Winter’s end landscape

I’ve just finished this painting. The canvas is 12″ x 16″ and it’s based on some photos I took last month. The landscape had a bleached look to it that is only starting to change now. It’s unusual not to see more Spring colour here at this time of year but we’ve had a very long spell of unseasonably cold and dry weather which has delayed the new growth.

Here’s how this painting began. I’ve roughed in the composition and I’ve added some textured paste to the foreground.

 

First stage of Winter's end landscape

 

 

 

 

Next some more colour. I decide to leave the background more or less as it is.

 

Second stage of Winter's end landscape

 

 

 

Next I concentrate on this gorge in the foreground. This represents an area of cut bog and I want it to contrast with the lightness of the grasses so I go in with lots of darks – sepias and earthy reds.

 

Third stage of Winter's end landscape

 

 

 

 

Here’s a couple of close ups below.

 

Close up 1

 

 

 

 

Winter's end close up 2

 

 

 

 

At this point I decided to add a little green to the piece. I chose a pearlescent silvery green below.

 

Winter's end landscape almost finished

 

 

 

 

 

Now a bit of tidying up and just a little more green, this time it’s a sap green.

 

Finished landscape by Deborah Watkins

Charred Ground

I took these photographs recently which show the aftermath of the gorse fires here in Connemara. They show the extent of the damage – massive areas of land have been blackened by the fires right up to the roadside.

 

The charred roadsides near Moyard

 

 

 

 

I sometimes wonder about the benefits v disadvantages of my near total ignorance of the technical business of photography. These pictures were taken on my trusted Fugifilm camera which I’ve had for about five years. I realised that it was on a ‘sunset’ setting after I had taken most of my photos. I subsequently changed to the ‘auto’ button which is supposed to find the optimum setting for the prevailing conditions. However, the last pictures I took ( of which this is not the worst example below ) were a horrible blue colour and poorly reflected the actual light conditions at the time. The former photos have a lovely sepia tinge to them which accentuated the actual light, giving them an old, other worldly feel.

 

Photo of charred landscape with bluish tinge

 

 

 

 

I suppose that I quite enjoy the accidental nature of these small discoveries while I have to admit that more knowledge on the technical front would not be a bad thing. The prospect of acquiring this information has just never seemed very appealing to me and I am indebted to my camera which (for the most part ) does the job for me..

Here’s some more photos – I like the desert like feel to this one below.

 

Charred ground after the gorse fires

 

 

 

 

This last one might just have been good old Kansas before Dorothy was wooshed up into the sky..

It is in fact the last stretch of open bog on the road to Moyard/Letterfrack.

 

Fields of ash, near Moyard after the fires

March Landscape

This landscape is probably more true to how the landscape actually looks at the moment than others I’ve done recently. Along with the richness of some of the colours, theres a bleached out feeling to the old growth which has been touched on in this piece. It started out like this below.

 

March Landscape - first stage

 

 

 

 

Next I added some textured paste to define this long gully that disappears into the distance and the movement of the grasses on either side of it.

 

March Landscape - Second stage

 

 

 

 

Here’s a close up of some of the marks below.

 

Second stage - close up

 

 

 

 

Next, I’ve loaded the canvas with colour. I’ve left the mountains in the background as they were – just a simple wash of colours as I want them to recede behind the ‘action’ in the foreground.

 

March Landscape - Third Landscape

 

 

 

 

Another close up below. I’ve applied the paint thickly and in layers, sometimes wet on wet.

 

Third stage - close up

 

 

 

 

Here’s the finished piece. I’ve left this small area of white at the point where the gully fades into the background. The eye is drawn to that point so it seems right that it should be the brightest patch. I’m happy with this one – the swirling energy of the grasses and the landscape against the cool austerity of the hills in the distance. I like the brighter tones in this piece too which I’m going to try to keep for the next few paintings. What do you think?

 

Finished March Landscape

Surge

 

I began this painting (above) a week or more ago. It is loosely based on some photographs I took in the bog this year, particularly this fuzzy looking one with the trenches at right angles in the distance.

 

 

Rainy landscape photo by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I started work on a 12″ x 14″ x 1.5″ canvas and outlined the composition with broad strokes of colour. I’ve accentuated the right angled trench and made it the centre of attention.

 

First stage of 'Surge' painting

 

 

 

Next I added some textured paste. I’m really enjoying this stuff – it does exactly what you want it to do, so when you put it on the canvas it doesn’t slide off and it holds it’s shape perfectly until it dries.

 

Second stage of 'Surge' painting

 

 

 

Here are some close ups – I’ve used my hands to make the marks, as well as brushes of different sizes and various tools that came to hand. I’m interested in putting some energy into the piece with these marks, in making the surface seem to writhe with movement as it sometimes appears to do in life.

