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

 

visual language …

as mentioned in my previous post Making a Mark, I’ve been concentrating on developing my own visual language with a series of small mixed media pieces on paper. I’m quite pleased with these three and I’m going to keep at it, because hopefully it will bring a new dimension to my paintings. 

abstract 1. Mari French 2014

abstract 1. Mari French 2014

 

I’ve been using a fairly limited acrylic paint palette of Burnt Umber, Titanium White and Prussian Blue, which I’m finding very fresh and satisfying just now. I haven’t used Burnt Umber much before, finding it a little red, usually preferring Raw Umber. The scribbled marks are mainly NeoColour watercolour pastels… I prefer their soft smudginess to oil pastels, and get around their solubility with a fixing spray of Matt acrylic medium. There’s also some lovely sludgy burgundy Inktense stick in there too and ink stained tissue.

abstract 2. Mari French 2014

abstract 2. Mari French 2014

 

Although intentionally abstract, I did have in mind the salt marshes, creeks and staithes of the north Norfolk coast, where I often walk and sketch.

abstract 3. Mari French 2014

abstract 3. Mari French 2014

 

purple obsession…completed!

…as promised here are the final stages of the tulip painting, described in my previous post.

Below you can see how I added purple to the lower foreground to tie it in with the flowers themselves, knowing I would be painting over most of it, but allowing enough to show through to create depth and interest.

© Mari French 2011

© Mari French 2011

I then brightened the foreground up again loosely with pale green (actually lemon yellow and white), wiping it back in places to allow the lower layer colours to show through. I was after an impression of these wonderful tulips bursting through spring foliage in the May garden, in sunshine.

I next added dioxazine purple and quinacrodrine carmine to the flowers to bring out their colours. I’m grateful to Elaine Phipps, a fellow artist and friend, whose recent description of tulip petals as being like ‘plumage’, is such a brilliantly apt description of them.

© Mari French 2011

© Mari French 2011

Once thoroughly dry, I covered each bloom with pieces of easily removable self-adhesive brown tape so I could refresh the upper background with a layer of brighter paint – you can see this in the detail image below.  Tearing the tape into small pieces makes it easier to pull and push them into the natural shape of the flowers.

© Mari French 2011

© Mari French 2011

© Mari French 2011

© Mari French 2011

When I was happy with that area I removed the tape – a moment I love as the colours now sing out against the brighter background.

As you can see in the two lower detail photos (which I really wish were actually large final works- how happy would I then be!), I then worked into each bloom with watercolour pastel in shades of light purple and carmine, to bring a liveliness and light to the flowers, giving them more definition.

You can also see where I earlier splashed fine drops of dilute purple paint to enliven part of the work, and again to tie in the rich purple with the background.

© Mari French 2010

© Mari French 2010

The last two images show the finished piece and the work in position at the Norfolk Open Studios group show at South Acre Church near King’s Lynn, a lively and varied exhibition which I spent all day on friday, along with 11 other artists, hanging (more of which in my next post).

© Mari French 2011

© Mari French 2011

South Acre show, Norfolk Open Studios © Mari French 2011

South Acre show, Norfolk Open Studios © Mari French 2011