Working on groups of paintings is satisfying and productive! This way I can achieve a consistency across the series so they will all work together. These are drawings of rock shapes, trying to reference the shape and get a sense of dimension. These are wooden panels so I can really scrape the paint, scratching and sanding then adding further paint layers. The splatters are an echo of lichen greens and pinks that grow on the stones.
Adding layers and trying to keep the shadow of the shapes, I am thinking about the effects of weather over time on the stone and how the elements soften and erode detail. I have used paynes grey for the darkest areas and a cloth to blur the edges, scraping other colours over the top and wiping off when nearly dry to leave a shadow of the colour.
Its common for artists to work on more than one painting at a time, I am doing this for groups of similarly themed but individually different paintings. Claude Monet is a famous example of working in series, he painted a series of the same haystack in different light, weather and times of year throughout his life.
Working this way means I can really get stuck in to experiencing the subject, exploring the texture, shape and colour. Looking at the tiny details that take time to see and replicate at scale. The object becomes familiar and the drawing of it more relaxed and intuitive, I have realised that its not until this stage that I, as an artist, apply my own unique style to the painting, almost as if I can get past the physical object and add something more, is Meta the word?...
This is the second stage of painting for the 2 big ones. It is still a landmass with horizon, recognisable as a landscape. I have started to add shapes within the mass and layers of colour. The black lines represent a map I have found through my research on Dylife lead mine, its a linear map showing where the all the cuttings and mine shafts were and the tracks used. The idea of duality is appearing, the bigger landmass and the microcosm within, the mapping also representing lines within rock and layers within the earth. A rock representing the landscape.
A close up shot showing how I have used the printed paper, it has produced a very satisfying effect. As well as the representational aspect it also adds contrast to the composition and a feeling of solidity.
Over the past few weeks I have been reading some nature poets, including Mary Oliver, Ralph Emerson, John Clare and Gary Snyder. I love the buddist and environmental approach of Gary Snyder, the affinity with solitude that Mary Oliver has and Emerson's meditive influence talking about understanding 'the truth'. I've been thinking about how words and painting can work together, the idea of understanding 'the truth' Emerson talks about links to impressionist paintings and the search for painting 'the truth'. I guess it means peeling back layers and getting to the heart and feeling of a place.
I love this poem by Ellen P. Allerton, its called The Old Stone Quarry and speaks to my area of focus.
Grown with grass and with tangled weeds,
Where the blind mole hides and the rabbit feeds,
And, unmolested, the serpent breeds.
Edged with underwood, newly grown,
Draped with the cloak that the years have thrown
Round the broken gaps in the jagged stone.
It was opened—I know not how long ago--
Opened, and left half-worked, and so
In this ragged hollow the rank weeds grow.
Why lies it idle, this beautiful stone?
Ho, for the pickaxe! One by one
Hew out these blocks—here is work undone.
There are possible towers in this serpent's den--
Possible homes for homeless men.
Who shall build them? and where? and when?
Must they lie here still, unmarked, unsought--
Turrets and temples, uncarved, unwrought,
Till the end of time? 'Tis a sorrowful thought!
All through the heats of the summer hours,
The wild bee hums in the unplucked flowers
That creep and bloom over unbuilt towers.
As I sit here, perched on the grass-grown wall,
Down to the hollow the brown leaves fall,
Little by little covering all.
So month after month, and year after year,
The rank weeds creep and the leaves turn sere.
And a thicker mantle is weaving here.
And a day may come when the passer-by,
Threading the underwood, then grown high,
Shall see but a hollow, where dead leaves lie.
There are human souls that seem to me
Like this unwrought stone—for all you see--
Is a shapeless quarry of what might be,
Lying idle, and overgrown
With tangled weeds, like this beautiful stone--
Possible work left undone,
Possible victories left unwon.
And that is a waste that is worse than this;
Sharper the edge of the hidden abyss,
Deadlier serpents crawl and hiss.
And a day shall come when the desolate scene,
Though scanned by eyes that are close and keen,
Shall show no trace of its "might have been."
I have decided to make 3 big paintings on wooden panels, these are 42 inches by 86 inches, 4 20 x 20 inch wooden panels and half a dozen small 10 x 10 inch wooden panels. These might not all be in the final selection for the exhibition but at least I will have some options to select from. Here are the first 2 of big ones showing an initial drawing/composition.
The idea is to represent the mining landscape, using the shapes of rock, stratification, soil, quartz,
gems and tunnelling as reference. I have been constantly back and forth with how to do this,
should it be a realistic representation or abstracted? or a mixture of both? How literal should it be, what is the story, the essence I want to convey? Finally I decided to go abstract! but maybe include a small element of realism by representing one of the gems found in the mine called Ramsbeckite, an indigo/turquoise gem.
The composition represents a landmass and will show layers below the surface describing shapes of rocks, tunneling and soil and organic matter. The view will be side on as if you are looking through layers like an archological dig, layers through time that are being revieled to us. The shape of the landmass is also the shape of one of the rocks I found, so its an overview of land and what is contained within it.
This is the first stage of painting for 2 of the big panels, laying down colour and thinking about how shapes fit together. I have added some of the collage paper that I discussed in my previous blog. This represents cutting/tunneling and also seams of quartz running through rock. Initially I am working on these as a dyptych but this might/probably will change! There is a third big panel but not started that yet. I don't think it will be a tryptych... but you never know at this stage, everything could change. There is also an obvious horizon indicative of landscape but I am unsure about including this at the moment.
Its always exciting to make bits and pieces to use as collage elements. I found some ribbed cardboard in my box of stuff that might come in useful one day and thought this would work for adding surface texture and representing some of the rock layers. I have been using collage to work out shapes and have experimented with this in previous work. Using a roller I applied acrylic ink to the surface of the cardboard and then using Gampi paper, a thin japanese paper, I transfered the ink, this made interesting uniform but characterful textures. I used a few different colours and made a stack of them so I could rip them up and use fragments or cover larger areas.