Saturday, August 31, 2013


oil on canvas 61x51cm

Earlier this summer Madam and I spent a few days in the far northwest, and this piece is a response to that. The vista of headlands and mountains - Quinag, Canisp, and Suilven - is the view from our B&B at Badcall Bay. The foreground – slightly shoehorned into place - is from Loch Laxford, just up the coast past Scourie.

During the organising stage, this piece tentatively featured a wreck, and then a figure. I couldn’t make those ideas work and began to get a bit anxious about where it was going, but plugged on painting the landscape nevertheless. 

Then, some accidental creativity happened. In my foreground source the outcrop is plain rock, but I was a bit heavy-handed in painting some shadows, and realised that a cave – a little bit dark and scary - was just right. There was a concentration of pink veins in the rock there*, and I simply exaggerated this and introduced a more visceral crimson as I carved my way into the cliff-face.

There is quite an interesting technical feature here. The ‘rock’ paint is thinned only with turpentine, and left unblended. This makes the strokes very sharp, especially when cut back with a ‘wet’ sharp-edged brush. I built up the rock forms with these marks in monochrome, and coloured them with oil/varnish glazes.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice a round mark in the top left corner. This is the result of a repair patch on the back of the canvas, due to a slight tear. I wasn’t sure how this would end up looking, and my Plan B was to camouflage it as a faint full moon (which would have worked). 

I think it looks all right, though, so I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it… 

* Lewisian Gneiss if you must know, some of the oldest rock in the world