Monday, May 30, 2011

Wreck No.4

oil on canvas 91x91cm

I was idly following a road in Finland using Google Streetview, and found this melancholy view of birches and spruce up north – it turned out to be Pallastunturi National Park.

After shifting a few trees, replacing the original bland stratocumulus, and adding a more distant horizon I felt I had an interesting piece to develop. The wrecked tank of the title is basically a StuG IV, I think, and I find its harsh angular presence within the serene natural setting very exciting.

While painting this I was listening a lot to Max Richter’s Infra (copy and paste into a new tab or window to listen) all of which seems to fit the mood, but ‘Infra 7’ - - is a good aural illustration of the clear thin verticals and wide distant hills.

It felt good to be working on a 91cm/3ft square canvas again, in fact it was quite liberating. I’ve got Wreck No5 started on one already, and I’ll be priming up three more soon.

The only problem is where to put these things where our cats can’t get at them. Looks like I’ll have to clear out under the bed...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


watercolour/gouache 14x10.5cm

Edinburgh had quite interesting gales and showers yesterday. Late morning I could see Big Clouds moving around, so I tore myself away from the easel (not difficult), gathered my watercolour gear and trekked up Blackford Hill.

It was too windy to stay at the top, but I found a sheltered hollow facing the Forth. I sat through a short hail shower, then unpacked my sketching stuff. After an hour of hesitant starts and ineffective splashing about of watercolour, I turned and looked south over the edge of the hollow. There, sailing slowly by, was this magnificent Cumulonimbus - with fleecy edges and dark streaks of altocumulus.

Working quickly, as if in slo-mo, the sky was laid in, cloud wiped off, highlights gouached, darker bits dibbled in – job done. I started to indicate the foreground, but before I could draw enough detail to scale it, another cumulonimbus that had crept up over the top of the hill opened up and I was caught in a withering hail of rain and, er, hail. With everything getting wet, I gave in, quickly packed my gear and retreated home.

Looking at this later, I saw that the wet green had taken the rain spots. The foreground is unfinished, and isn’t fixed in space, but I liked the rawness of the sketch, and that the rain had made a visible impact on it.

However, next time I go out sketching, I’ll maybe pick a day that’s slightly less elemental…

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ash Tree and Fireworks

oil on canvas 31x25cm

A very quick painting for me, only about ten hours work.

The scene, from memory, is last year’s festival fireworks as Madam and I saw them from Montpelier. I worked the composition out later from reference photos in an ink and watercolour sketch, and meant to do the finished piece on a three foot canvas last year, but I bottled out when the time came. As it happened, when painting this version I couldn’t access the photos on my computer so had to work directly from the sketch, which was interesting.

It was quite a good subject to explore the layering of transparent blacks and whites, and treating the work more as play rather than ‘Art’ loosened me up quite a lot.

All in all, quite a good exercise, and, I still have a large-ish canvas primed and ready to go...