 

Close up of textured paste

 

 

 

 

Second close up

 

 

 

 

The paste takes several hours to dry completely so I return to it the next day. I go back in with colour to describe the grasses and the landscape and I make the trench a watery one with blues.

 

Next stage of painting

 

 

 

This is what the piece looks like when it’s still wet and after lots of colour has been applied (below).

 

More colour added to painting

 

 

 

The paint loses it’s gloss once it has dried (below) but this will return later once the canvas has been varnished.

 

February Landscape

 

 

 

When I look at it again, I realise that there are too many horizontal lines and shapes which need to be broken up. I decide to correct this by making some small vertical shapes in the centre of the canvas so that the eye is carried around the painting rather than stopping at the point where this trench shape ends.

 

Finished Landscape

 

 

 

I’m pleased with the results and I’ve decided to call the piece ‘Surge’. This describes for me the movement of the landscape – movement that the eye can see but also the shiftings that take place over hundreds of years. Thousands of years. Layers of matter building up all the time and layers being washed away. I love this notion of the land as a living thing, observed cooly in the distance by the unchanging character of the mountains.

Sundown

I went out to the Bog Road between Clifden and Moyard last week. It was about 5.30pm and the light was really beautiful, low and clear. The colour of the bog grasses was striking – rich metallic shades of gold, copper and bronze. There was still some warmth left in the sun but the wind had a bite to it which isn’t evident in these pictures – the colours are so deceptively warm, it could be some hot and arid place..

 

Photograph of bog by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

I wandered down this road to get a better look – a typical Irish side road with impressive pot holes..

 

Road with pot holes

 

 

 

 

Mmmm, need a tractor to get through this next bit, good job I brought my wellies..but just look at the blues reflected in this pool.

 

Photograph of flooded road by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

One last picture, I like the way the hill peaks over the top of the road in this one.

 

Road through bog by Deborah Watkins

 

The Dash

Spring might just be on it’s way after all. We’ve had a whole week of dry weather which is very welcome indeed after all the rain we’ve been having since Christmas. Although it is very cold ( oh yes that wind can slice the skin ) it is a tonic to have clear blue skies overhead and to feel the sun again. My garden is slowly beginning to recover and harden from the sludgy waste ground it had become. There are spots of colour too reaching out in the few daffodils forgotten since last year and the bursts of new growth by the roadside. Every bit of this is long awaited, long earned.

I came across a poem which expresses this beautifully. It is called ‘The Dash’ and it is written by Kathleen Jamie whose book ‘The Overhaul‘ was shortlisted for this years Costa Book awards. Kathleen is from the West of Scotland and her work has been honoured with many awards throughout her career. ‘The Overhaul’ is a collection of poems which seem to breathe the landscape where Kathleen is from. There is an engaging use of Scots speech in her poetry, much of which has similarities to gaelic and this gives the writing warmth and musicality. There are many similarities between Scotland and Connemara – the wildness and the ferocity of nature’s relationship with the land and the gentleness of it too – the beauty of the everyday and all it’s treasures.

 

 

 

The Dash

 

 

Every mid-February

those first days arrive

when the sun rises

higher than the Black

Hill at last. Brightness

and a crazy breeze

course from the same airt –

turned clods gleam, the trees’

topmost branches bend

shivering downwind.

They chase, this lithe pair

out of the far south

west, and though scalding

to our wintered eyes

look; we cry, it’s here

 

 

Kathleen Jamie

 

 

Image of Hawthorn by the roadside by Deborah Watkins

Texture

Connemara Sheep by Evie Lavelle

I’ve been working on this large landscape. It’s 12″ x 14″ x 2″ which is a large deep canvas by my standards. It began this below.

 

First stage of Large Textured Landscape

 

 

 

 

Then I added more colour.

 

Second stage of Textured Landscape

 

 

 

 

Next I brushed on some textured paste, my first time using this medium. It has the consistency of thick paint and is opaque white in colour. I worked into the paste once it was on the canvas to created different kinds of textures. It should probably be applied before this much paint has been put on to the canvas but I wanted to make the textures relevant to what is happening in the painting. I have a pet hate for landscape art that uses texture randomly.

 

Large canvas with texture

 

 

 

 

Here’s some close ups below.

 

Close up of texture medium on canvas

 

 

 

Second close up

 

 

 

 

Next I added more paint.

 

Next stage of landscape painting

 

 

 

Here’s the piece after a more work (below).  I’ve covered the canvas with colour now and I’ve made this corner on the left darker than I’d originally planned. I’ve also added some green and brown to the pool as I wanted it to have a more murky feel to it.

 

Finished painting

 

 

 

 

When I looked back at the last two images, I saw that I had removed most of the green from the clump of grasses on the front right of the canvas so I went back and put some more green back in there.

 

Landscape with a little more green

 

 

 

 

I’ve learnt a few things making this painting – the first is that I love working with this textured paste. It brings the piece alive for me by – a bit like modeling with clay ( ahh, I remember those days ). More than that, I’ve learnt to trust this material ( paint ) which probably sounds a bit strange or perhaps too obvious but sometimes the hardest things to grasp are the things that are right in front of our noses! It’s an acceptance of the material and the ability to really work with it, to just go for it without trepidation. I think I’m finally learning to do this and I feel happy with the way the work is progressing at the moment.

 

Contrast

I started this one with a couple of others recently. It’s loosely based on some pictures I took out on the bog road this month. I think this one is all about contrast – between the black bog and the white/golden grasses, the darkness of the earth itself and the lightness and blueness of the sky and its reflections.

Here’s how it started below.

 

First stage of January Bog

 

 

 

 

Here’s how it progressed – I worked this whole piece very wet, playing with the inks and paint and trying to work with their fluid qualities. I love the way they react together, bleeding into each other like glazes fusing in a kiln.

 

Second stage of January Bog

 

 

 

I’m almost tempted to leave it as it is ( above ) but I go back to it once the colours have dried. I try to put in just a bit more detail and to describe the grasses a bit better and give them more direction..

 

Finished Landscape - January Bog

 

 

 

 

While I am quite happy with this one, I almost prefer it at the earlier first stage as pictured above – what do you think?

 

January Landscape

I started another landscape based on some photos of the bog I took in the rain this month. I began the piece on the easel and used charcoal and broad brushes with lots of colour – below.

 

Landscape first stage

 

 

 

 

The horizontal swipe of orange made me think of Egon Shiele‘s work – something about the combination of black and rust. I had to stop and take a look at his paintings – this one’s called ‘Truth Unveiled

I love the energy in the lines, the scratchiness of them, you can almost feel the hand that made these marks – the daubs and blocks of vivid colour. Wonderful.

 

Egon Schiele - Truth Unveiled

 Image taken from canvasreplicsa.com

 

 

 

Now back to work! I added more colour and detail to the landscape below, it’s still on the easel so the inks and paint run downwards a bit.

 

The same landscape with more paint added

 

 

 

 

I take it off the easel now and do some work on the table, trying to counteract the vertical lines with more horizontal shapes of colour.

 

Same landscape worked a bit more

 

 

 

 

I want to darken it a little now so I use some charcoal where the paint is dry, on the hills at the back especially and in the line through the middle of the road.

 

Next stage of landscape painting

 

 

 

 

I mark in the fence on the left also with charcoal.

 

Landscape after more work

 

 

 

 

I reworked much of the piece ( below) once the paint was dry. The fence is gone and I’ve decided to leave it out. I tried consciously to avoid being precious about what I’d already done, pushing myself to just go ahead and make mistakes – keeping the image of the place in my mind at all times.

I think this is where my greatest weakness is and I’m trying to gain the confidence to finish a painting with the same energy that it had when it began. I’m happier with the results so far and I need to put this painting away now for a few days and come back to it afresh.

 

Finished Landscape

 

Return to Painting

It’s always hard to get back to painting after a break. I’ve had a couple of false starts since Christmas but I have resolved to try to develop the work in a number of ways. I want to make some larger work this year for one and I also want to make my painting looser, less busy, and more expressive somehow. Yes, quite the tall order I have for myself indeed. This will all take time and it’s frustrating to begin with clear ideas like these in mind and then to find that it’s not so easy to translate into something actual straight away. It’s a process of course and it will take time.

So, here’s how my first painting for 2013 began – it’s really more of a sketch because it’s on quite a lightweight paper.  It’s similar to some bog paintings I made at the end of last year although this was not my intention exactly. I used an easel for the initial part of the painting in an effort to keep the composition loose and energetic.

 

First stage of painting

 

 

 

 

Now for some more paint..

 

Second stage of painting

 

 

 

 

I’m still using the easel at this next stage but I’m finding that the ink is dripping vertically ( of course! ) which is not necessarily where I want it to go.

 

Third stage of painting

 

 

 

 

I finish it on the table and I darken the whole piece with more brown and blue. I discover about now that if I use any more paint or ink the page will dissolve in front of me so this is my main reason for stopping!  I’m reasonably satisfied with it at this stage in any case – my problem with it is that it does seem a bit of a muddle in terms of composition. I like the colours and the diagonal thrust of it but it did seem to work better earlier on. What’s your view?  I think I’ve more work to do..

 

Fourth stage of painting