Making light of it; all those creaks and groans

pencil sketch idea for painting RingwaldOld bones. Creaks and groans seem to be the daily soundtrack to the effects of ageing. When someone has two medical dictionaries hidden in their sideboard you know that they’re curious about changes to their health. No surprise when the family has been visited by various forms of chronic diseases over the last ten years.
Those inquisitive days have gone as my mother is no longer able to recall the location of those books. Instead she has reverted to a few mantras. If she catches her breath, or makes a few moans and groans there is nothing wrong apart from “these old bones”.
old bones detail of painting of treesIt was these thoughts that were in my head as I started this painting in response to the sight of ploughed fields against the cooler blue skies of spring.  The image in my head was clear.   Warm red-brown earth which had been freshly turned over. Undulating with the hills the furrows creating strong lines. The grassy bank not showing a lot of tonal change in the flat light. However, the shadows were very strong, defined and dark.
The image reflects a couple of spots on the journey along the A417 where hills rise to the side of the roadway. Sometimes the view is clear at other times it is visible through the trees. Those trees became abstract fragile bones similar to ribs.

Old bones.

The picture is bright as there has always been an airy positivity and lightness to my mother’s response to it all. Her response to the professionals tasked with a ‘base line’ assessment was jovial but she also was keen to give the right answer. Wherever we went she has charmed the people and she continues to do that today. Yet the picture is also stark reflecting the fear of illness,vulnerabiity, and the fragility that often arrives in old age even if it is just “Old Bones”.
acrylic painting of trees fossilised in the fields

Old Bones £390
40 x 40 cm
Acrylic on canvas



Journeying from expressionism into abstraction. Can you see the wood for the trees? 

flicker test lines for painting

Experimenting with abstraction was part of the task I set myself in the first two months of 2017. I wanted to release the need to observe so closely to capture detail. Experimenting to capture the essence or emotion of a moment through marks and colour was light relief.
Testing tree trunks made of newspaper reflecting conversations about Brexit and other key events in 2016. However this looked too flat and still. The addition of paint before and after the paper collage, began to add some life and depth, but no movement.
Some of the colour combinations were interesting. Complementary colours giving the test piece a bit of vibrancy. I saw a painting in Abergavenny at this time. Luminescent paint had been laid at an angle across the painting which appeared to create movement in the changing light. I mixed some with different colours to see the effects as well as just laying some across the already painted acrylic lines.
A small test of lines in a limited colour palette which also had bowed lines to bring in movement seemed to create an effect. However this was not translatable to a piece twenty times bigger. Sometimes scale makes it. I concentrated on a simple palette of colours (tonal yellows, purple, brown, blue and pink) and the direction of lines for the trees.
lines and pyramids of colour make up this acrylic painting of treesThe shrubs below became pyramids of hawthorn – dark leaves and white flowers. Feedback on the piece was that the hedging pyramids distracted from the stripes. Dividing the picture into parts lost the movement.
underpainting of Forest Flicker in luminescent and yellow stripes

Starting again

So the painting was sanded and gesso relaid. Then lines were laid of luminescent paint and pale colours. The second painting dropped the idea clearly creating shrubs. The density of the lines and additional part stripes were used to create areas of darker denser vegetation. In different lights the colour patterns shift.

It concentrated on the light in the trees. Some arcs where added to the straight lines Luminsecent paint was laid in some of the areas at the top of the painting. The flicker was still missing.Finally I laid over more dark trees. I then used acrylic paint pens to create the forest.

Different thicknesses and lengths of the darkest colour have helped create the effect that I wanted. The finished acrylic painting has been sprayed with satin varnish. Staring into the top right (the area I’d normally see first travelling) and then moving your eye level across and down to the bottom left corner creates the flicker I was looking for.
See previous blog for more about this painting and the completed work which has been sold.