a painter’s progress …

Rosewall Hill (detail). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (detail). © Mari French

 … every so often I get the urge to paint hills. I live in Norfolk (not flat, beautifully rolling – well it is where I live) and I love its sweeping beaches and huge skies, but I used to live on the Isle of Skye and I visit Cornwall often, so you can imagine I might enjoy a change in level occasionally. It’s also a change from the more abstract work I’ve been producing lately.

This painting in acrylics and watercolour pastel on deep sided canvas (80×60 cm), is inspired by Rosewall Hill on the Penwith peninsula, Cornwall. Not an accurate representation, I’ll admit, but for me it attempts to capture its looming presence over the moor.

It might not be completely finished yet, but I thought I’d share the progress of the work, step-by-step. Hope you find it interesting.

Rosewall Hill (stage 1). © Mari French. Acrylic and watercolour pastel on canvas depicting uphill landscape in Penwith, Cornwall.

Rosewall Hill (stage 1). © Mari French


I started with a very loose broad brush under-painting in Paynes grey and a mix of Raw Sienna and Titanium white to establish shape and tone (above). As with many of my canvases I prepped it first with a rough coating of texture paste, which I sometimes prefer to a perfectly flat surface.

I deliberately used an unusual colour palette next, of Wedgwood blue, Permanent Rose and a little white, roughly mixed on canvas, to unite the separate areas of the sky and foreground (below). I avoid greens like the plague in my landscapes, in case you hadn’t noticed! They’re too obvious, I prefer colours that create an atmosphere.

Rosewall Hill (stage 2). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (stage 2). © Mari French

In the process much of the lovely initial under painting is lost, but I’ve learnt not to be too precious about this otherwise I’d  end up too nervous to create an effective artwork. 

I also had to adjust the shape and position of the hill a couple of times. Before the new purple mix dried I splashed and  dropped water here and there, allowing it to run in places, creating pale lines in the paint.

Rosewall Hill (stage 3). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (stage 3). © Mari French

Having left the work for a few days I approached it today wanting to lighten it and get some marks and movement in there (below). Much of the violet colour is brushed over with a dryish mix of Yellow oxide and white, quite fast and vigorously, gain mixing on canvas. I then sprayed with water, semi-dried and wiped back in places. 

Finally, watercolour pastel (neocolour) in black, was scribbled on loosely, hinting at the rough land forms and distant skyline. To allow for any further over painting acrylic matt medium was carefully applied over the pastel and dried.

Comparing the last two stages, I feel the third stage might have made a finished painting, but I’m still excited by the way the work has developed. I’ll post any further changes if/when I make them.

Rosewall Hill (stage 4). © Mari French

Rosewall Hill (stage 4). © Mari French


8 thoughts on “a painter’s progress …

  1. Very interesting. I allways find it interesting to learn about the processes artists are using.
    All of the stages have their beauty. Does it not hurt to destroy such an intermediate stage? And how do you decide it is finished?

    • hi Nannus, thank you for liking and commenting on my post. Yes, it often does hurt to ‘destroy’ an image by taking it to the next stage, and sometimes. it can be a mistake. But for me it’s a necessary part of progressing as an artist. I can, as has happened in the past, either have several ‘finished’ works sitting around in my studio which I’m too nervous of ruining to take any further, but which I’m not particularly satisfied with enough to show, or I can bite the bullet and do what I did here.
      It doesn’t always pay off. I sometimes regret changing a work, sometimes I end up painting it out completely. But, some of my best works have resulted from throwing caution to the wind and changing an existing piece that wasn’t exciting me. It’s a kind of calculated gamble!
      I usually allow a few days between stages, or when I think a work may be finished, and come back to it fresh. If it excites me on seeing it again it’s usually finished. If it leaves me a bit dissatisfied or reaching for a brush, it usually needs more work! In the end I suppose it comes with experience, trial and error. 🙂

  2. Great to see the progress as the painting develops – thank you for sharing it as it can be quite precious at times! I often take photographs at different stages in an attempt to understand how a painting progresses. But if it teaches me one thing, it’s that each piece takes on a life of it’s own! Very true what you say about how difficult it can be to paint over a previously loved section – I think that’s one of the hardest things.

    • Thanks Alice. You’re right about sharing techniques, I often wonder if it’s wise, but then I do get satisfaction from sharing with other artists, who are often generous online with their own techniques, and if someone does use my processes, well, I’m sure their work would still be quite different. 🙂

  3. Nice to see one of your pieces develop, you might say. Gonna have to take you fell walking one of these days x

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