Archive for March, 2010

Awakening Land – The Finished Painting

March 31, 2010

It has been a little longer than I intended in publishing this. Finishing this painting, and others, and getting them ready for exhibition has been as intense as can really be. Judge for yourself on the success of Awakening Land. New work, that for which the outcome is unpredicted and unexpected, which is mostly how it is now, presents such a suprise that it is difficult to judge its success. I once wrote in a notebook, 25 years ago as a student, that “I make the marks but am I really in charge?” and it still feels like this. There is always more or something different which can be done to a painting but the painting, once conceived, starts to say what it wants, though often the voice is difficult to hear or understand.

Awakening Land oil on canvas 61x92cm 2010

Awakening Land 5 Friday 27th March 2010

March 27, 2010

Awakening Land 5

The changes are there and I expect, obvious. There isn’t much more to say yet having said that I think there is much I could say. To emphasise; when change is needed, when you are trying to hold on to something which you know is not feeling right, then that change has to happen and when that seemingly drastic thing, knife to canvas, determined charcoal re-drawing happens, it feels good and you don’t know how you came upon such a wise decision. There is still much to go and I don’t have long.

Awakening Land Weds/Thurs 24/25th March 2010

March 25, 2010

When the painting becomes an exploration, when the built up layers and changes start to suggest ever more strongly at potential form, this is when the painting really starts to excite. Very subtle touches, putting that brush against the canvas, yes, but it is putting it yards, hundresd of yards, miles into space, a realised space, an illusion of a real, three-dimensional actality which actually doesn’t exist, in any part.

Nothing is without its troubles. Without troubles, if it seems too easy, painting, the act of painting i.e. the whole thing, not just placing paint on surface, lacks the edge to make me interested; in fact I don’t trust it. Except when I paint from life, a vital act but one which rarely happens with me now, I always encounter the problems of composition, which encompasses tone, line, arrangement of motif, application of paint, all of which affects, from broad to subtle ways, that which is implied in the work, the idea, the concept.

Awakening Land 4

Awakening Land Tuesday 23rd March 2010

March 24, 2010

Awakening land 3

It is actually Wednesday 24th but this image represents yesterdays work. Hopefully a new image will appear in the early hours, representing todays work.

Some changes have occured. When I saw the image on screen, when it looked as though it was being seen from a long way away because of its size, I realised that I didn’t like the expanse of snow and the form of the rock even though I thought they were effective and in their looseness, well painted. When I looked at the painting after sleep I knew immediately what needed to be done. Those first fresh thoughts, like word assosciation are most important. I also knew that though the distance worked and worked with the painting and to any new viewer, probably worked fine, I knew that I have been there before, too many times. This image is one which I have rethought and reworked five or six times. I will only repeat images if I feel that I have not sufficiently achieved a result or that if the image is successful, that variations on that image become possible in my mind and that further exploration is due. Of course there are limitless possible variations using only one image but with this one I felt with the quality of light and the form of rock and snow as it is, that  in the receeding distance suggestive of birch/conifer forest and of frozen lakes, I had been there before.

Making such change, when a sort of success is there already needs serious consideration. Then its a brave hatchet job, or knife, to quickly remove what is unwanted. When you know you are dissatisfied with something there is no point in pretending its ok, no matter how much work you have put into it.

Awakening Land Monday 23rd March 2010

March 23, 2010

Awakening Land

This is probably the fifth day of working on this. Up till now most painting sessions have been short, 15 minutes to half an hour. The first sesion consisted of drawing out in charcoal, fixing the drawing and then working into the drawing with underpainting white which gives the painting early physical presence. When this has dried, burnt sienna, quite thinned with turpentine is washed over. Immediately this has touch dried (very quick, just a few minutes, though the paint is actually still technically wet its wetness has little effect on the thick paint which is then laid, undiluted on top.

All the painting sessions, including the drawing are improvised. I sometimes work from thumbnail sketches I have made but usually these only provide starting points and often I don’t start with anything. The work today took probably in the region of 6 to 7 hours but much of that was in making changes, removing paint, wrestling with composition and just looking, as always.

Awakening Land

March 21, 2010

With so much to do, always, it takes me quite a lot of effort to just sit down here to write this. I know that there are people who are sitting at their computers all day long, blogging. What are they talking about? Who is listening?

Just before Spring officially begins, here is Spring. Almost 60F and in westerley breezes, for the first time for months, the first rain and the first smell of that westerly rain and the smell of earth. In fields which were dry and brittle, the colour and texture of Shredded Wheat, the green begins to show, lower slopes on steep hillsides look like well tended lawns. Everywhere you can almost watch it happening; the green oozing up from beneath the old brown. Clouds of Snowdrops still lie like a stilled Summer sky but now new spikes and new colour. Whilst humans panic, nature which is such an unnoticed yet massive and unstoppable force continues to regenerate, to perpetually self-heal. We so underestimate its power of self restoration.

Cumulus drift in zephyr breeze. Birdsong and Spring sun and spray shadow.

You can call it pretty-pretty or twee or nature table or any other such terms (or insults) but nature is undesigned. The gift of flowers, say (I mean the wildflowers which cover the earth, not Interflora) seems almost to be to cheer us, to give hope and happiness and they do. Yet we know in an analytical, scientific understanding, the flower is only interested in its self-perpetuation and its DNA designs it to be attractive not to us but to the insects which pollinate it. Is the world a beautiful, incredibly diverse, safe and livable body in space, intended to evolve like us, or is it that we have come, over thousands of years to see it that way?

