Water, Snow and Ice

I’m reading a book that most of the world has read and enjoyed but which I am just discovering. It is ‘Tinkers‘ the novel by Paul Harding that won the Pulitzer prize in 2010. It is simply the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time and I am savouring every page. I decided that I would try to make some paintings to describe one lovely passage.

This part of the book describes the failure efforts of the protagonist’s salesman father to sell small pieces of jewelry to peasant women on his travels. The land is frozen and the women are too caught up in their own hardships to allow themselves this small pleasure.

 

‘He thought, Buy the pendant, sneak it into your hand from the folds of your dress and let the low light of the fire lap it late at night as you wait for the roof to give out or your will to snap and the ice to be too thick to chop through with the ax as you stand in your husband’s boots on the frozen lake at midnight, the dry hack of the blade on ice so tiny under the wheeling and frozen stars, the soundproof lid of heaven, that your husband would never stir from his sleep in the cabin across the ice, would never hear and come running, half-frozen, in only his union suit, to save you from chopping a hole in the ice and sliding in to it as if it were a blue vein, sliding down in to the black, silty bottom of the lake, where you would see nothing, would perhaps feel only the stir of some somnolent fish in the murk as the plunge of you in your wool dress and the big boots disturbed it from its sluggish winter dreams of ancient seas. Maybe you would not even feel that, as you struggled in clothes that felt like cooling tar, and as you slowed, calmed, even, and opened your eyes and looked for a pulse of silver, an imbrication of scales, and as you closed your eyes again and felt their lids turn to slippery, ichthyic skin, the blood behind them suddenly cold, and as you found yourself not caring, wanting, finally, to rest, finally wanting nothing more than the sudden, new, simple hum threading between your eyes’.

 taken from ‘Tinkers’ by Paul Harding, Chapter 1, pages 24/25 

 

This is how I started the painting below.

 

First stage of painting

 

 

 

 

The largest part of the painting is under water. I wanted to have a central shape plunging downwards and water gushing back upwards and in to the air. This is the next stage below.

 

Second stage of painting

 

 

 

 

I used lots of colour for the plunging shape – pinks, golds, browns, some red. I made several attempts to get this sense of movement using large brushes and lots of colour – blues first and then splashes of white for the water. It’s coming together here but I’m not happy with the top part. It doesn’t feel like a cold place yet. The next image below is the piece as I have left it.

 

 

Finished painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I used a broad brush, some white paint and some charcoal to work up the sky and I’ve darkened the water at the base of the painting. Now I think it feels like snow and the depths feel like murk. I’ll let the paint dry before I decide whether to add any more to it. What do you think?

Sky and Sea

The main interest in this little seascape is the sky. It started out like this (below).

I used lots of red at the base of the painting in an attempt to give the final sea colour a richness and depth. I’ve applied the paint quite thickly on the top part of the piece. I waited until this layer was completely dry before I worked on it again.

 

First stage of Seascape

 

 

 

 

This is the next stage below.

I’ve given the cloud shapes more definition and divided them in to dark and light areas. I then used some charcoal to mark out the rocks in the foreground and lots of blue and white paint to describe the sea. I’m happy enough not to do too much more with it at this stage and I wait for this layer to dry.

 

Second stage of seascape by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

This is how the finished seascape looks below.

I’ve used charcoal to heighten the contrast in the clouds and give the illusion of rain falling. I enjoy using charcoal with paint like this although they are not traditional partners – what do you think?

 

Finished seascape by Deborah Watkins

Welcome Back! Seascape in Progress

I’m back after my short break and I’ve returned to the sea to do some painting..

I started this one with the idea of setting up some kind of contrast between the bright shore line and the darker water out to sea. This is how it began below.

The sky takes up less than a third of the page so the emphasis is very much on the water. I’ve used a touch of red on the island shape and some charcoal in the foreground to suggest some rock shapes. The rest of the colour is a mixture of acrylic paint and ink.

 

Seascape first stage

 

 

 

This is the next stage below. I’ve used lots of bright colour near the shore line – turquoise, green and some pink. I find the colours of the sea seductive and inviting near the shore and I want to play this against the water further out towards the horizon where it becomes mysterious and dangerous.

 

seascape stage 2

 

 

 

The next image is exactly the same but taken a couple of days later. The paint has ‘settled’ and some of the thin layers in the foreground have shrunk a bit as they have dried. The colours have dulled a little too but I’ll bring them back later when I varnish the finished piece.

