sea of purple …

Sea lavender saltmarsh, sketchbook spread.

Sea lavender saltmarsh, sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

This week, I tried a new coastal sketching route (for me), along Green Lane at Thornham and out onto the Saltmarsh via a rough bridle way. I was stunned by the swathes of purple sea lavender stretching out to the dunes on the horizon. I’d seen this on Norfolk saltmarshes in other years, but never such an expanse.

These plants are completely covered by high tides, there was one the night before – evidence in the form of small dead crabs among the sea lavender – yet they thrive in this hostile environment.

Thornham marsh © Mari French 2016

Thornham marsh © Mari French 2016

I spent several hours over two days walking, sketching and taking photographs. Again, I was keen to interpret this in an abstract way with various media, concentrating on evoking the wind, bird calls, light aircraft overhead, the rustling of reeds etc.

Thornham marsh © Mari French 2016

Thornham marsh © Mari French 2016


Sea lavender, Thornham. Sketchbook © Mari French 2016

Sea lavender, Thornham. Sketchbook © Mari French 2016

 

Thornham Saltmarsh, sketchbook.

Thornham Saltmarsh, sketchbook. © Mari French 2016

 

Sea lavender, Thornham.

Sea lavender, Thornham. © Mari French 2016


Marsh pools, Thornham Saltmarsh.

Marsh pools, Thornham Saltmarsh. © Mari French 2016


Thornham Saltmarsh, sketchbook.

Thornham Saltmarsh, sketchbook. © Mari French 2016

 

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

 

harvesting inspiration…

detail © Mari French 2012

detail © Mari French 2012

…a few sketches from a recent exploration along local country lanes, during the harvest season, led to some promising experimental imagery…

track through ripening barley

track through ripening barley, watercolour/ink pencils.
© Mari French 2012

above… I thought purple skies in a couple of instances would get across the heat of the summer day better than the usual blue.

Rain clouds over ripening crops

Rain clouds over ripening crops
© Mari French 2012

at last … I discovered that this particular blue/purple crop (below) I’d noticed recently, was the herb Borage (nice edible flowers), and not flax or linseed, which seemed more prevalent last year.

stubble and borage crop

stubble and borage crop, watercolour/oil pastel
© Mari French 2012

…and subsequent experimental images, created as soon as I got back, inspired by the field imagery, using ink-stained tissue paper, sponge rollers etc, deliberately avoiding using usual media like pencil, brushes… I want to take these further sometime soon.

experimental 1

experimental 1
© Mari French 2012

experimental 2 © Mari French 2012

experimental 2 © Mari French 2012

experimental 1 © Mari French 2012

experimental 1
© Mari French 2012

experimental 3 © Mari French 2012

experimental 3 © Mari French 2012