Given Monday’s Motivator to Keep Striving, I thought I’d share work-in-progress photos of one of the paintings I’ve been working on this week, one that’s been testing my resilience. Wildflowers are something that have bounced around my mind’s eye for some time, but a subject I’ve not translated into paint much. “Listening to Trees” was the first time I painted foxgloves to my satisfaction. My idea with this painting was for it to echo myforest paintings, but be only flowers. It’s a large canvas, 1×1 metre (about 39×39 inches).
The first photo shows where the painting was when I downed brushes yesterday. To my mind, very much still a work-in-progress that lacked oomph. It needed more tonal contrast, a stronger sense of sunlight, pinker foxgloves. The last thing I had done was to add a stronger dark tone using a mixture of Prussian blue, burnt umber, and perylene green. It was a bit streaky but once dry my plan was to do something similar with some “sunlight” and “blue sky”, then reassess.
How long would this take? Would it work? Doing it is the only way to know. I might make it worse, but ultimately that’s irrelevant as it’s not right now anyway.
Awake at four this morning thinking about this painting, I headed back into my studio to give it another go. I dug out some fluid medium, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, and titanium white, then played around with very fluid paint and gravity. This photo shows where the painting is now. I like it more — it’s less static — but will reassess once it’s daylight. Studio cat seemed to approve though.
Update: I ultimately decided I did like what I’d done and made only minor tweaks.
I had promised the in-house art critic I wouldn’t touch this painting for a week (this is where I left it) but looking at it at lunchtime I knew what I would do next, and we’d discussed it extensively, so I played the exception card. (The rule being: don’t fiddle with a painting that is unresolved, wait until you have something definite in mind.)
First up, I darkened the sea, particularly the lower section, using Prussian blue mixed with varying quantities of glazing medium. I wanted what was already there to still show through, hence the glazing medium. Then I added a bit more white on top again at the shoreline. Using leftover white mixed with glazing medium, I introduced some mist. I did this in two rounds, starting cautiously, asking the in-house art critic’s opinion, then adding some more. There are also a few more sheep and some birds, though too small to see in this photo.
I’m now back into “don’t touch it mode”, pondering whether it’s finished or not. I suspect it might be.
This painting is inspired by the cliffs at Rubha Hunish, working from my sketches, reference photos and memories of the location. The top photo is where the painting was this morning; the second where it is now.
I had two aims when I picked up my brushes today: to increase the tonal contrast by adding strong darks and fix the shape of the lower cliff which was too perfectly curved. When I downed brushes I felt I’d fixed the latter somewhat, but it still needs further work. The tonal contrast I will ponder in better daylight, as well as consider whether I should add some blue back into the sky.
Part of me is itching to change the weather in the painting to misty, to make everything more ethereal. Or perhaps have the weather coming in from one side. Doing this would involve titanium white and glazing medium, perhaps adding a little retarder to give me time to wipe it off should I change my mind. I think part of the desire to do this is the muted moodiness of my Trying to Snow painting, where I knocked back the colour with thin white.
If you’re wondering how I achieved the vertical dribbles in the sea (which I feel evokes a memory of rain as well as enhancing the sense of movement), it was by letting paint from the cliffs run all the way down to the bottom of the canvas over the still-wet sea area, removing the colour. Later, when it was dry, I’ve painted another layer over this area.
Another thing I want to add are lots of seabirds flying around the cliffs, as well as several more sheep grazing. If you look carefully, you’ll see these two above the lower cliff, at the right.