Tag Archives: Douglas

Around the Corner

Sometimes, ideas fall into place so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them. I had 18 Douglas compositions sketched out (16 which I used), the name/theme of the exhibition was clear and I’d settled on painting in monochromatic colours and in a square format.

Detail from ‘Point of Entry’

Every painting is made up of choices. I’d like to go through some of these with you here. I’ve talked about simplification in the previous post – about paring the subject down to what I want the painting to be about. Here, it’s about what’s around the corner, when the times we are living in seem dark and quite threatening, but I see something hopeful in this title.

These paintings have been growing against a backdrop of Covid/Brexit and the US presidential elections, not to mention the climate crisis.

Learning about Spectral Black caught me by surprise. Imagine a black made up of all three primary colours, in this case Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and a shot of Lemon Yellow. This became my foundation palette for this exhibition – a darkness made up of colour!

Mixing Spectral Black

There have been many examples of colour in the dark throughout the last year that choosing to work with shades of spectral black has felt a way to acknowledge the kindness and courage that show up clearly in times of crisis.

Let’s look at how this all took shape. I started with a thumbnail sketch using a soft pencil to clarify the composition, shapes and focal points. Using the pencil sketches for reference, rather than the photographs, I then drew the shapes onto acid-free 300gsm smooth paper.

Pencil outline for the painting ‘At Hand’

To get some perspective on my own work , I found that putting my thumbnail sketches high up allowed me to get a distant view.

Left to right: ‘Point of Entry’, Turn a Corner’ and ‘Ready and Waiting’

Stepping back reminds me to simplify, so the essence of what the exhibition is about is clearer. For me, a lot of this has involved breaking a few habits. You know how I love detail – how I include it as an archive – an acknowledgement of the skill of the person that created it – whether a drain pipe or a roof tile. I found it an ongoing exercise to keep simplifying and not reverting to type!

‘Turn a Corner’ – getting the composition in place before adding final flower details.

This time, I held back on the architectural details and included only details of flowers in bloom – expressing life that goes on, but acknowledging the losses with fallen petals.

Most of the paintings have several corners, some up close and others distant.

Flower details added right at the end
‘At Hand’

Painting in monochrome changes the whole atmosphere – it feels like the village is being observed at night and seems timeless. The empty streets reflect lockdown.

Detail from ‘At Hand’ – flowers in bloom and fallen petals

This is my small contribution towards expressing ‘these times’ and it has encompassed Douglas, a beautiful South Lanarkshire village that I hope one day you might visit.

I will share more about of this body of work in my next post but in the meantime, if you would like to see the first 12 paintings, these are now up on my website .

As always, thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Shapes, Shadow, Light

The Scrib Tree made quite an impression on our first visit: beautiful interior, locally-sourced food and outstanding artwork on the walls by Carol Taylor, who has her studio next door.

It’s located in the ancient village of Douglas with records dating from the 13th century and set within 33,000 acres of the Douglas Estate.

You can imagine how delighted I was to be offered the opportunity to hold an exhibition there this Spring 2021, with the town as my subject. The offer came late last summer when lockdown in Scotland had temporarily eased. I went straight there to spend time walking through the town and start the thinking process.

Douglas is intriguing. I became absorbed by the narrow streets, the variety of the buildings, the unexpected views and the intricate street plan. There were thin spaces between buildings and edges which concealed fragments of church towers and roads that disappeared over the brow of a hill.

I knew I wanted to push myself and present an exhibition of my experience of Douglas which would reflect the times we are living in.

I began to crop my photos to find interesting compositions and then began a thumbnail sketching spree. I stuck a row of sketches up on the wall and chose the ones with the strongest composition of shapes, shadows and light to work on.

Keeping in mind what I’d learnt on the Composed Landscape course at Paintbox, I simplified the subject by using a thick soft pencil – trying hard not to get distracted by details – something that’s quite a stretch for me!

The name of the body of work was there waiting for me as I walked around the town: ‘Around the Corner’.

With all the depressing events globally and nationally, I wanted to express things as they are now but with hope for something brighter, something different, something imminent. There has been such heavy news this last year, on top of already heavy news. I can’t ignore it and yet I always hope for the best.

I love all the phrases associated with ‘Around the Corner’, for instance ‘at hand’, ‘in the air’ or ‘looming’. This became the key focus of each study.

I settled on a square format, all the time working to simplify the view to focus on the corners and the atmosphere of anticipation.

I already had my palette in mind, but I will talk about that in my next post. In the meantime I will leave you with a couple more of the studies to give you an idea of this old Scottish village.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie πŸ™‚

a landscape composed

Sketched from Cockenzie sea shore

Sometime last October I embarked on a course run by Paintbox tutor Owen Normand. I’ve been exploring ways to express the landscape where I live in the hope of being able to capture at least a fragment of how it feels to live here in old orchard country.

The course lasted ten weeks, was based outdoors and I could fill ten blog posts on what we covered. However, for now, I want to touch on how it was to become the unexpected foundation of a new exhibition going up next month. The work is quite a change for me and I hope you will keep me company as I tell you about how it all evolved.

Charcoal studies of a group of trees by the shore

You know how much I love detail and how it’s an integral part of Drawing the Street. However, I want to develop my work and push into unfamiliar territory so it was a revelation to learn about many new artists to me including the work of Felix Vallotton and his approach to painting. It was his painting ‘Moonlight’ that captivated me and drew me to this course.

Owen’s invitation to the course stated:

β€˜The composed landscape course is all about mood over accurate representation.’

We began with sketching outside and apart from sketching a few trees, I lapsed back to drawing buildings as part of my landscapes.

‘Try to edit, simplify and arrange the elements of your scene to create paintings that are memorable and have a lasting emotional impact on the viewer.’

One corner had caught my imagination as I saw a small triangle of light set between dark shadows beside the corner of a high wall. After several different studies, it was this subject that I chose to prepare a monochrome paint study.

Owen kept reminding us – What was our painting about?

‘Focus on making compositions with the intention of communicating emotion or mood and trust that an imaginative design can trump painting technique.’

Referring to charcoals sketches for monochrome study

For me it was simple: it was that slice of light between the shadows that was drawing me in and wanting me to explore what was beyond the wall.

Monochrome study of that edge and slice of light

It’s one thing knowing what you have to do, but another thing altogether getting your paintbrush to oblige! However, those words ‘trust that an imaginative design can trump painting technique’ have been a lifesaver!

I didn’t realise at the time but this teaching has provided a solid foundation in getting my new body of work together for an exhibition in the Scrib Tree Dougas, from 1st march 2021.

I wanted to do something different, something to reflect the times we are in and my feelings about it all now. The pandemic has touched us all and I have to reflect our situation in some other way than my previous work.

I will be sharing how this body of work unfolds in my next few posts and hope you will join me here.

I will leave you with a flavour of the next post…my first thumbnail sketch of Douglas and the name of the exhibition…

‘Around the Corner’

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie