Friday, March 23, 2012

An Afternoon's Work

I slipped away from work at noon today and spent a pleasant afternoon working on this painting. I darkened and refined the cave walls on the left-hand side of the cave entrance and made a start on the sunlit rock face after experimenting on some paper off-cuts to establish the colour mixes I'll use.     

The colours are pretty intense, but I think they're close to what I want to achieve; I can always knock them back with some darker glazes as a final step if I feel it's necessary.

I tend to flit from one area of the painting to another, but my lack of discipline doesn't seem to be having any adverse effects - so far, so good!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Inside the Cave

As the image below shows, I've started applying layers of colour to define the interior of the cave as authentically as I can.

Cameras being the liars they are, the cave walls in my reference photographs appear very dark and almost featureless, but I know that reflected light from the harshly lit exterior is finding its way into the cave revealing various crevices and folds of rock. As the painting progresses, I'll be in a better position to assess how much the cave walls should be darkened and where it might be appropriate to apply warmer coloured glazes over the illuminated areas within the cave. I know I'm tip-toeing a little, but until I develop the painting more fully, I'm happy to take a cautious approach.  


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rock Art

I'm embarrassed to note that it was some 14 months ago that I wrote of my intention to resurrect an old painting subject featuring a black-footed rock wallaby surveying his neighbourhood from the mouth of a cave. As I very belatedly turn those good intentions into actions, I'm conscious of the fact that my enthusiasm for a painting can often fade as work progresses. However, as the original reference photo and the concept it gave rise to date back to 2008 in this case, I can take heart from the fact that I'm still enthusiastic about the subject matter despite the passage of so much time.

An earlier attempt at this painting failed to meet my expectations and I abandoned it at the half-way point - a not uncommon occurrence! Although the canvas ended up behind the art room door with my other rejects, the inspiration for it survived intact; I always knew I'd revisit the idea, which is as much about the play of late afternoon light on the rock face as it is about a wallaby in a cave. With that in mind, when Sandi and I visited the area twelve months after I took the original photo, I made sure I took several more photographs at the same time of day, paying particular attention to the right-hand side of the cave entrance which the earlier photos had failed to capture completely.

It could simply be indecision on my part, or perhaps particular subjects and the way I envisage them as paintings drives the choice to use particular mediums, supports and techniques. Whatever my motivation in this instance, it's hard to dismiss the advantages of developing a range of approaches I can call on as I contemplate each painting subject.

In the case of this painting, I'm on the verge of completing a fairly detailed preparatory drawing on rough 640gsm Arches paper, after which I'll erase the grid lines and lighten the pencil drawing as much as I dare before coating the paper's surface with acrylic sealer. That done, I'll begin to apply heavily diluted, scumbled washes of acrylic paint, "sneaking up" on the final colours and tonal values as I do so. With this approach I have something in common with the watercolourists: when mixing colours, I avoid the use of white paint which would render the paint opaque. As a result, I need to be constantly on guard against overshooting the mark with my tonal values - there's no easy way back if they become too dark in a particular area. Problems in that regard have been the main reason I've explored other more forgiving techniques in recent times.

I certainly haven't discarded the oil painting of the reef egret I began a short time ago, but acrylic paint and the techniques I've described are the closest thing I have to a "comfort zone" and will hopefully provide the confidence boost I feel I need if I'm to continue exploring less familiar mediums and methods from time to time.


Friday, March 9, 2012

The Call of the Easel

As I've mentioned recently, it's necessary that Sandi and I remain in the city for the time being. The location of the house we purchased late last year was a significant factor in our choice and points to our shared love of wildlife and the bush. The flats and riverine reserve indicated above are within easy walking distance of our home and act as a haven not just for us, but for the local bird-life too.

Through these past summer months I've made the half-hour trip into the city and have managed to be at my desk by 7am. I'm not a natural early-riser and this arrangement isn't quite ideal, but the opportunity to leave work at 3pm allows me to put the remaining daylight hours to good use and is a compelling reason to continue this routine. Whether I'm able to drag myself out of bed at 6am as winter approaches and the days shorten remains to be seen!

Many of the recent photographs I've been able to collect would not have been possible without the use of our kayaks. We can strap a pair of wheels to each of them and walk them to our launch spot at the nearby weir in the space of 15 minutes. With the wheels stowed behind us under the bungee-cord on the kayak decks, we're no sooner in the water than photo opportunities begin to appear.

The hum of traffic in the background is a constant reminder that the city is close by, but there are occasional lulls and we can sometimes forget briefly that the suburban sprawl lies just beyond the riverside vegetation. The illusion of solitude is enhanced somewhat when we choose to paddle downstream towards the bridges where the river is at its greatest distance from the surrounding roads and houses. 

Although the process of collecting these images is a worthwhile activity in its own right, the photographs are not an end in themselves; as I sort through them after the kayaks are safely stowed away, I discard the majority of them and mentally short-list those I feel would make worthy painting subjects. I've owned my new camera for a short time, but have already gathered a wealth of useful reference material and received a much-needed boost to my enthusiasm levels where turning some of them into paintings is concerned.