Friday, August 8, 2014


oil on canvas 61x51cm

Just for a change, here’s a painting that doesn’t rely on greens. It’s adapted from a found google view from way up in Northern Norway, where the landscape seems entirely composed of swathes of dwarf birch.

It’s finished now - with quite a nice surface - but, its production has been a good example of why working an ill-thought-through idea, and grinding it out without really knowing where it’s going, is not always Good Practice. The initial thinking was all about the colour and the raking light, and in the (too brief) compositional stage I added a running figure, and it all seemed like A Good Idea At The Time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t concentrate enough on my drawing at the very start (February!), which meant that I was constantly playing catch-up and correcting the forms from the word go – except for the distant trees, which were actually painted quite efficiently. After a while, I realised that the elements of my original source weren’t adding up very well. I had wanted a very positive, fresh atmosphere, but then I became aware that half of my foreground birches were dead, leafless, and skeletal – and had to be changed pronto. Unfortunately I replaced them badly from various sources, and finally ended up composing clumps of trees from some (summery green) birch trees in the park, and the pair across the road that I see every single day.

I had realised fairly early that the scale of the figure – the Runner - was problematic; because the trees were dwarf birches (and not drawn well enough to indicate that), the figure was reading as a giant, so there had to be yet more coming and going on that. His back was meant to be lit by the low sunlight, but the resulting shape was a very awkward diagonal, so I hid him in deep shadow and blurred him to a mere suggestion.

Despite all my hand-wringing and grief, there are actually some very nice bits of painting here. The ground is done quite well, especially the shadowed dip on the right that leads back to the little valley in the mid distance. I’m quite chuffed with the clear blue sky too – quite a mobile walnut/stand oil mix, applied and blended with a cloth-covered dabber. I wasn’t planning to have any clouds (I know… heresy) but the minor additions left and right do imply a further distance over the last line of trees. So that was good.

Summing this piece up positively, it has been very pleasant to work in yellows and reds again. I have another idea along the same lines primed and ready to go - much, much, much more considered this time – and working through this piece has probably been very valuable in organising and working that up.

And at last - having eased this out of my system - I can move forward, and concentrate on the more interesting stuff…

1 comment:

  1. Well done Keith. You seem to have gone through some angst over this piece but positive lessons learnt and well worth all the effort...
    I especially love the sky and the lighting overall. Can't spot the runner on my limited PC but look forward to seeing in the flesh, so to speak.
    Keep up the good work.