Naples Yellow, Part 2 | Reflections of a Landscape Painter

Classic Color Series

Naples Yellow and I crossed paths for the first time when I went to southern France to study painting and art history at the Marchutz School of Art in Aix-en-Provence. My home in Seattle was far away, and a blank canvas stood before me….

I learned to speak French by shopping in art supply stores and having conversations with shop girls I enjoyed. We spoke in simple, artistic terms…”les couleurs, le papier, et les deux crayons”… at least I could repartee with some ease in that realm. One day, at the Papeterie Michel on the Cours Mirabeau, I landed on Sennelier #567 Jaune de Naples.

“Oliveraie” – oil on canvas

June was in the air and we went out to the countryside every afternoon to paint. I now realize, as a seasoned painter, how truly committed we were. My new tube of paint had a nice weight to it as I rolled and bounced it in my hand. It seemed to begin to breathe as I squeezed it out onto my palette. It did not take long for this rich and creamy pigment to intermingle with the rest of the colors I’d been using for a long time.

Whistling down the Rue de Tholenet, with my painting gear on my back, I came upon an olive orchard. It was lovely and gentle, and the sunlight reflected on flickering olive leaves. I set my easel up in this secluded place, to paint in the light that fell through the trees.

“Le Ble’ Dore” – oil on canvas

Further down the road I walked into a fairy-tale clearing, a private meadow of wheat rippling like a pool of golden light. Each stalk in the field swayed slowly and steadily, in unison with the breeze. I experienced the oil paint as a three-dimensional matter…it could be transferred back and forth from palette to canvas; scooping, mixing, carving and sculpting. I remember painting that day until dusk.

“Le Solitude'” – oil on canvas

“La Lumiere” – oil on canvas

“Still Life” – oil on canvas

“Vie a la Campagne Et” – oil on canvas

All paintings are by Paula Griff McHugh

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