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