Finished at the weekend. Oil on canvas board, approx 20 x 24in
After a day of steady rain and a dull overcast, on my journey home, the clouds retreated like a great roof, sliding eastwards, lit by the setting sun in that quality of light that brings out the colours in a subdued but intense way.
There is a small detail in the painting that isn’t apparent in this image…. I may upload a higher resolution photo in due course.
As before, I made a smaller version in parallel, to make running tests of colours and ideas (oil on board, approx 7 x 5in) :
Now to let it settle while I return to make small adjustments to another picture and investigate the costs of framing.
Happy New Year to you if you’re just seeing this in January!
Another helpfully wet day outside but I had necessary admin to do this morning, so the light was past its best when I mixed new colours. A portable video light doubles as a handy daylight, which helps at this time of day.
I got some momentum after painting the first part of what I’d planned and let it carry me along to a natural conclusion; I have to let the paint harden a bit before the final stages. I’m pleased with the progress and the result.
Tomorrow I may add some amendments to another picture that, on reflection and feedback, needs it. Resisting too early a return to this one may take an effort, though another project demands proper attention and that will help my self-control.
Perhaps a finish by the weekend..? I hope so. More soon.
Happy New Year to you, even if you’re reading this at any other time (why not consider now to be a new beginning anyway?!). After a few weeks’ pause for work, family and festive commitments, at last I can return to the painting I started in mid-December.
On New Year’s Day I mixed an area of colour, having to work mostly in a mix of artificial light, that I thought was right. Now, in the cool north-westerly light of a dreich day, it’s no good.. scrape down and start again. In one way, frustrating, in another, a feeling of adventure, boldness and freedom arises. My long struggle with tightening up in my painting continues, especially when working on a “proper” canvas.
So back to just looking at my reference photos, digitally played-with to help experiment with approaches, then turn away and face the process: palette, brushes, canvas and my mind. Will it be a struggle or a dance?
This is the working title of my latest painting, also a previous blog post from just over a year ago. The experience and sketch I referred to in that short post inspired this version, supported by further recent observations, sketches, photos and reflection in the same nearby location; the dyke along the banks of the River Forth. This dyke keeps the ancient tidal marsh as fields, for now, the closest thing to polders that I’ve seen here.
As before, I have used a smaller primed board to test colours, marks and ideas before committing to the main canvas, resulting in a second painting alongside it. It serves as a sort of play area, a “doesn’t matter ” space in which I find it easier to relinquish the attempt to over-control my painting.. steps in development. I don’t mean to imply that I am avoiding improving my technical use of the paint, I’m working on this in small steps as I learn and watch others too; whether you are seeing this in my work is less certain.. what do you think? Let me know in the comments.
This is a special time of year for me, a time of memories and often changes too. This time that has included losing two friends of fairly recent acquaintance but deep connection; the reality of impermanence and uncertainty hits home, stripping away complacency, revealing attachments, reminding me of what is really important.
So now I let this one rest and cure (oils dont really “dry” in the way that, say, watercolours do) and begin to look through my sketchbooks and photos for ideas for the next painting. My focus is on landscapes at present, there is an open exhibition I have in mind to submit work to in the Spring and they need time to harden enough for framing.
Walking to the bus, earlier today, I noticed the contrast between the advance of Autumn, accelerating now as the trees let go their gold-brown-yellow burdens of leaves and days shorten, and the air temperature, which is still very mild. The shorter days leave me with a feeling of greater urgency to seize any opportunities to be outside but also to paint, a conflict I have not yet really resolved.
More soon. Best wishes and thank you for visiting.
Early stages of a new painting, while the air becomes more autumnal and I listen to the broadcast of the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Outside, a bird sings, a late white butterfly flutters on the neighbour’s flowers, a spider on my window frame catches a tiny insect.. life and death, perpetual motion.
I wish Elizabeth Windsor and the family well; however strong one’s sense of duty to an inherited role, it can’t be easy, being so much in the public eyes of the world. So whatever my feelings about the institutions of our country’s government system or, indeed, the qualities of our present government, I think these are appropriate ceremonies for someone who carried out a demanding and sensitive role very well, given our long and complex history.
