Monthly Archives: November 2014

Path to the sky and head in the clouds

photo of path leading to hill summit

the path that leads up to the sky

This is what the camera says the hill known as Arant Haw looks like. It flattens out what is an incredibly steep climb beneath an atmospheric sky into something that really doesn’t look like much. I’ve seen that path up the hill in so many different lights now and it is quite haunting in real life. A path leading up into the sky – to nowhere. It reminds me of the ‘Indian Rope Trick’ – where does it go?

The path seized my imagination but I knew I couldn’t show what it felt like up there by painting the view in a straightforward manner. Some experimenting would be required. So, I made a few small oil pastel sketches one day in the freezing cold, standing on the ridge (at a slightly different point from where the photo was taken) and not aiming for realism but letting the feel of the place seep into my brain and out into the pictures. Then I put them away for a while.

oil pastel sketch of Arant Haw path

the first plein air oil pastel sketch

plein air oil pastel of hill

the second plein air oil pastel sketch

Next I went up there with a pochade box and attempted a quick plein air painting from roughly the same spot at which the photo was taken but the menacing runners appeared (see earlier post) and ran round and round and round across my path! Three times they trampled past until the sun was getting very low. Once I settled down to paint the light was fading quickly, just pausing to make the hill glow for long enough to allow a sketch of the bare essentials, then it was gone.

small plein air study in oils, 6x8, of the path up Arant Haw

the path up Arant Haw, plein air study, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

So I had a rather feeble photograph, a couple of imaginative oil pastels drawn from further along the track and a plein air oil painting. I went home and created a third oil pastel, trying to blend the two expressionist attempts with the more realistic plein air sketch.

experimental oil pastel study, Arant Haw

the third oil pastel – attempting to combine the first two with the oil painting

Finally, I made four tiny oil on canvas compositions, experimenting with different approaches, attempting to find a way of representing the scene. Two I based on the original oil pastel sketches, one on the third oil pastel in which I’d attempted to combine my previous attempts and the fourth I painted loosely based on the plein air sketch but letting elements of the other studies creep in.

four tiny oil paintings, variations on a theme, path up a hill

four compositions: tiny experimental oils on canvas

Which approach, or combination of approaches, can I use to create a bigger painting? Or do I need to try another way?

A good night’s sleep, or a ten minute bawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream

photo of the way down from Winder fell

the way home (or spot the dog)

Today we had a perfect walk on the fell, even though I hadn’t really had any sleep and we met a deranged man on our way back down to town. I took the camera, intending to photograph a ridge I have been studying, making sketches and paintings, with the aim of producing a large piece of work. I wanted a photo to make a more complete blog post, to show the spot I’d been working in. Unfortunately, I was so sleep-deprived when I hit the top of the hill that I forgot all about it, turned left instead of right, missing the vital spot and not realising until I was well on the way back to town.

I keep stealing Ray Bradbury’s words to head these blog posts, because he wrote so well. Sleep has been tricky recently. We live in a flat here in our rural idyll and every now and again young people, fresh from home, move in to the flat above. They haven’t enough experience of life yet to understand the concept of being kept awake and needing your sleep so they tend to make a lot of noise in the early hours. They do try to keep it down but have no idea how loud they actually are, in our rickety old building which has no soundproofing at all. At times I end up craving sleep (although a good cry or chocolate ice cream could be temporary substitutes) and looking longingly at the bracken on the hill. When you are really sleepy it looks so welcoming. Couldn’t I just roll myself up in it for the night, far away from all the clamour?

Tilly the dog sits on the hill, photograph

Tilly sitting patiently with a background of hills

dog looking at the camera

Tilly gives me one of her looks

Tilly, who can sleep in all circumstances, tells me we have to go home because she is hungry.

view of fields and hill

looking south-west across the pattern of small fields

Nearing the fell wall we came across a man with two children and a very calm-looking dog. The man was brandishing a child’s scooter and yelling, in an uncontrolled manner – at the dog as far as I could tell. He sounded extremely angry, shouting “Sit down (dog’s name) Sit down now!!” while the poor animal slunk around in his vicinity looking most unhappy. The man was brandishing a lead and had his back to us. I wondered if he was reacting to us approaching from higher up the path, although both Tilly and I were standing still, not wanting to approach as the yelling continued. “I’m just trying to establish control!” the man shouted, seemingly at his children, as he had not acknowledged Tilly and I and still had his back to us, the scooter held aloft across his shoulders.

I looked at my dog, who seemed as unwilling to meet this raging person as I was, and we turned together, leaving the path to plunge through bogs and bracken, escaping as the shouting went on. We picked up a lower path that would take us home and, after a while, the noise ceased. I looked back and could see the three trudging up the hill away from us – no sign of the unfortunate dog, which couldn’t really have been blamed for keeping its distance. What on earth had caused the man to feel so irate, I wondered? Maybe he too needed some sleep.

view of Sedbergh seen from Winder

Sedbergh hoves into view. Tilly is still lurking.

In my next post I’ll include the work I’ve been doing on the fell ridge, hopefully complete with a reference photo.