Sandstone cliffs complete?

I am not 100% sure I have completed this painting, but I think I’ve caught the appearance of a blustery, sunny day .   The cliffs have three dimensions now, though refining the detail might please me more!  The real fun was creating the wiry grasses on the cliff edge in the foreground.

I splurged down shapes of all the darks on my palette, greens, blues  maroons and ochres, in the approximate places of tonal value, then scratched the thin shafts of grassy tufts out of the wet paint back to the canvas.  The differing darks have added interest and pushed back the cliffs.  The spray at the leading edge of the cliff was put in by finger.

There is a wind battered, fighting tree perched in among those grasses which I am in two minds about.  It’s a wonderful twisted shape, and would break the horizontals and add to the drama.  I’ll wait until this is thoroughly dry.

Sandstone Cliffs

This week I started an oil using palette knives, something I haven’t done for ages, and it didn’t go well.  My image was in portrait mode; I was re-using a half worked canvas, the disappearing painting being in landscape configuration.   Unthinkingly, I set up the canvas as per the existing painting, so not much room for the sky and sea, and too much room across the painting.  I soldiered on, but by the end of the session I was so disgusted with my efforts that I scraped off the paint and rub the surface clean.  What do you think of my Turner?

So, I started again, this time with image and canvas  agreeing.  My first sky had been very stormy and active, but I remember the day as being sunny but with a very strong wind off the sea.  You can get a very smooth finish with palette knives if you think of icing a cake, so this time the sky is friendlier and less active.  The strata of the cliffs were beautifully colour coded, creamy, chocolatey, and I regret, muddy, while the sea sang in turquoise green.


Our pair have now been provided with the wherewithal to stand on  – with mixed results.

I am rather pleased with her foot as it peeps from under her long dress.  The sunlight is just catching the tips of her toes, while tidying the edge of that dress and adding the cast shadow has grounded her nicely.  She does need the vestige of another foot in the shadow but that’s not difficult.

His feet have always been problematic.  His legs are crossed at the ankles, so the shoe is at an angle and I can see the sole. The other shoe is largely hidden.   I turned this upside down to do it and think the shoe is believable but a little too big.  You can judge for yourself in this picture.

This could be an easy fix, or one of those things you never get right.  Time will tell, and meanwhile I’ll get on with finishing the other details.

Gum Trees

Meanwhile, progress is apparent among the gum trees.  Most obvious is the light on the path and some of the trees  The curve of the path round the nearest tree on the right is satisfying but more thought is needed on the middle ground where there is dip in the ground but also a camber on the path.  Until I get that sorted the light on the path is fighting the direction of shadows.

Looking a  painting in reduced form as in a photograph does help to pinpoint unhappy areas.  The sky is too bright a blue, creating energy where quiet is required.  I have something of a conundrum here, as using a lighter blue will undermine the light on the path, while greys will reduce the impact of the trees.  Even so I think the latter is the way to go as the light is a more important feature of the painting.

I have worked on the canopy.  This is not the focus of the picture but it still should present a more complete image.  It’s largely dark green but such greens are more effective if other darks, blues, purples, (even Alizarin Crimson if appropriate)   are added to the mix.  This has filled out the canopy and emphasised the  bright light beneath.  I have also lightened the bank on the left hand side but this has still not resolved the unhappy path.   I tried cropping the picture to see if removing the foreground would help ……..

but I think that reduces the impact of the height of the trees.  Thinking caps required!

In the sunshine – on the home straight

Well, what a surprise!  Since I resumed work on this large painting, I’ve been pussyfooting around with tentative dabs of paint trying to edge the picture towards completion, focussed mainly on the heads (and Feet!). Today – rain, so no gardening –  with a unexpected feeling of calm, I donned my kit, laid out all (!) my paints and spent a blissful two and a half hours working over the whole canvas.  In truth, I didn’t know it was blissful until I put down my brushes, but now I feel I own the painting again.   I don’t need to say that I am pleased with the results.

As you can see,  I’ve darkened the shadows of the pillars, thereby increasing the sunshine; I am thrilled to bits with his pants, and his shirt is better too; Her dress is more shapely and glowing in the light, while her head and shoulders are beginning to resemble her, and her arm has more substance;  a little wall has crept in on the left hand side; pink flowers and green leaves are pushing through the railings;  even the relationship of the two pillars on the right is more convincing.

OK, I chickened out on his shoes.  I’m going to draw them until I know them well enough to paint them.  They are dark on light, but are not, repeat not, the focus of the picture.

The pinks will be picked up  by traces of that colour in her gown.  The railings should figure in places.  The faces need a little more shaping without returning to portrait definition.  I think the orangy/greeny  background behind her head should be lower and more shaped. but all that’s for next time – soon I hope.