Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dried Leaves

oil on card 31x22cm

Nature moves a lot faster than I paint. I had intended this to be a quick one-day painting, but got caught up in the complex dead leaves. I spent a whole second day on them, and by the time I got around to detailed painting of the green living leaves, they were completely different! A new leaf had sprung up and the others had moved round. I waited about a week till the growth cycle put them in similar positions, but missed it, and now all the foliage has shifted. Doh.

It would have been quite interesting to explore the contrast between the living and the dead matter further, but there’s enough about the green leaves and how everything sits in space to let it go now. So, it not being worth it, I think I’ll just leave it. Having said that, I’m quite pleased with how I’ve done the mass of hard, dry bits, and that’s got to be a Good Thing.

Next time, the green stuff gets done first.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cutting

oil on canvas 41x51cm

This is a view I saw from the bridge at Braid Avenue. The isolated lookout was looking east along the track while the rest of his maintenance gang was working the rails to the west. The whole scene seemed about exposure to danger.

I have tried to increase the unsettled feeling by narrowing the cutting, emphasising the unstable ‘V’ at the centre of the composition, and making the trees loom over the empty track. Most of the shadows are deepened using transparent glazes.

This is quite a potent picture in which to explore levels of meaning. On the face of it, it’s just a bloke beside a railway line with some trees. There may or may not be a train due. Now, are the trees as stable as they should be? Could he be more in danger from them than the oncoming (or not) train? Let's go deeper, are the trees, the whole landscape, animate? Do they know something he doesn’t? Shouldn’t he leave? If we look closer, we could see one of the trees as looking a bit human. If we are familiar with the story of Daphne, we could read this little shriek of a tree as the nymph metamorphosed. But here she is abandoned and alone, and Arcadia has become cold and harsh. This is not how Paradise should be. What has our hero in the hard hat stumbled upon? Could this be a metaphor for our own times? For the Human Condition is General? You can take it as far as you can support it.

It not all Doom and Gloom though. I learnt a lot about paint handling, though the drawing could probably be bit better, and working within a very narrow tonal range. As it happens, over the time I was doing this I became reacquainted with Frank Zappa’s ‘One Size Fits All’, and couldn’t paint for a while for giggling after hearing Evelyn, the modified dog, ‘as she viewed the quivering fringe of a special doily’.

(‘Arf’, she said.)

Though you really had to be there.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Watercolour Sketches


This is a compilation of watercolour sketches done over the last couple of days. 1 and 2 on Wednesday, 3, 4, and 5 on Thursday (much sunnier Spring weather).

Number 1 was the first serious watercolour I’d done for years, and its mediocrity and cramped style are rather disappointing. It fails to convey either accurate information about the forms, or the sense of light and space which watercolour does best. It’s also on really rubbish paper. I did the fir tree immediately after the first effort, deciding to look harder, draw from the shoulder, and let the water do more of the work. The light in 3 was gagging for watercolour, I really didn’t have to work hard to see the limited palette and simplified forms. In 4 and 5 I was looking to use it for recording skies. 4 is in my sketchbook, hence the crinkles, and the rest are on cheap off-white lining paper. Quite a good exercise, and I’ll definitely be doing more, though I really should fork out for some proper paper.

Here I have to admit, again, to a grudging use of pthalo blue. I had to go to the shops for a pie late morning, and got a student grade tube of Intense Blue. Tried it out in 4, and, shock, realised it doesn’t granulate (like the blue in 3). It’s lovely to work with, as long as you keep it un-Intense and on a leash.

I think back with (slight and momentary) guilt to the 1970’s, and all those drawings I did of people’s houses with grainy, mottled ultramarine skies.