Perhaps Being Over-Ambitious (Part 1)

Let me start by saying this story has a happy ending, in the shape of the largest painting I have ever created 200x100cm (78×39″). A painting I love, as does the in-house art critic and and the close friends I have sent photos to, and my Mum.

The story starts with my intoxication by the double waterfall and River Rha tumbling through the rocks (see photos) which I visited for the first time last month and then did multiple times thanks to a stretch of dry weather. I enthused so the in-house art critic came along once, together with his pastels, to sit in temperatures <6°C in the icy fine spray off the waterfall. That’s love!

River Rha Pastels

My fingers itched to paint the location, to translate my sketches and mental images onto canvas. But wasn’t I being over ambitious the voice-of-doubt kept whispering? How would I be able to convey the sense of water when the colours of the river were the same as the hillside? The only “water colour” was the white of the waterfall and rapids. Would I be able to get the layers upon layers of vegetation, the sense of the steep hillside, the stillness, the presence of the rocks? All these doubts, despite the fact that I had sketches that I was pleased with, that could lead the way.

Sketchbook Marion Boddy-Evans

Sketchbook Marion Boddy-Evans

Sketchbook Marion Boddy-Evans

Sketchbook Marion Boddy-Evans

What’s wrong with being over ambitious occasionally, I kept telling myself. I might just pull it off, and how wonderful wouldn’t that be. I decided to work over a painting that hadn’t gone anywhere, removing the pressure of a pristine canvas, whilst stimultaneously giving me a starting layer for the hillside. The long format also echoed the format of my sketchbook. Here’s what it looked like when I started adding the first reworking layer, in Prussian blue.

Painting River Rha Waterfall

Prussian blue favourite colour

A bit later:
Painting River Rha Waterfall

My palette, which will make more sense to those I’ve had conversations with about putting minimal paint out at any one time:
Palette of Marion Boddy-Evans

And a bit later still:
Painting River Rha Waterfall

Detail:
Painting River Rha Waterfall

Problem now was that I really liked where I was with this, but could see various directions I could go with it. (Also known as the “don’t mess it up stage“.) Which would I choose? Stick with brushwork only? Add a layer of line, my current enthusiasm? Texture? How far towards detailed realism? Which would I be able to pull off most successfully, which would lead to disaster?

Unable to decide, I stopped. Time for pondering, and working up courage.
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Sketching River Rha

2 Replies to “Perhaps Being Over-Ambitious (Part 1)”

  1. That which I like about being “over ambitious” is that no matter what the result is you have to start somewhere and if you don’t, you would never do anything. In this case I very much like your sketches and can see progress in the resulting paintings. It’s amazing that you can surprise yourself with the end result. The reason you want to tackle the subject in the first place is that it is a lovely subject that deserves painting, and it is pleasing to your eye. I like.

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