oil. ©Dot Courson

The larger one being painted from that first small painting: 

Larger version of A Southern Scene ©Dot Courson 2011

Teaching notes: Do it small first and see if it would make a good painting if done larger. 
That's what I did. Now I'm using it as a good reference for the larger version. Perspective has to be worked out on this type thing...so knowing how to draw helps. I made a decision about the direction of the light and started loosely massing in the "volume" of the cotton field and am adding the reds that show the cotton leaves' color more like they really look like when they're dying from being sprayed by defoliation spray and about to begin losing  their leaves. You don't have to paint every cotton bowl out there when you paint cotton. It's better to paint a few really well ....and then let the viewer will fill in the rest with their mind. I left the land across the road flat like the delta.

By the way...
It helps you paint a cotton patch like this from memory if you were born poor, (maybe in Mississippi and maybe in the delta) and probably lived in the 60's and at some time had a canvas cotton sack around your shoulders and know what it feels like to step between the rows and have felt the sting and residual soreness of the sharp husk of the bowls on your finger tips ...OR at least had a nap on your parents cotton sack as it's pulled through the shade of cotton stalks and drank iced water out of a mason jar that is insulated by a brown paper sack and actually be able to recall the SMELL of the brown paper sack and defoliating cotton as you paint. 

It's just not worth it for everyone... 


  1. I love the painting -- and -- your description of living in cotton patch country. :)

  2. Nothing like experience to lend credence to one's work. Your painting is more beautiful than the photo. Nice job.