Like Northern Landscape, Western Landscape is a re-invention of a place which is very, very familiar to me. For this reason, it was actually more difficult to re-invent on this occasion because all the time I felt drawn to fashioning the land as I know it.
The real place is a great slab of carboniferous limestone hill just a few miles from my home. On it grows a natural garden of stunted and grazed shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous which have been wind brushed for possibly centuries. Some are minute, like bonsai, some, like many of the Yews, seem to have been moulded around the dry, grey rocks like stiff green velvet.
It is a place only crossed by paths, and I visit it many times each year, always in the Summer, and usually in the evening, staying up on the hill or in the forest which slowly descends down its eastern flank, until midnight, when the silence is only broken by owls or barking deer and I delight in detecting the light even in the darkest places.
It is a place of changing scale and broad spectrum and in the height of Summer it is like being on an Aegean island. Being so perfect it was so tempting to paint it ‘as it is’. Being me, I had to re-invent the whole place so that the painting and its component parts spoke completely of the essence of the real place. I increasingly acknowledge that the bottom line, the reasoning behind why I invent, beyond the personal satisfaction and excitement in doing so, is that each work is a confirmation to myself that I have observed and more importantly, understood, the world I encounter.
The fire which burns in the centre was originally destined to be the pool of light beneath a lamp-post. Having decided that this motif, which crops up many times in my work, was not fitting this time, I allowed the strong Burnt Sienna underpainting to remain. As the cooler colours started to develop, this pool of light naturally started to look like fire. I have no explanation for why there might be a fire here in ths place. The title ‘Western Landscape’ deliberately suggested that this may be a place habited by ‘cowboys’, where a camp fire is often a feature in ‘Cowboy’ films, but really refers to the fact that the original place is on the west coast of England and the verdant nature of the hill is a result of this westerly position.
What a delight, every inch of it. I agree about not painting in the wildlife; it’s so hard to do that without becoming cute. Wyeth did ok with his birds, though.
Thankyou Nicki. I think birds, done subtly, without emphasis and distant could work quite well. However, I always want my paintings to live in a sort of suspended animation, as though the image represents a shortish period of time which endlessly turns. As soon as some animated object which should be actually moving, say an animal, or even a human, is introduced, the work becomes a frozen moment, like a Cartier-Bresson ‘snapshot’ moment, and the sense suspended dis-beleif would be lost, in my work, I feel.
A beautiful image. The fact that it looks like an American Western painting is curious to me. It could be here in CA, and isn’t at all the way I envision any part of England looking. Sky is great.
Its funny how many people say how American many of my paintings are. Totally unintentional of course. I know I am especially excited by English landscapes which seem to have a sort of un-Englishness about them. Thanks for the comments, especially about the sky; that just seemed to come effortlessly.
insane….i like the cross composition via it being so centered .nice shadows
still no birds or wildlife
The cross composition was part sub-conscious. I had put the pool of light centre, and had a long flat(ish) horizon. It wasn’t until much later that I realised what I’d created. The hill in question is thronging with wildlife; grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, skylarks, wild Soay sheep and later, in the evening, owls, foxes, badgers and deer. I should put it all in, and yet I don’t because it just seems too sentimental. Wildlife just has to be experienced.
i understand sentimental but with out there is a stillness i find cmpelling
i would never tell anyone what to paint the choices are yours alone .i just ask to get a response to hear and learn more. what i admire about your work besides skill is the journey i walk threw in the landscapes. a modern day Fredrick church i must say