 

seascape - paint dry

 

 

 

This is the finished painting below. I tidied up the horizon line and added a bit more purple to the island shape. I also used some more paint and charcoal on the rocks. Once the paint was dry, I varnished the whole thing.

I’m happy enough with this one – it needed very little adjustment after the first sitting so I think it has an energy that reflects how it was made. I like the way the paint and charcol bled together in the foreground into these watery shapes that look like seaweed.

 

 

Finished Seascape

 

 

 

Do you think the contrast works here? What does the sea mean to you?

Sea Painting – Progression

I’ve returned to the coast, having painted the bog for some months now. I took some pictures of the sea when photographing plants out in Candoolin recently. This is one of the images (below). It’s nothing impressive from a photographic point of view but I like this green island shape sitting on the line of the horizon and I decided to use this in a painting.

 

Photograph of the sea taken from Candoolin, Errislannan

 

 

 

 

This is how it began below. I’ve made the island the focus of the composition and I’ve just outlined where I’m going to add some rock shapes in the foreground.

 

Sea sketch by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

This is the next stage. I’ve used ink and acrylic paint together to try and portray the water as it splashes against the rocks.

 

Seascape by Deborah Watkins - second stage

 

 

 

 

Here it is after some more work (below). I’m using charcoal to describe the rocks.

 

Seascape by Deborah Watkins - third stage

 

 

 

 

I allowed the paint to dry after the last stage. I then reworked the water and the rocks in the foreground and added some detail to the island (below). While the water is an improvement, I think that the rocks looked better at an earlier stage.

 

 

Seascape by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

 

This is the painting as I have left it (below). I darkened the rocks with more charcoal and added some gold to the centre of the piece as I felt it was a bit too monochromatic. I then added some colour to the sky and tried to keep it watery to maintain a contrast with the use of heavy paint in the foreground. I also deepened the green on the island shape. I’m calling it finished at this point as I don’t think that I can take it any further. The painting process involves lots of decisions along the way – I’m always hoping that I am making the right ones although sometimes it’s better just to let my own painting instinct  take over.  Usually there is some kind of progression taking place (but not always!) – I hope so in this case but of course it is a subjective thing. What do you think?

 

Finished seascape by Deborah Watkins

Bog Cotton Painting

I wanted to make a painting of the Summer bog and include some bog cotton as I saw in Oughterard recently. This is how it began (below).

 

Photo of painting at it's first stage

 

 

 

I used more paint to describe the grasses in the foreground and the bog surface as it recedes in to the distance. This was done while the first layer was still wet. I decided to wait until the paint dried before painting the wandering water channel (below).

 

Photo of bog painting at it's second stage

 

 

 

After a couple of days, I returned to the piece and used some blue and grey ink together to describe the water. I also added gold paint and green ink to enrich the colour to the right of the painting. Then I applied a touch of white to describe the bog cotton. I leave it at this point although I feel that it needs more work.

 

Last stage (?) of bog painting

 

 

 

When I return to the painting I see that it needs more contrast and more colour. I darken the area to the left foreground with a combination of red and purple inks and I add some pink and red to the middle ground. This is the painting as I have left it (below). I will leave it for a couple of days and then decide if it needs anything more..What do you think?

 

Finished painting of Bog by Deborah Watkins

 

Fields of Cotton

The last time I wrote about Bog Cotton it was May and there were just a few scattered strands. I stopped to take these photographs outside Oughterard last week because the cotton is in full bloom now. It may not be a field of cotton as sung by Credence Clearwater Revival (!) but this tiny Irish plant is a beautiful sight at this time of year.

 

Bog with cotton near Oughterard

 

 

 

These fields are carefully managed and the cotton thrives on the newly cut bog surface. My feet sink slightly into the spongy top layer as I take my picutres..

 

Photograph of Bog cotton near Oughterard

 

 

 

I love the contrast between the dark chestnut colours of the bog and the soft greens and pinks of the grasses. The bog cotton enhances the scene like sprinkles of tiny sugar shapes. There is something delicate about the appearance of the bog here in Summer that is almost magical.

In a few months, this will change again. The cotton will disappear and the colours of the heath will deepen and take on a fiery quality and a completely different mood.

 

Photograph of Oughterard Bog

 

Finished Paintings

I finished these two paintings over the weekend. The first one looked like this the last time I wrote about it.

