Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bad Valley

oil on canvas 51x51cm

This is a pure landscape painting - the landforms and sky being the subject – with no symbolist or metaphorical insertions.

Well, almost. It’s actually a mash-up of two contrasting nasty/nice elements. The valley is dark, winter, and concave, the hillside light, summer, and convex. The idea is that the viewer feels attracted towards the breezy optimism of the sunny upland. Alternatively, I suppose, you could just stay in the valley if you’re feeling a touch melancholic gothic. 

The grassland, near Cerne Abbas in Dorset, was sourced from google Earth, but I found the dark valley myself. It’s not far outside Edinburgh, between Temple and Middleton. There’s a small grassed-over Victorian lime-burning site, and an earth dam blocks the valley. The stream flows sluggishly into the base of the dam through a small stone-lined entrance – which looks very odd. The downstream valley is full of trees, but the upstream basin, seen in the painting, is a silted-up bog with uncertain drainage – I sank in over my ankles when I tried to walk on what I thought was a firm bit. It has a very sinister atmosphere…

However, it was very interesting to paint, though the join between the valley and fields needed careful judgement so as not to be too jarring. I enjoyed doing the sky too, especially the more distant clouds nearer the horizon. I’ve finally got round to using oil siccative (cobalt driers). A drop or two makes thin oily paint dry enough to work on in a couple of days, if not the next day. This has made a vast improvement in drying time over my previous oily paint technique. Which is a Good Thing.

Talking of aspiring towards to the sunny uplands and embracing improvement, I didn’t make much use of opaque black in this one. The very darkest tones were made with transparent layers of tinted ivory black (burnt bone, not really ivory in case you’re wondering) – much more transparent and much more effective.

Feels good to be learning. Onwards and Upwards…