Tag Archives: experimental paintings

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there

image showing three plein air sketches, 6x8

three small plein air paintings used to create a larger work

And as Joseph Campbell said: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

Last year I made these three small paintings while I was out on the hill and I’ve been struggling ever since to find a way to make them into a large painting. So far, this is what I’ve come up with but I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m not even sure if I quite like the result. All I know is that I nearly like it, so that will have to be enough for now. I think those clouds are going to be adjusted one last time before I can finally put this experiment to one side.

photo of large landscape oil painting, work in progress

large oil painting, not quite finished, created using smaller sketches

Another experiment has involved trying to make a large painting out of a tiny little pencil sketch and a hazy memory of a place I can’t quite even be sure exists (although I was definitely somewhere when I drew that sketch). In a previous post I showed the A1 charcoal drawing I’d made from the sketch and now I’ve started making an A2 painting, very murky and dark to try and convey just how rainy it was that day. Again. I’ve no idea where this is going but it’s something I feel compelled to try.

photo of unfinished oil painting depicting rainy landscape

murky work in progress of rainy day painting, A2, oil on canvas

Back in the slightly more real world two of my paintings are preparing to leave for new homes. I’ll miss the coffee pot, which probably sounds crazy, but some paintings you just get attached to.

photo of two small paintings

two paintings ready to go to their new homes

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?