It all began with the thought: “what if I were to use some of that fluorescent Sennelier orange as a coloured ground?”
First I created “tree trunks” with texture paste, left this overnight to dry completely. (It’s incredibly annoying to flatten a still-wet spot with a brush, but ever so tempting to be getting on with the painting!) Next came the fluorescent orange, plus fluorescent pink (well, you know, it was just sitting there feeling lonely) as well as some red (leftover sample of Liquitex artist’s spraypaint). I worked wet on wet and sprayed additional water to encourage the paint to spread. The result was certainly, urm, colourful. And intense. And bright.
Once this was fairly dry I laid the canvas flat and applied some fluid sepia and pearlescent white. I encouraged it to spread by spraying some water over it, then left it do meander its way around the texture. Left to dry, and repeated, and tweaked, and repeated, and pondered, and tweaked.
The final result is, to my eye, an interesting result of intense colour peering through intriguing darks. The in-house art critic, running his fingers across the surface, said it felt and looked like dragon skin. Take a look at the detail photos below, then share your thoughts in the comments section. (Click on the photos to see larger versions.)
These are a few of the studies I’ve done recently; in each I was trying something specific or remind myself of something. Often I work on a pair together, aiming to push the one a little further than the other. I find mounting makes me see the piece more objectively and assess it more critically, not least because you have to decide where to crop the painting with that sharp, stark mount edge.
In this sheep study I was trying to work wet-on-wet in the clouds, letting the white paper do its thing. The danger is my tendency to overwork it, then needing to use white acrylic or gouache to rescue it. The very dark bit of blue echoing the shape of a bird (or perhaps sheep’s ears?) was a ‘happy accident’.
With this woodland study I was again working wet-on-wet, trying to use the white of the paper as an integral part of the painting, rather than covering it all up as I would do when painting on canvas. I was also trying to use cobalt blue for sky, rather than my more usual Prussian blue. Overall the colours are? softer and softer than my ‘usual’, like colours muted by mist (hence the title).
With these two tree studies I started with a layer of thin quinacridone gold, which gives the glowing light gold in the background and the deeper orange-golds on the trunks. I wanted to create a sense of wintry sunlight where in the afternoon it turns the landscape gold but it’s not exactly warm. So warmth from the quinacridone gold background and cold from the top layer of blues on the edges of the trees. The second study I used more blue; still deciding if it’s too much. Colours:? quinacridone gold, cadmium red, perelyne green, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, titanium white.
I’ve been in the mood for tackling another large flower painting, along the lines of Listening to Daisies. These two studies were intended to remind me of how I’d painted that: the layering, the colours,the refining detail from chaos. The second one I tried to add stronger darks, for more tonal contract, something I ought to have done at a lower layer.
These paintings are all now at Skyeworks Gallery (?49 each).
Not shown are the other half dozen studies that ended up as a muddy confused mess or didn’t get anywhere near anything sensible that are still pinned to my easel. I’ll have another round with some, overworking with opaque or semi-opaque colours; the rest I’ll save for when I need something to rip up in frustration abandon.
Remember the painting with the little yellow tree on the riverbank that had been in “pondering mode” for some time (see Does This Painting Need More Sunshine)? Well, it stayed in pondering mode until last week. In the end I did very little too it, only adding some extra white to the river. I found that as the days got longer and mid-winter darkness receded, the painting revealed more and more colour, and it was indeed nearly finished.
Now all it needs is a title; I’m hearing “The Little Tree That Could” in my head for not-quite fathomable reasons, but think that something like “Flowing Past” would be a better fit for my “Flow” exhibition. Any suggestions? But please not “A River Flows Through It”; when I worked as sub-editor at Getaway travel magazine photojournalists loved that almost as much as the word “experience” (as in “dining experience”, “bush experience”, “4×4 experience”).
Here’s a photo of the painting overall, and below that a detail that’s about lifesize (click on it to see the photo bigger).
This painting has been in “pondering mode” for a few weeks now as I’ve contemplated where to take it, whether to go further into shadow with backlit trees (more true to the location in autumn) or “add more sunshine”.? I know, artistic license and all that, but the shadows of low autumnal sunshine is one of the beautiful things about this location; then again it was the single, bright yellow tree with its autumnal leaves which caught my eye that day.
Only certainties are that the painting is not where I want it to be (yet) and that I’m inhibited by how much I like parts of it, such as the yellow tree, the river stones at the bottom. What I suspect I’m going to do:
Deepen the darks, using perylene green and Prussian blue
Add some white-rippled water in the stream, on the left-hand edges of the rocks in the water and at the edge of the bank
Glaze over the sky to make it feel less disjointed, wiping off the paint where it goes over the tree trunks
Add “sunshine” to the trunks, river bank and stones, as if sunshine is coming from the top right
But perhaps I’ll contemplate it a little more first, and rather continue on some of my other works-in-progress.
While I’ve been working on a new big painting, 1×1 metres, studio cat Rascal has been sleeping on the storage heater. He’s a rather vocal cat who generally has a lot to say about what I’m doing (about everything, really), so it’s been blissfully quiet. The painting is inspired by the way the river in Uig turns and disappears, with the banks patterned by trees and shadows, where I was sketching again last week.
I’d done a few thumbnails sketches and pondered it quite a bit before I started sketching the composition on the composition. I tweaked it a bit with pencil, then took a pen to mark my final choice. (Added advantage: it also shows up in a photo! Added disadvantage: shows through transparent layers.)
Next up, lots of texture paste. I’m using Golden’s Light Molding Paste, which I like because it doesn’t shrink too much when it’s dried, it gives a more absorbent working surface and, as the name suggests, doesn’t add significant weight to the painting.
First colour on once the paste had dried, Prussian blue. My plan was to be painting dark to light for the first few rounds with this painting. Where it is in the top photo is where I stopped to wait for it to dry completely before resuming. Still a long way to go, but I’m pleased with the sense of the water flowing past rocks in the stream. It’s perhaps a bit too turbulent a flow, but that could be calmed down with some glazing. Tomorrow’s job is to decide whether to or not.
Coming back from Gardenstown, there was a stretch (between Fochabers and Cullen, I think; certainly before Elgin) where I felt like I’d driven into one of Klimt’s forest paintings.
Not that a plain pine plantation can’t be inspiring too; this was taken yesterday along the path from Aros, Portree.
From there I went into the woodland at Uig, and sketched alongside the river. It’s the location that inspired my “Summer Glow” painting. My fingers are now itching to paint this autumnal tree with the dark reflected trees.
I’ve been vacillating with “Magenta Trees” since I took it to the dark side (see What Happened Next With ?Magenta Trees?), some days liking it as it is and others thinking it needed something more still. In bright light you’d see the variations in colours, but on duller days it was very dark indeed.
Enter iridescent white…
While I like it more, it’s back into pondering mode again as I decide whether there wants to be a touch of opaque white (titanium) over the iridescent. I’m not sure if it’s what it needs or whether I feel like doing it because it’s what I’ve done with another forest painting I’m working on and I like it on there.
Remember the magenta tree painting I started in June? Well it’s been stuck in “pondering stage” as I tried to decide what I would do with it. There were bits I really liked (e.g. the sense of movement behind the tree trunks), bits I didn’t (e.g. harsh darks), and various directions I could take it. About the only certainty was that I wouldn’t add any more paint until I had a definite plan.
After much procrastination pondering I decided I would take it for a walk on the dark side, rather than light, emphasizing shadows rather than sunlight. Why? Perhaps it’s the shorter days, perhaps thoughts about how well people responded to “Listening to Bluebells“, which is quite dark, but I’ve no real explanation other than that’s what I felt most like trying.
So out came a bottle of glazing medium, burnt umber and that favourite, Prussian blue. Why these two colours? Because both are strong darks, brown would enhance the sense of “tree” and blue “sky/rain”. The blue glazed over magenta would also give heathery purples, which that other favourite dark, perelyne green, wouldn’t.?This was the result; overall I’m pleased with the moodiness of it, but will do some more pondering, looking at it in different light conditions. The In-House Art Critic has proposed the title: “Plaid Glade“.
I’ve had quite a few rounds with a second version of Listening to Earthworms over the last few days — layering, glazing, blocking out with opaque, wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry — but never getting it working satisfactorily enough. Looking at it today I reminded myself: if it’s not working, don’t tweak but do something drastic. So I took a colour I don’t usually use, black, and ended up with a painting I like.
The change from the beginning to end of today’s session with this painting is shown in the two photos below. I used Golden’s High Flow acrylic, letting it run and encouraging it to spread by spraying water on it. Previous layers had some flow medium in it, which helps fluid paint spread too. Colours: carbon black, titanium white, quinacridone gold and a grey I’d mixed. Scroll down for four detail photos and one showing the texture in the bottom half of the painting, the first two slightly larger than life. I’ve called it “Rooted“.
This possibly the most abstract of my paintings since Seeing Red. It came out of the pondering of my tree paintings I’ve been doing, and a title that popped into my head: “Listening to Earthworms”. It’s now at the leave-it-alone-for-a-while-and-don’t-fiddle-with-it stage. I’ve got another canvas out to pursue some of the ideas that doing this has generated (such as silver birch tree trunks rather than oak browns, stronger contrasts between light and dark in the band of trees, more muted colour overall).