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Rock Street, San Francisco

?The pale blue sky seems to stretch infinitely into the distance, exposing endless miles of wild, untouched land. Far away, the sky is met by a line of subtle hills and plateaus; and if one looks closely, a few snow-capped peaks are visible afar off. In the foreground, the wild prairie grass seems to move gracefully with the flow of the wind as a line of cattle drift slowly in the same direction, grazing the wild prairie grass along the way. Upon first glance, any Montanan would know that this painting entitled Sunsoaked by Davi Nelson (oil, 2 ½ x 3 feet, 2002, Toucan Gallery) portrays the true essence of Montana, the Big Sky Country. ?The artist’s careful use of color in the painting helps to create a unified, yet attention-grabbing effect for the viewer. Because the artist limited her palette to seemingly only a few colors (mostly blues and browns) she maximizes the use of different values to create interest in the picture. In the upper left-hand corner of the painting, white tufts of cumulous clouds enliven the light blue sky. The color of the sky gives the impression that the time is probably around midday; the sun seems to be directly overhead or slightly behind the viewer. Touching the sky in the distance are the crisp, far-off plateaus, which split the picture almost exactly across the middle. These, like the sky, are blue in color, but are a much darker shade, and give a nice contrast against the soft white clouds above. Directly beneath the mountains, a line of dark and medium brown strokes define a small gorge in the prairie, where possibly a river or stream runs. The bottom half of the painting consists mostly of the prairie grass. This is a light ivory hue, but it also contains and seems to reflect a lot of the light blue from the sky, which has a unifying effect. The cattle, which appear to be meandering in almost a single-file, but uneven line, provide the sharpest contrast and interest in the painting, between their dark brown silhouettes dotted across the light colored grass that surrounds them. Even though, as the title implies, this painting portrays a sunny day, the cool colors used throughout the entire composition give a more neutral, serene feeling of calmness. The blue undertones in the prairie grass, especially, make it seem as though the day is not quite as bright or sunny as the title implies. If the viewer were to look at the bottom half of the painting without seeing the light, partly cloudy skyline, he or she might conclude that the day is overcast and gray. Perhaps there is a cloud covering the sun.?The color usage in this piece plays a very important role in the mood of the painting; nonetheless, texture and style also influence the overall feeling. The painting is not photo-realistic but the natural style used in the composition gives the viewer a true sense of being out on the prairie. While not depicting every detail of the scene, the artist still gives a clear rendition with flowing stroke movements that seem strong and deliberate, yet delicate. The sky is made up of round circular strokes, which makes the clouds appear sweeping and wind-blown. The prairie grass is made up of quick, upward strokes. The technique used in creating the sky gives it a soft texture, while the larger amounts of paint and quicker stroke movements give the prairie a rough, realistic texture. The two combine to create a pleasant kind of equilibrium.?Although the colors, style, and texture used in this painting create the mood, the strongest point of the piece is its solid composition. The amazing thing about this painting is how the artist manages to create the illusion of space and draw the viewer’s eye so deeply into the scene. In the lower left-hand corner the largest and boldest cow (in value and definition) is found. This is the place in the painting which first catches the viewer’s eye. However, as soon as one beholds the first cow, the eye will be immediately drawn to the second and third cows, moving to the right and upward. The viewer will automatically want to continue following the line of roving cows, as each cow becomes smaller and less defined until they seem to disappear in the distance. The cows seem to be heading to the gorge along the horizon under the mountains, where it appears that, perhaps, some have already reached the gorge or are very near it. However, before the viewer can actually see for certain if the cattle have, indeed, reached the point of interest, the shapes of the cows become so indistinct that one could not say for certain whether or not they  are even cattle anymore. Splotches and spots of dark brown that seem to be cattle merge into the curved, dark brown form of the distant valley. This point of uncertainty and imagination seems to be miles away and is where almost all of the lines in the painting converge. Below the line of cows is a darker patch of prairie grass, which also catches the viewer’s eye and allows the eye to flow back into the line of cows at midpoint.  The grass, being painted in upward strokes, also bends in the direction of the line of cattle, toward the center of the picture. This helps draw the viewer’s eye deeper into the scene.  In the sky the clouds start out larger in the upper left-hand corner and decrease as they move towards the center of the painting, where the cattle are headed. These different aspects of the composition form a definite triangle. Each element leads the viewer’s eyes to the center of the painting, slightly to the right, where the line of cows disappears. As the viewer studies the painting, he or she will find his or her eyes flowing in a smooth, even pattern through the scene.?Overall, Davi Nelson has created a strong piece, through the use of colors, texture, style, and composition. The cool, calming, and peaceful colors are alluring to any passerby. Each viewer who stops to examine this work of art will find not only a pleasing color scheme, but texture in the sky, grass, and cattle; a natural style portraying a technique individual to the artist; and a composition that could hold the viewer’s interest. The large size of the canvas also gives the feeling of being able to almost walk right into the scene.  Each of these elements combines to create a strong work of art, one that can create peace and tranquility in the mind of each person who views its simple splendor.

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