 

Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

I wasn’t satisfied with it the way it was so I worked at it some more and used a tiny brush to define the water channel. This recedes in to the background now which gives a stronger sense of distance but I’ve lost the rushing water in the foreground.  I think it’s a different piece altogether now (below), whether or not it is a better painting is another question!

 

 

 

 

This is the other piece as I left it (below).

 

Bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

I felt that I needed to do very little with this one – I just altered the line of the bog on the left slightly and added some more paint to the mountains in the background. This is the finished version (below).

 

Finished Landscape by Deborah Watkins

 

Summer Bog Painting

 

I got back to some painting again this week and I’ve returned to the bog in Oughterard which is fast becoming a favourite subject/obsession!

I worked on two small paintings – here’s how the first one started (below).

 

First stage of Oughterard Painting

 

 

 

I decided to set the composition up on a portrait page because I wanted to make this long water channel in the centre the main feature. This is how the painting progressed (below) after I had used quite a bit of paint and ink. While I’m happy with some aspects of it, the water channel is more out of control than I would like.

 

Next stage of Oughterard Bog Painting

 

 

 

I removed some of the wet colour in the centre of the piece with a paper towel and attempted to re-paint the pool.  This is how I have left it (below).

 

Last photograph of Oughterard Bog Painting

 

 

 

I’m happier with it now because there is a stronger sense of direction in the pool which moves downwards and out of the painting although the area to the right of the pool has lost some of the energy it had at the earlier stage. I’ll return to it once this layer of colour has dried and make a decision on what to do with it next. This is the second painting I started (below).

 

First stage of the next bog Painting by Deborah Watkins

 

 

 

This one is on a landscape page. I want to make this large area of newly cut bog the main interest here. I worked quickly with lots of paint and ink together. This is how I have left the piece (below).

 

Next stage of Oughterard bog Painting

 

 

 

I have tried to set up a contrast between the silky darkness of the cut bog surface and the green growth that surrounds it. I feel reasonably happy with how it has turned out although I need to ‘tidy’ it up a bit when the paint is dry. There are some unwanted speckles and a little bare patch that I’ve just noticed!  I’ll also need to straighten up the ‘line’ of the bog on the left of the piece as its unevenness makes it seem a bit like a black river. What do you think?

It’s a question of just the right amount of control for me so that I allow the paint and ink to move in order that the piece has some kind of energy about it but that I pull it back when it moves too far away from where I want the painting to go..

Landscape – Dark Pool

This is a landscape on canvas (5″ x 7″) that I have just finished. It is based on an area between Clifden and Roundstone known as the ‘Bog Road’ which offers impressive views of the ‘Twelve Bens’ mountain range.

 

 

Landscape by Deborah Watkins

 

 

The photograph below shows the painting after the first sitting. I have used quite a lot of acrylic paint and ink to get it to this stage. The pool in the centre is the main focus of this one as you can see.

 

Painting: 12 Bens 2

 

 

Here it is from a different angle – I’ve brought the painting around the edges of the canvas (below).

 

Painting: 12 Bens 3

 

 

I wanted to make the piece darker in terms of colour and mood when I came back to the painting. These bog pools have a bottomless watery darkness about them that I am trying to convey here. I got it to this stage (below) but now I am not happy with the sky or the mountains in the background.

 

Painting: 12 Bens 4

 

 

I returned to the piece when the paint had dried and attempted the background again. I decided to introduce some reds and purples to the mountain range as there is too much blue in the piece above. Here is the painting as I have left it (below).

 

 

Landscape by Deborah Watkins

 

 

In an effort to create more drama and movement, I allowed the grasses and water to spill over the front side of the canvas (below).

 

Painting: 12 Bens 6

 

 

I am happier with the piece now and I think that the red mountain range is an improvement. I hope that I have managed to create this dark mood I am looking for. What do you think?

Painting – Oughterard landscape II

This is another landscape based on the same area as the last one from Oughterard. I enjoyed using this lighter palette of colours and wanted to use them again.

 

Landscape painting 1

 

 

This is the initial sketch (below) made in charcoal on a heavy weight acrylic paper.

 

Sketch

 

 

Here it is (below) after the first application of colour. I like it’s freshness at this stage and I lose this a bit as I try to give the piece more depth. I really enjoy working with the wet paint and ink like this and look out for any happy accidents as the two meet.

 

Landscape 2

 

 

This is the painting as I have left it (below). I have added more brown to convey the bog furrows underneath the heath and the grasses. I reduced the red a little but left a streak of it visible which I think gives it some direction and focus.

 

Landscape painting 1