A painting in progress

I thought I would share some of my working methods with you today. This is a painting of a well known landscape in Cambridgeshire called ‘Devil’s Dyke’. I have photographed the location on numerous occasions and in many different weather conditions; I have always found something new and exciting to reveal. A while ago, I decided to translate this scene into oil paint on canvas using a cold wax medium to render textural qualities.

It is a work in progress and I have been developing different ideas for a couple of days now. I am trying to achieve a balance to the recording of the pathway, the fields and the tonality of the sky; as you can see there is a great deal more to do here. I enjoy the fact that cold wax allows you to draw directly into the paint surface but there is always a tension between the purely illusionistic elements of light, tone and colour and the physicality of raised marks and incisions.

I’ll keep you updated and show you the next stage in a week or so.

Striation

abstract landscape painting
‘Striation’ Oil on Canvas 60 x 60 cm

This is an experimental painting on canvas using tar, oil paint and cold wax medium. Just recently, I have been trying to include more elements of drawing in my work, allowing the hand to make incisions without consciously controlling or dictating the final outcome. I guess I am attempting to eliminate myself from the process, to achieve a sense of originality and inevitability about the marks, undoubtedly a foolhardy enterprise. How can it be possible to draw without prior awareness of drawing? I recall the ‘blind drawing’ exercises we worked on in art classes; they often produced surprising and unexpected results. However, many of the students never quite grasped the purpose of these techniques and often felt they were creating interesting but more or less random ‘drawings’ lacking in observational skill.

How as an artist do you suppress and override all those aspects of knowledge surrounding line and form that we acquire over years of practice? The lyrical and poetic qualities of line become part of our skill set, our DNA, the sweep of the arm, the motion of the wrist; curves and contours, all the motor skills associated with looking and recording though drawing become ingrained and established.

I intend to explore and discuss this aspect of drawing further in the next few posts. I’ll be looking at the use of unconventional drawing implements and the significance of the material we choose to work with.

Detail from ‘Striation’

The River Great Ouse

This is a mixed-media landscape painting on a 100 x 75 cm deep edge canvas. Semi abstract and expressionistic in terms of technique and style, it is based on my day to day experience of living in the dramatic Fenland landscape of East Cambridgeshire in England. The heavy texture of the painting combines gesso, sand, plaster, bitumen and iridescent metallic paint. I wanted to create a work that was almost tangible in terms of its physicality and weight, a painting that could be seen as a piece of sculpture or stoneware ceramic. The materials used are applied with a variety of tools including brushes, palette knives, assorted scrapers and cards. The surface impasto is witness to an extended process of accumulation and sedimentation, very much akin to the layering of earth over time. I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter.

 

landscape painting river texture impasto contemporary
The River Great Ouse

heavy impasto contemporary landscape painting based on the cambridgeshire Fenlands
Detail of The River Great Ouse

Gilded Shore

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‘Gilded Shore’  100 x 75 cm 

Gilded Shore is an abstract painting in terms of technique, style and intention. It is based on the flat, open landscapes of the East Anglian, Cambridgeshire Fenland. Semi transparent glazes give depth and luminosity as light is reflected through the layers of pigment. The variegated surface of the painting is achieved with thickly applied bitumen and cold wax medium. The lustrous quality or sheen is achieved through a combination of burnishing the wax surface and interleaved layers of metallic paint. A variety of tools and implements have been used to create incisions, marks and subtle textures that can be read as earth, sky, and water. The restricted references to three dimensional space is designed to create a subtle counterpoint the pictorial flatness of the deep raw and burnt umbers.

 

Paradise

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I spent a number of days walking amongst the trees and gathering information for a series of paintings through drawing and photography; I absorbed the sights and sounds of the trees in the forest and found a way to recreate something of that experience in paint.