Every day for the next week I shall be publishing a photograph of a painting on which I am working. I have started it but it is very much in a fundamental state. It has to be finished by next Monday so it seemed to me to be a good opportunity to show a little more of my working practices. As always the painting has no preliminaries, no source except for what is initially in my head. You will witness its evolution.

Awakening Land

March 13, 2010

March emerges as a lamb, gently standing on wobbly legs. Every evening is burnished brass to copper and every morning the mountains are cut sharp against a sky which is distilled Cerulean Blue. The Winter slips into Spring and three months of snow shrinks back to neat shapes like Japanese islands in little valleys and ghylls as though brushed tidy by a Zen gardener. Skies are pure Cobalt Blue, lightening to the horizon and becoming yellower, like that early morning Cerulean. Stratus and cumulus and even much higher cirrus is lemony, yet pearl white and pearl grey. Then the mountains, for weeks now sharp edged as though rain should soon be on the way, though it never comes, are influenced by the same Cobalt Blue. This awakening land stirs like an old bear, heaving itself out of hibernation, and it has the look of an old bear, or rather an old teddy bear. The bottoms of valleys which would normally be scattered with nitro-phosphates, which would then be left to soak in the rain to make the grass as green as emerald, are as beautifully drab and dry as the high fells, since no reasonable rain has fallen since November. It is a landscape which under the brightening, almost-Spring sun, looks just like an old teddy bear, tufted and leeched of colour.
This mornimg I thought, even more than I have thought before, that no day, no condition, no atmosphere, no weather can be called bad, or dull, or uninteresting. Every day brings a fascinating display of change, like a fan or peacocks feathers unfurling. It is the subtleties which are there to be seen; they are like a gift. If this sounds soft or sentimental, so be it, though it is my fullest intention to pave a way in my thoughts and painting to a place where the notions of romanticism, beauty and even sentimentality can be considered in a fresh and unashamed light, as an integral part of humanity, there as a counter to the seemingly boundless oily slick of cynicism and post-modern irony. Don’t get me wrong on this. I understand the reality of the world as far as I receive it; I know its problems, but I also see its perfections.

This Place I Call Home

March 6, 2010

Ice cold, star washed night, and in the night, a shower of fine frozen rain and then gone, unnoticed by the sleeping eyes of this town. Yet it is there in the morning, frosted and hard crusted and white. Sparkling blue morning, daylong sun and spray shadow day is stilled and after frost, is benign and gentle, dissolving into fondly remembered evening.
The mountains are still white. More than a dusting, up there it has been snow on snow on snow for three months and although there has been freeze and thaw on slighly milder days (even at lake level the temperature has barely risen above 5 celsius all winter) or on one of the many sunfilled days, the gullies and ghylls and cornices where winds meet on cliff edges are many feet thick and will take weeks to melt when the spring warmth does arrive. In cirques and hanging valleys, snow on snow on snow and days and days of hard frost with slight thaw now and then has turned fields of snow to translucent aquamarine fields of ice. They are the beginnings of infant glaciers. If the mountains were higher of course, these conditions would continue. Up there on days like this when spring is almost here, with the snow rising higher and illuminating everything in its broad, extensive gaze, the feeling is similar to that in the Alps in summer, above the forests and flowery meadows where the gullies stay filled with neat tongues of packed white snow and higher still, those pale blue-green glaciers.

I’ve been reading Stuart Maconie’s Pies and Predudice which was written before Adventures on the High Teas, which I read last year. Before I read these books I couldn’t understand why Maconie seemed to be always chosen to appear as a talking head on so many pop-docs.; those programmes where someone rather too young to be even born at the time would say of the 70s, for example,  something like “oh, I remember clackers, what were they all about?”. Maconie would come up with unfunny or at best mildly witty comments, always furtively glancing to the camera, almost seeking approval from a non-existent audience. However, he comes across as very knowledgeable, down-to-earth and genuinely witty in the books. He seems to love ‘The Lakes’. I appreciate his comments on Wainwright though it is frustrating when the only representatives of Lakeland seem to be the stock characters of Wordsworth, Wainwright and Hunter Davis (who seems to have been given sole authority to pronounce on what is good, bad and indifferent about Cumbria) and like Hunter Davis, is boringly and unnecessarily scathing about Bowness (on Windermere) and its visitors. Bowness  isn’t like Blackpool, even though it may seem witty to make the comparison. Bowness, once an old village, was developed as a resort in Victorian times. It was built for pleasure and anyone coming to live or visit here must understand this. It isn’t a market town.It has a local populus and a large transient population of workers from the many hotels and restaurants. There is a certain amount of flash and trash, if you want to call it that because it is easy to get to and there is a huge number of visitors from all around the world. It nestles against the steep sided wooded hills from the tops of which, just above the town, there is one of the best views in the world, a wide collage, a panorama of lake and forest and distant mountain. From the white steamers and little boats in the bay to the big and sometimes huge houses and villas, and even the bustle of touristy shops, life for me here is luxury. Yes, there are some things which could be better but we have a quality and variety of life here which could surely not be found anywhere else. I don’t want to come across as smug but it does I suit me very well.