Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wreck No.9

oil on papered canvas 31x25cm

Just like waiting for a bus, there are none for ages then three come along at once.

The whole point of this piece was to produce a quick, loosely-painted, straightforward, beautiful landscape that I could maybe punt through a commercial gallery for money. No High-brow Layers of Meaning, no Art, no Big Ideas about the Human Condition, just a Sellable Pretty Picture.

Well, that idea started off really well, and - without any squaring up or preliminary drawing at all - I had the basics freely bashed out in an afternoon. I came back a few days later to tweak some shadows and puff up the clouds, and then it happened.

There I was, humming away, so pleased with myself, and it suddenly struck me that the painting was crying out for a wreck. It was irresistible, so there we are. The landscape is just as beautiful, the sky as innocent, but there’s now a hint of mortality. Those high street galleries will just have to wait.

Having finished all the works in progress that’s me relaxing for the Year End. No doubt I’ll be doing little sketchy bits over the holiday period, but I’ll start wrestling with the next batch of planned work in January. And just so that you know, I AM aware that I have to work faster.

But that’s me done for the year, so Cheeers…

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wreck No.8

oil on canvas 51x51cm

Hard on the heels of Wreck No.7, this piece is carrying on the idea first explored in Wreck No.6 in August – a section of damaged tank forming a ‘landscape’ beneath a sky. I’m still not convinced that the idea has legs, mainly because a landscape usually involves distance, and a wreck silhouette usually does not. We’ll see…

I was on the verge of abandoning this piece not long ago. I had doubts about my first cloud patterns and painted a very mixed, layered sky. Well, that lacked focus so I painted a great big rising cumulus in the middle, and that didn’t work either. Describing all the contortions I put that poor sky through would make very tedious reading, so suffice to say that I ended up utilising my original idea (the lower shining group) - but slightly smaller.

I think the tank element contrasts better than in Wreck No.6, and is a bit more suggestive of a dead thing. The damage is adapted from other images and not particularly exaggerated.

At the moment, the painting is hung in front of the bookcase next to Madam’s sofa. She has been lying looking up at it and seeing shifting shapes in the clouds.

Which is VERY flattering…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wreck No.7

oil on canvas 91x91cm

I was just idly browsing for interesting landscapes when I came across a field with white cows. They struck me as being very pastoral and mysterious, and suggest a distinctly ‘Arcadian’ context. The wreck was chosen very carefully from my now disturbingly large library of destroyed tank photos. It doesn’t sit but seems to lay on the ground, and where the superstructure tilts towards the grass, the angles are similar to the cows’ tucked-under forelegs - an interesting rhyme across contrasting subjects.

I’m sorry to say that painting this was mostly very frustrating: I misjudged the tones of the sky and grass right at the start, and it took several corrections to get them as I wanted. As the cows were outlined fairly carefully in the setting-out, repainting the grass around them each time was a major chore. The light was to be quite subtle and I had trouble gauging the tones for a dull but luminous sky. I was grateful that painting the tank was pretty straightforward, and I have already written about the problems drawing cows in the previous post.

However, painting the middle and far distance was pure joy. I loved unrolling the landscape, and at times it seemed to paint itself. Not that it matters, but the wheatfields and trees are from France, and the valley and hills are Strathearn in Perthshire.

Though it was finished over a week ago, I’ve been working on this since summer, and a lot of music has come through the speakers since then. There isn’t a specific mood-setter, but I was listening to Shostakovich’s 24 Piano Preludes and Fugues a lot. If you’re tempted, here’s Keith Jarret playing No16 in B flat minor . This is the first version I came across and it got me keen to hear others. I usually listen to Konstantin Scherbakov’s - on Naxos - which I think is slightly more delicate but less available to link to on a blog.

I don’t know why but I felt very sad after having finished this, even though it’s quite a good painting, and I had to go for a big walk up the road. Often, finishing a piece is like the culmination of a hunt – having stalked it I’m chasing the painting and it’s twisting and turning trying to get away, and I’m getting closer and closer and then with the last dab and smear, I’ve got it. Signed and dated, Painter Triumphans.

This time I’d thought that I’d be relieved to finish it, but as soon as I had, it felt as though I’d just lost something.