For my own part, I am planting the seeds of what I hope will be new and fruitful projects.. I feel I’m making some small advances in my art, that’s part of it. Here’s a detail…
These water-mixable oils have a pleasant but faint smell; just as well given that my “studio” is an area in my bedroom too!
I wasn’t expecting to complete this painting today but I just found a sort of flow with it and feel happy with the result. It’s a strange process, deciding when a painting is really “finished” and normally I’ll let it sit a day or two for the continuing processing in my mind to settle, before actually signing the work. Today I felt able to “sign it off” straight away, allowing myself some leeway if I feel, on reflection, a minor adjustment is needed.
This time, I used a small sketching board, primed with tinted gesso, in parallel with the main canvas, on which to try out ideas and test colours. It’s not primarily intended to become a secondary version of the painting but I want to keep that possibility and use spare paint to do so if it seems to be going somewhere. I’ve sometimes found in the past that I’d inadvertently produced something interesting on a spare sheet of paper I was using to test colours or to use up leftover paint, especially with quicker-drying acrylics; so why not use a board and make it a mini-painting in its own right, if that’s the way it’s developing?
What do you think? I’d be interested in your thoughts in the Comments..
The main reference was a sketch I did on site in my little sketchbook, using a drawing pen and Inktense pencils, applying a wash to it later. It was one of those breezy, warm days in August, the crops (oats, I think) ripening and creating a beautiful range of golden-yellows, each type of grain with its own texture and subtleties of movement in the wind and well-defined shadows moving swiftly over the land. It’s a sight I suspect many who are unfamiliar with Scotland might be surprised at, if their idea of the country is of either post-industrial urban harshness or the grandeur of the “wild” Highlands, with the odd “hairy coo” for good measure!
I was out for a short bike circuit in the area, sketchbook in rucksack – I ride a touring bike and am pretty sedate, one of the joys of cycling is the ease of stopping and a reasonably stable “easel” of sorts to lean/sit on. There are large arable fields all around here, between Falkirk and Stirling, close to the River Forth. The Ochil hills provide a modest mountain backdrop and a reminder of their larger siblings to the West and North, mountains I want to revisit soon, after a long gap engaged in other priorities – family stuff, video editing, sea-kayaking and the like.
The next painting ideas are surfacing, to be noted and pondered in my workbook, and I have videos to turn to tomorrow (Monday off from work – hurrah!) – a project nearing completion for my YouTube channel. I’ll get the canvas ready on the easel, to challenge me to action by its blank tempting presence.
More to report soon, I hope. If you have any questions about either the painting or the process, please put them in the Comments, below… I do read and respond to them!
Yesterday was a Good Day, spent in the Scottish National Gallery at the “Taste of Impressionism” exhibition, meeting friends there for lunch and diving back into the exhibition with my workbook and eyes open to soak up as much learning and inspiration as I could in the time.
I was impressed by the exhibition and the supporting information, even though I wasn’t able to hire an audio guide – they were all out in use! Most of the paintings were acquired by Scottish collectors and it was a superb opportunity to see both some well-known works and some paintings by artists I wasn’t aware of.
Among these was Pierre Bonnard, arguably not an “Impressionist” as such, but carrying the ideas to a new level and offering me the chance to reflect, observe and learn, to see what I can carry into my own painting practice.
There is more I could write, were it not (again) getting late enough that I need to choose between the sleep I need and the early-hours inspiration and creativity I want…. as I need to drive to work in the morning, sleep wins.
Still, it’s been a Good Weekend, with some productive painting time this morning, adding to a new piece of work while rain fell outside. The work may be slow and sporadic but it is in progress. Have a Good Week!
Upstairs, the soft scent of water-mixable oil paint on canvas…. after a gap, I’ve started a new painting. Images and perhaps more to follow in a while. Meantime, I finished one sketchbook and started a new one..
