Monday, July 14, 2014


oil on canvas 61x51cm

Not much to say about this except that I thought it started off quite easily, and then suddenly it became quite fraught, and then ended up solving itself. Which sometimes happens.

The landscape is about 50km north of Moscow – there’s quite a lot of western Russia now covered by google Streetview. It’s not absolutely flat, but is endlessly undulating very slightly - and the weather is visible from a long, long way away. I like the plainness combined with the huge clouds. The bushes and grass in the foreground offered a variety of texture on which to deploy some different paintwork. The sky is mainly mottled and blended (with my new badger mottler) while the foreground, containing a figure, is mostly as it left the brush.

The large open area was originally pale dry grass, with small patches of green, and didn’t seem compatible with the showers passing over, so I just transposed it to a much lusher green - Prussian blue with Chrome yellow if you must know. It came across as very two dimensional at first, so I blurred the slight light/shade variations progressively towards the far trees to help the eye with the distance, which helped.

It’s all about the clouds though. If you’ve been following the Works in Progress page (perhaps wondering what I’ve been doing for the last two months?) you’ll have seen how they’ve developed. I was planning to have this piece finished by the end of June, but it seemed to me that while the sky was, well, passable, it lacked the impact necessary to distract the eye from the figure, which is the whole point. As recently as two weeks ago, I pulled the left bank of cumulus forward slightly, and it happened to make a rhyme with the shape of the bushes. It looks as though it had been structured from the beginning, but was actually a last ditch effort to make the cloud-banks look interesting. It’s a very Baroque device, but it still works. Now, the sky has the required energy, and a jolly good thing too.

There is a bit of music for this. The painting started off powered by Ralph Vaughan Williams, but really only crystallised after listening to ‘Infra’ again. Having this sort of music on while working still seems to open me up to new ideas when going through painting problems (if that makes any sense at all). Which can be both pleasant and useful.

So, as you may have gathered, I’ve gone a little bit round the houses on this one. This will always happen in painting, - and perhaps I hadn’t quite shaken off my post-exhibition inhibition – but I’m glad that I took the trouble to re-tune the sky. I’m quite pleased with how it’s ended up, but with one small caveat -

It should have been bigger…