I am interested in surfaces and textures and the way materials can be combined to create tactile qualities. Cold wax can be applied in thin layers or heavy impasto. It can be scored, scoured and burnished like a rich stoneware ceramic glaze; it can left dry, broken, fragmented and uneven. I have included up a number of close up photographs to give some indication of the extremely rich and highly textured surface of the painting; you can also begin to see in the reflections, the depth and lustre contained in the burnished wax.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’Til it’s gone…

Joni Mitchell, from “Big Yellow Taxi,” lyrics written circa 1967–68

Stone and Water

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Painting: Oil Cold Wax and Mixed Media on Canvas

Size: 80 x 80 x 2cm

This is a cold wax mixed media painting on a high quality canvas frame. It is based on my experience of the Fenland landscape. It is not a visual record of a specific place, or a celebration of a well known structure or familiar location. I am interested in surfaces and textures and the way materials can be combined to create tactile qualities. Cold wax can be applied in thin layers or heavy impasto. It can be scored, scoured and burnished like a rich stoneware ceramic glaze; it can left dry, broken, fragmented and uneven.

“Bones are patient. Bones never tire nor do they run away. When you come upon a man who has been dead many years, his bones will still be lying there, in place, content, patiently waiting, but his flesh will have gotten up and left him. Water is like flesh. Water will not stand still. It is always off to somewhere else; restless, talkative, and curious. Even water in a covered jar will disappear in time. Flesh is water. Stones are like bones. Satisfied. Patient. Dependable. Tell me, then, Alobar, in order to achieve immortality, should you emulate water or stone? Should you trust your flesh or your bones?”

Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

 

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Close up detail of the painting surfaces

Forest

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This is a large mixed media painting on a 122cm x 92cm professional quality canvas. It is partly expressionistic, partly impressionistic in terms of technique and style. The media, including bitumen, thick acrylic paint and an assortment of organic debris collected from the forest floor are applied with a variety of tools including brushes and palette knives. The surface is built up in quite heavy impasto and alternately glazed over a period of time. In places, the surface has been scorched with a heat gun to create unexpected interactions of materials and paint.

I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter. If you have a moment, take a closer look at the detailed photographs to gain a more tangible sense of the textural qualities in this work.

Thetford Forest is the UK’s largest man made lowland forest with 18,730 hectares to explore. It was originally planted to aid the UK war effort. In common with many areas of East Anglia – including the reclaimed Fenlands – it is essentially a fictional world, artificial, planned and designed to resemble a forest. That it also happens to be an area of outstanding ‘natural’ beauty is a poetic irony. When I visited the Forest a couple of weeks ago for inspiration, I was informed by ‘Forest Rangers’ that the area I had just entered was private….I wasn’t happy but made my apologies and left. What part of rural England in the 21st Century England can we call ours?

http://www.artfinder.com/marketing/artwork/forest-0155/?scheme=dark&user_id=571453&size=large

Way Head Drove

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This morning the low sun cast long shadows on the road to Coveney.  The farm vehicles were busy churning up the heavy clay soil and making new tracks along the lane. My road bike with limited tyre tread added to the precarious nature of the journey. It is a beautiful time of the year in the Fenland.

Coronation Avenue, Anglesey Abbey

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This image was taken a couple of weeks ago in the grounds of Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge. For those who are interested, I used a Canon 5D2 with a 17-40 lens; the camera was on a tripod and I took 3 bracketed exposures to capture a wider range of tonal values. I only needed 2 of the files to achieve the balance I wanted between the sky and the land. The final effect was created with at least 2 additional texture layers, desaturation and selective sharpening, enhancing the illustrative quality.

Eriswell: A Mixed Media Painting

Landscape painting mixed media texture impasto perspective
Eriswell

This is a mixed-media landscape painting on a 103cm x 76cm deep edge canvas. It is semi abstract and expressionistic in terms of technique and style. It is based on my day to day experience of living in the dramatic Fenland landscape of East Cambridgeshire in England. The heavy texture of the painting combines gesso, sand, plaster and oil paint. The material and paint is applied with a variety of tools including brushes and palette knives with the surface is built up in layers and glazes over a period of time. I have been influenced by the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter.

Pymoor Fen

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In nature time is always occupied; endlessly engaged, transforming surfaces, altering appearances….. staining and corroding, layering and revealing, cleansing and encasing.

This image uses successive layers of cold wax, allowing for heavy impasto and fine incisions with a variety of tools and instruments. It is based directly on the landscape of the Fens seen within a ten mile radius of Ely cathedral. Most days I am out on my bike, cycling through this landscape in all weathers…I stop to draw, take photographs and just allow the scenes to etch into my memory.