I mentioned in an earlier post that I was playing around with more abstract pieces on the subject of travel. I was influenced by the confusion and bemusement of newly arriving in strange and exciting places; how everything can be a noisy muddle of shapes and movement. So here are a few paintings of my mind’s wanderings – some more representational than others.
This was influenced by my visit to Marrakesh some years ago.
This is where it starts to get more representational, with an estuarine feel, but it was driven by the way I applied the paint and then removed it with a palette knife. I made a dark mix from a orange red and blue green, but only partially completed the mix before applying the paint onto pre-prepared paper. Once applied I started to remove some of it in a variety of ways.
I finally arrived closer to home with a similar approach to the estuarine one above with an image shaped by the beach at Southport, where I live.
There are other paintings, but I wont bore you further: I’m still searching. Though I may have discovered a few possibilities with the above and my sketchbook has many other snippets.
Of late I have been playing around with abstracts and imagined landscapes now that I know where I am going with my upcoming demonstrations. I do find working on abstracts and experimenting with techniques quite slow and wearing as I tend to hit many dead ends and I need time to reflect on my next step.
So in one of these periods of contemplation I thought I’d paint this view of a lane in Wharfedale, in Yorkshire, we visited last year.
I suppose I did a bit of experimenting even in this piece. I was pleased with the effect of slightly dampening the paper to get the soft shadows cast by the trees. I did shadows of a tree in a local park in a painting last year and was dissatisfied with my shadows done on dry paper. I may have to revisit that. The other thing was the cluster of daffodils: I initially just dropped a load of yellows on the paper and covered some of it with blobs of masking fluid when the paint had dried. Later I worked in some darks around the remaining yellow and later still, rubbed off the masking fluid. Lo and behold I got some bright blobs of yellow that could be daffodils but whatever, they glow from the shadows.
So it wont be long before we start seeing the daffs this year – and the worst will be over: well apart from the heating bill.
A view I’ve done before, but this time I thought I would make more of the sunset and it’s effects. I’ve used the woman crossing the road with her shopping bags in another painting, but she fits in well here.
I think I’ve mentioned before, in earlier blogs, how the sunset in winter months is quite spectacular on Lord Street, the main street in Southport, where I live. I also spotted the light reflecting off the surface of a puddle in the gutter and, if nothing else, that was reason enough for me to do a painting.
As I said in my previous post, I am preparing for two watercolour demos and getting them to run smoothly has taken a bit longer than I thought – but we’re there now.
Unfortunately I am halfway through a new painting because of this delay, so I thought I’d show an old painting of mine of a small village on the outskirts of Liverpool. It was done a long time ago and it quickly sold. I have kept an image of it on the internet and it has bought many enquiries and quite a few commissions and sales. I was proud of it at the time, still am, and it surprised me that I hadnt shown it on this blog before.
Normally, in the morning this road is very busy, as it serves as a short-cut. Sunday morning allows you to stand in the middle of the road. Though, I didnt paint it plein-air, as even on a Sunday there would be a few objections from motorists if I tried that stunt.
I have just realised that it will soon be February, when I have two painting demonstrations to do. One request is for a canal scene, and this is what I intend to demonstrate. It is a painting I did in 2008 and at the moment I am working out how to best complete the painting in an hour and half. For me, it is a question of getting the order right, so the audience isnt sitting around whilst you mix colours, and there is quite a bit of mixing here to get the water effects. I also need to ensure to emphasise the points I want to raise.
The second demonstration was picked for me by the art club that engaged me. It is of a field of poppies I did more recently.
It isnt a painting I would select if I had a choice. There is a lot of texture in the foreground field that I did in a very haphazard manner, at the time – feeling my way through. I used masking fluid in the painting. Again I want to avoid delays, so I may need to get the hair dryer out to avoid waiting for the masking fluid to dry. Other techniques are a little faster – I did some scraping back and and finally resorted to gouache when all my options were used up. Again, I am working through this to find the best order needed to present it in a coherent way.
After all this I’ll need a holiday and yesterday I ordered some Egyptian pounds for a two week cruise down the Nile at the end of February. Hopefully we will get to go this time – this is the second attempt.
