Thursday 30 December 2021

Starting A New Chapter


2021 has been a busy year and I've never found the time to do any blogging. I've missed it! I think blogging helps me to reflect and improve on the work I'm producing. I shall resolve to try and create more regular blog posts over the next year, using this as my springboard.

I'm developing ideas for a new body of work. I live in a beautiful part of Scotland which was recently designated a UNESCO Biosphere. I'm thinking about doing a series of paintings and prints that are focused on the Biosphere, maybe trying to explore a particular angle or angles. For instance, I was thinking about 'extremities' or 'extremes', or maybe something weather-related with a theme title like 'elemental'.

The Wester Ross Biosphere covers an enormous area with a great variety of landscapes and so another thought is to do several different groups of paintings in an attempt to describe the diversity of the landscapes here. With this in mind, as a start, I've embarked on a series of riverscapes.

Sketching By The River

Sketch 1 in pastel
I went for a walk and a sketch at Silverbridge, outside Garve. Garve happens to lie at the eastern extremity of the Biosphere (and so it also fits with the 'extremities' idea - another reason for sketching there). I had heard about this river – the Black Water - and I found it to be a beautiful, atmospheric place. I took lots of photos too.  It was cold and damp.  I haven't done much sketching by rivers, and so it was a bit of a challenge.

Sketch 2 - pencil drawing of the Wade Bridge

Sketch 3 in charcoal
As I sat sketching, I was reminded of the paintings of Tom Thomson (one of the Canadian Group of Seven). I felt that the combination of the fast-flowing river, the pines on the riverbanks, and the sculpted rocks was redolent of the Canadian landscape (or to be more precise, the Algonquin landscape, I think). This was in my head as I sketched, and it came back to me in the studio when I was developing the sketches.

Developing ideas 1
Developing ideas 2







The river was in such spate, fast-flowing with foaming waterfalls, yellowish peaty water, and rich dark depths. I had done several sketches on both banks of the river and I re-drew these, also referring to photographs. The mixed woodland (pines and birches) provided a dark backdrop, and as it was a gloomy day, I couldn't see the hills beyond the trees.  



Paintings so far.

Painting 1 (so far)

I decided to focus on three images.  I liked the contrast between the rich black pools and the foaming water, and I loved the amazing rocks. 


Painting 2 (so far)

These paintings are all acrylic on paper. I may go on and do an oil painting based on one or two of them, but for the moment I am resting them – setting them aside before deciding if they are finished or not. I've also been seeking out appropriate river poem quotes. I tried MacCaig first, and found this from his poem “Falls of Measach” - “Waterfalls marking the stages to some rich plunge into the dark”. This did seem to fit with the foaming rapids cascading into darkly rich pools. 


Painting 3 (so far)

 I also found these lines by Mary Oliver from her poem “At The River Clarion”-

“I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.”

It strikes me that this might be a good way of describing the mystery of sketching.  What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment