Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blue Lake

oil on canvas 61x46cm

There was a little bit of serendipity involved in putting this together. 

The lake is in north-west Sweden - just west of Arjeplog along route 95. I found this view on google maps early last summer, but collected the details and finalised the composition only after seeing the figure, in September. 

She was from a photo in a newspaper article about the New Orleans flood. Her image/posture was exactly what the piece had been waiting for, and it was snipped and scanned in a matter of minutes. The sky used various photos and a live watercolour as a starting point, and developed from there. The foreground was adapted, and the red trees multiplied, from the original source, and the nearest bits of shore in the corner are from another location along the lake.

This is where the serendipity comes in. I started painting in October, and after a day or so I wanted to check something else. I found the spot again, but was horrified to find that Google Maps had re-photographed that stretch of road. It was now an overcast windy day, and completely un-usable. The timing of finding the figure and gathering the information had been crucial, though I didn’t realise it at the time. Very lucky.

I didn’t have any music lined up for this originally but when I re-started after a bit of a gap, I was listening to John Martyn’s 1977 ‘One World’ album quite a lot. The track One World began to work very well as a mood-setter, though Max Richter’s album Infra seemed fairly resonant as well.

So here’s a lake with a figure in it, and there’s a tension there. My own feeling is that this is a person who is full of despair, despite the beauty and serenity all around her. 

On a lighter note, I’d just like to point something out about the brushwork. A lot of the paint is stroked, blended, and stippled when wet – using fan, and face powder brushes, and soft mops (some of which are my shellac polishing mops from restoration days). These normally stand in a jar alongside the other brushes, and our two cats have found it increasingly pleasant to rub their necks against them. I will frequently pick one of these brushes up and find that instead of delicately manipulating the paint, I have smeared a layer of soft, fine cat hair into it. This is extremely fiddly and difficult to remove. The effect is plainly visible in the central cloud area, which is unfortunate.

They are now kept in a closed box (the brushes, that is…)

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