Recently I have been experimenting with imagined landscapes and abstracts developed from my experience of landscape. Here is one of the latter. For me it has the feeling of emerging into a new space, as if I’m, perhaps, on the edge of an adventure or an escape.
This painting developed in a piecemeal way. It started with an earlier painting where I was looking at the feelings associated with travel and approach.
But this painting looked a bit disjointed to me and with all the scraping and layering was getting a bit muddy. So I did the old tried and tested trick of looking at small areas for anything interesting and food for my imagination.
Here are two areas which intrigued me. Not only that, the images I took, and display here, look better than the actual painting. Perhaps it is because the colours don’t appear as muddy and there’s better contrast. As a consequence, I used the photo on the right to develop a bigger painting.
Arriving at the above, I felt I had overdeveloped the central motifs. They now looked too much like trees and pulled the painting in a representational direction. I also felt that other areas were too dull and wanted the colours to sing out more. That was how I arrived at the final painting. Is it the end? I dont know, but I’ll pause there and leave it to rest whilst I try other things.
I’ve had this painting a while, but I could not get a decent photo of it. Amongst other discrepancies, all the greens turned blue on the images I took, no matter what setting I tried. It was only by tricking the camera that I got something that resembled the actual painting. And, well, it’s a bit of a Pollock, but at the moment I am playing around, and this is one of a series of experiments.
Abstract paintings quite often give me problems when I try to photograph them, whereas, I dont have as many such issues with representational paintings.
I will show other examples of these problems in subsequent posts. Sometimes they actually help you – which they did on a painting I’m currently working on. Hopefully that will be ready for next time.
Here is the final part of our post Christmas walk that I have been describing recently. The muddy, last, stretch along the canal and back to the car. This is a scene I have painted before as the light on the moored boats sings against the surrounding shadows.
When a painting requires such tight detail I would naturally reach for the watercolour or acrylic. I havent the patience finding or making slivers with which to place small, precise marks. Here. I used some conte pencils for the really fine details, though I tried to keep this to a minimum and just hint at the shapes of the boats.
I love the branch which hangs over the canal.
I wasnt as pleased with the other pastel I did of the fields over the moss that we passed. Initially it was the patchwork of greens, interspersed with the winter trees that attracted me, but in the end I found the result a little disappointing. Perhaps I should have made more of the sky and pushed the fields into a tighter mass.
In my last post I showed a painting taken from our post Christmas walk. Here is another one from earlier in that same walk. It shows the route of a long defunct railway track called the Cheshire Lines which served Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and this line ran out to Southport, where I live.
Now it’s a walking and cycling path which crosses the moss from Southport to Maghull, north Liverpool.
I thought it might be worth doing in pastel. The greens were vivid in the low winter sun and the passing rainclouds in the background heightened this effect – and, of course, there are some puddles.
Now I have the pastels out I have started a couple more from the same walk, so there will be a small series from the same day – I give you fair warning.
I like this area and have done quite a few plein air paintings and studio paintings from around this path. Here are some of the watercolours I have posted in the past of scenes from the Cheshire Lines:
After the Christmas indolence, a walk was proposed. Organising a walk in our family can require diplomatic skills far beyond my capabilities. My wife wanted to walk by the canal which meant we wouldnt get lost and me get angry at the lack of signage. She also reckoned that it wouldnt be too muddy. My daughter didnt want to go too far to get to the walk and I wanted to go somewhere to see some different scenery. I think my daughter’s partner would have preferred to stay put.
I selected a route which, I hoped, met all the specifications. After an early lunch, waiting for the rain to subside, we set off. There was a low winter light which gave great contrasts and shadows and suited me well.
We came up a low hill to a wooded area where there is a derelict Chapel, originally built in the 1500s. The farmland surrounding the site was waterlogged and had lovely glistening puddles made by tractor ruts. With the light illuminating the grass of our footpath and the puddle reflecting the post and trees I thought it might make a great subject to paint even though it is a bit on the dark side.
We completed the walk without getting lost, though the canal tow-path did prove to be the muddiest part of it.