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It’s been a while, too long really, since last painting. Other forms of creativity have occupied the time and energy I’ve had over the last few months. Then, stepping off the bus near home on Friday, I was struck by thesight of billowing cumulus over the Ochil hills, green crops rippling in the wind. Now, at last, the time to squeeze out fresh paint and make a sketch, referring to the fresh memory and a hasty photograph.
It’s not finished but, having started, it will be.
I have been looking at these splendid harvest fields for a while, over the last few years I’ve been in this area. This part of the Forth valley has a lot of large arable fields, any old hedges that may have been there are long gone and they are ploughed, planted and sprayed right up to the edges, little or no “headlands” of uncultivated ground left for wildflowers to grow in and provide a modicum of refuge and food for insects. The main crops seem to be various grains – wheat, oats, possibly some barley – and rapeseed or similar oil-seed plants. The fields appear to be intensively cultivated, though hay is grown and gathered into these impressive and slightly surreal-looking cylinders that have been a feature of UK farming for many years now. They ripen into vibrant, vast areas of rich golds of varying hues and textures, depending on the forms of the various crops, with darker lines that emphasise the form of the land, tracks of huge tractors and baling machines, then the harvesting machinery.
In my walks and cycle rides around here, I’ve also been struck by the ambiguous beauty of the Grangemouth refineries (Ineos, I think, is the company that operates them). They are responsible for both providing the necessary fuel, fertilizers and other agrochemicals for our present agriculture, significant local employment and for a lot of hazards and pollution of the local and wider environment. Flares are regularly to be seen, occasionally huge rolling flames and sooty fumes, following, I’m told, emergency pressure relief procedures. I understand that the company is fined on a fairly regular basis for these releases of gas, though I’ve seen and heard no sign of meaningful remedial action. As with many things, the situation has many facets.
Large-scale engineering, ships and industrial buildings have always fascinated me; there is an element of the frustrated engineer in me for sure, I was never able to get to grips with the mathematics. Far from finding them “ugly” in the conventional sense, I often see the moments of beauty and subtlety in them, especially in certain light and weather conditions. A long time ago, in what feels like another lifetime, I remember glimpsing the huge cement works at Chelson Meadows in Plymouth, Devon, on an early morning drive. It appeared as a vast castle, in blocks of pale grey and pink, in the morning misty sunlight. I made several drawings of it, to the puzzlement of several people who asked me “why are you drawing that eyesore?” That works is long-demolished, the ground landscaped, I believe, and perhaps my drawing is now a historical document of sorts, but this is a digression.
On a cycle ride along a path into the woods near Skinflats, I stumbled across an art installation called “Inscriptions in Arcadia”, by Audrey Grant, very nearly and inadvertently stealing part of one of the works … until I saw the sign! The theme of the installation intrigued me and resonated with some of the thoughts that had arisen, back in 2019, when I had looked out over ripening summer fields towards Grangemouth:
“Black Gold – in our myopic ignorance we burn this, mostly, the stored solar energy of ancient Earth feeds our industry, ..engines, ..our restless desire for movement & the illusion of a limited, short term freedom, while we poison our air & water & are still blind to its true value as a raw material.
“Green Gold – growing silently in the summer sun, welcoming the rain that we bemoan, refreshing our atmosphere, filtering our dust and detritus, feeding our restless, dissatisfied bodies and minds…”
Sketchbook 31 – 14 July 2019
This painting has emerged from these notes and subsequent observations, pulled together with the idea of an Arcadia, an imagined idyllic land but that is still touched, if not tainted, by destructive and harmful processes. I had not been aware, until a comment on my previous post, of the more classical associations:
Et in Arcadia Ego Even in a pastoral idyll, there is death.
This is not a specific view but a combination of local elements from several sketches, photos and observations. When approaching the painting, I wanted to focus on my initial visual experience of the vivid yellows and golds and of the softer reflections and uncertain forms from across the estuary, aware of darker and more contradictory processes behind it all. As with all these paintings, I feel I’m learning and discovering at each step; I’ve certainly enjoyed painting it.
Thank you for reading this far! What’s next? I’m not yet sure, I have unrelated videos to attend to …. however, I hope to start another soon.