Wednesday, September 30, 2015


oil on card 30x20cm

Another Sky Study. Last January, late afternoon, we were speeding southwards along the A9 again - Madam at the wheel - and the sun had just dipped behind a line of Cumulus. I whipped out my camera and managed to get enough material to put this little composition together. 

Before I continue, there most definitely is a track to go with this – ‘Dream 3 (in the midst of my life)’. It’s from ‘from Sleep’ – the short CD version of Max Richter’s 8-hour piece ‘Sleep’ – which dropped through the letterbox just as I was starting the composition stage. It’s designed to be hypnotic, and it’s quite long, so do try to stay awake…

As I was saying, this is put together from a few snaps. Most of them had unwanted vehicles and buildings in the frame, so I cobbled some of the most suitable ground forms together and conjured up some distance to help the eye recede.

It’s all about the sky of course, and as the colours were so subtle I thought I’d try a true transparent glazing method on it. I initially painted the sky in tones of grey and mauve, painting the backlit glows in white. Once that seemed about right and the land painting was done – normal greens etc - I mixed up the required glazing colours in oils and varnish (arty Damar, not Ronseal) and stippled and blended them on. Sounds simple. Yes, but not when you suddenly decide you need to add a bit of semi-transparent Orange to warm a glaze up and you can’t find it and your glaze mixture is shifting rapidly away from being thin and mobile. Just as well I had the calm music on. Anyway, all’s well that ends up not a complete mess.

I should explain the title. While finishing the ground forms, I had that nagging feeling again that the painting was missing a human element. I couldn’t let it go, so without thinking too much about it I put a figure in the bottom right corner, a little cut-off matchstick person. It seemed to be walking off the painting, away from something. I put another one in, walking the other way, and it seemed such a powerful, melancholy scene that I kept it.

I’m not sure that I would glaze the sky the same way again - I think I would use these transparent layers only as modifiers or colour reinforcers – though they were very effective in the upper ‘passive’ areas of the sky. But, there were subtleties of rose pink in some almost invisible higher clouds that would’ve benefited from thin opaque layers, and I think the incandescent cloud edges could’ve been more forceful with multi-layered opaque/transparent effects. 

It’s a small experimental piece though, so I’ll just absorb that experience, learn, and move on.

Like the little figures, walking away…