Monthly Archives: June 2015

Through the looking glass

view through the window

through the looking glass: looking out or looking in?

When painting a view you might think that you are recreating a scene outside yourself but I think it can also be true that you are looking within and revealing what is there. The inner landscape and the outer merge; there are the basic forms of the ‘real’ scene but a state of mind is present too. Feelings and thoughts permeate the painted landscape, ruffling the grass with agitated energy or smoothing it peacefully. Colours respond to emotions, becoming heated or cooled, excited or serene. How on earth it all works is a mystery, but that’s what makes painting so interesting.

The night before the crisis colours vibrated in the air, the vegetation, rocks and soil. The tree raised its branches towards the sky and sang, a piercing dischordant note.

oil painting, 9x12 inches on canvas, colourful swirling energy, tree in the landscape

the tree in a tumult of colour, with energy swirling around

After the event stretched nerves slackened, sinews untwanged and the landscape breathed slowly again, muting its colours.

oil painting in a calm style, 9x12 canvas, tree on the hill

after the crisis, a calm painting with balanced shapes and cooler colours

The next day everything became warmer, brighter and more optimistic and the landscape glowed in the evening sunlight.

oil painting with warm colours, evening light on the hill, 9x12 inch canvas

warm colours in the evening; the sun’s last visit to the hill with glowing light from the west

Repetition and variation, without hesitation

hill paintings, part of a series in oil on canvas, fixed to a board

board with hill paintings and Winifred Nicholson print

This week I seem to have settled into a theme, almost an obsession, producing variations on the view through my window. It’s partly a practical decision, as strong winds have made going outside quite tricky, and it’s also because the light has been so different each day that the view has changed drastically, with the hillside effectively becoming another place every time. The lone tree fascinates me as it seems to have its own moods and it also seems to conduct the scene around it, focusing the energies of the landscape as everything – sky, earth, foliage and bracken – swirls around.

I’ve been inspired by a Winifred Nicholson print of a tree in Lugano, Italy. I had pinned the print to my wall when – strange co-incidence – a cycle race I was following online (the Giro d’Italia) passed through the same town, enabling me to see pictures of the glorious lakeside scenery. I had hoped to head out and paint some of the trees round here in full bloom but the high winds have prevented it so far. The blossoms are still clinging to their branches so there might still be time to capture something of them.

This painting was done in a hurry (as usual the light was changing rapidly) and I put it aside afterwards thinking it had failed but on reflection there is something lively and full of feeling in there that I like.

through the window hill view in oils, pink evening light

sketch in oils on canvas of through the window view, 9×12 inches, one of a series

This picture was perhaps the most successful in a way in that I think the composition works and the tones are working better than they usually do (I tend to lose my way as the light disappears typically as soon as I begin to work). Also, the tree seems to be charged with energy and everything is becoming nicely abstract.

9x12 oil on canvas painting of the hill lit dramatically one evening

oil on canvas painting of the hill with a dramatic feel, as it looked through the window one evening with racing clouds and stark lighting

I’m less happy with this painting than the previous one but I liked the violets, blues and pinks that shaded the hill and was pleased they’d made it into the picture.

purple evening hues hill painting, oil on canvas, 9x12

hill painting, oil on canvas, 9×12, one of a series, as seen through the window in purple evening light