Yearly Archives: 2012

Return to the Valley of Bad Paintings

Several return trips to the dreaded but beautiful valley have been made. Small oil sketches only capture aspects of the scenery so I’ve been assembling a set of painting gear that can cope with large canvases. In the meantime, this is my small-scale set-up. You should be able to click on the pictures to get a larger version.

view of Crosdale with pochade in foreground

The painter's pochade box

dog sitting beside painter's box

The real fellpainter ... or is it?

The last light of the sun can appear incredibly red at times. This evening’s attempt was not an exaggeration of the hue, although toning it down would have made it look more believable I suppose, and the foreground didn’t quite work, but I was pleased that the hills had a bit of form at least. When the light does this it’s so exciting if you’re actually there in the valley. The hills are thrown into colossal, solid forms that do resemble the famous Wainwright ‘elephant’ quote.

Crosdale hills, basking elephants appearance

elephantine hills basking in late red sun

On a different evening I tried to catch the earlier evening light with its violet and gold hues and had some small success. The foreground, in particular, continues to elude me, although the white brightness may be more true to life than most of my previous efforts.

Because I am trying to catch how the scene looks and feels in what may only be a matter of minutes the paintings are really hit-and-miss affairs. Most of them are complete disasters and one or two, like these, have just one aspect that captured something I was aiming for.

evening light on Crosdale

evening colours fall on Crosdale

Some of the best views and lighting effects always seem to happen when I’m trudging down the lane. If only it was possible to paint in the middle of the road. Not that I’d be happy with a middle-of-the-road painting. Disasters along the way don’t seem as bad. As Thomas Edison said: “I haven’t failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

a view down the lane

The lane

Knowing when to stop

The big painting is just about finished – I think … I’m not very good at knowing when to stop. Sometimes you continue and make huge improvements; other times, you carry on and ruin what was a reasonable picture. Andi is threatening to kidnap the painting if I don’t stop soon, which adds to the drama.

Here is a photo; the paint is still wet so there are some odd sparkly bits (reflected flash) in the clouds on the left. I tend to go with gut feelings about whether a work is finished, but sometimes you look at the picture again the next day and something ‘not quite right’ leaps out at you, nagging you, until you give in, squeeze out more paint and get stuck in again.

Final version of large painting

The end?