Thursday, July 30, 2015


oil on canvas 61x50cm

The title subject, the Stone, is an odd, small boulder at the summit clearing of Easter Craiglockhart Hill. There are no figures or hidden things to be looking for here.

Those following the Works in Progress will see that it’s been a relatively efficient painting – only fourteen separate sessions(!) – and I was able to get some momentum going with it. The only change of direction was with the replacement ash tree, and that was definitely worth it.

The composition used elements from several photos I’d taken in June. If you were to stand at that viewpoint on the hill, you’d recognise Caerketton Hill (though it would appear a lot smaller) but not the ash tree – that’s at Bruntsfield Links, on the corner next to Barclay Church. The clouds were collected from the Roof Terrace at the National Museum of Scotland - always a good Cloud-Spotting spot.

For some reason I was playing the two Radiohead ‘odd’ albums – Kid A and Amnesiac - over the last month, so working on ‘Stone’ was heavily associated with them. Memorable track? I’ll go for ‘Pyramid Song’.

There’s quite a variety of paint marks (for me) in this. At one end of the spectrum, the stone is as about as impasto as I’m likely to get, and the grass has a lot of scratched-out glaze. At the other end, the sky is all thin layers, softly blended. While we’re talking technical, I’ll point out that the paint mixes of the ground forms were made with Michael Harding’s Unbleached Titanium White . This is a warm light grey – quite opaque, but without the hard in-your-faceness of regular Titanium White. I enjoyed using it, and, unlike the ‘bleached’ version, it has the added bonus of being a naturally fast dryer.

Compositionally, there’s the obvious Cloud/Tree device (done to death by Baroquist Landscapeurs, so I was a bit leery of using it), but there are also some nice V-shape rhymes between the sky and the stone. The stone itself is the key, and I’ve tried to make it less obvious than it really is – so that, with a bit of luck, you don’t see it immediately and have to work a bit to interpret it. I’m no geologist, but it seems to be rather anomalous. It doesn’t look like the craggy stuff that’s exposed on the bits of cliff around Craiglockhart, and I’ve no idea how it got to where it is now. It seems to have natural cavities and pock marks, and I’m wondering whether it’s volcanic. Whatever its origins, it looks rather weird, and suggests some sort of ancient antediluvian relic. 

I’ve played this up a bit of course – the strange dark thing in the landscape. 

Sorry, I’m afraid I couldn’t resist …