Posted on Thu 16 Mar 2017
Bodmin Moor in Spring
You will need:
- Pre-stretched and primed medium texture canvas 16x20in. (40.5x51cm)
- Rosemary & Co Ivory long flat
- Rosemary & Co small Rounds
Atelier Interactive Acrylics
- Blue/black (indigo)
- Dioxazine purple
- Cobalt blue (hue)
- Cerulean blue
- Toning grey
- Toning grey yellowish
- Raw sienna
- Yellow ochre
- Naples yellow
- Cadmium yellow
- Tinting (pearling) white
- Titanium white
- Olive green
- Bright green light
- Sap green
- Madder brown
Having allowed the dioxazine purple wash to dry I used a brush to draw the basic shapes of the view loosely in toning grey. This only took a few minutes as I already had knowledge of the view from my winter painting (see LP, February 2017), which allowed me to approach the painting of the sky quickly.
1. I painted the entire sky area with a covering of tinting white then pushed cerulean blue into it towards the horizon and cobalt blue higher up the painting.
2. At the same time and while still wet I added the clouds using tinting white, raw sienna, titanium white, permanent brown madder and dioxazine purple. Atelier Interactive offers the massive advantage of staying wet far longer than other acrylics and can be reactivated at any time during the day with the use of a water atomiser.
3. To achieve a more textural effect I incorporated gesso primer (not liquid) into the process. I laid out a quantity of the gesso at the side of my palette and loaded the brush before dipping it into the colour. With the constant moving of clouds and changing light conditions, skies painted en plein air can be hard to capture so time was spent painting, re-painting and balancing to achieve the desired effect.
When I felt I had taken the sky as far as I could for the time being I made a start on developing the landmass.
1. On a vista of this scale, the distant hills appear blue, but we know with our knowledge of life that they will be similar, if not the same, as the foreground colour. Working, therefore, with the previous blues, toning grey and dioxazine purple I painted the distant areas.
2. Next I concentrated on the colours of the land and added toning grey yellowish, yellow ochre, Naples yellow and olive green to my palette. I applied these, with other colours already on the palette, in broad sweeping strokes, following the rough contours of the moor. I often use a No. 10 long flat brush, loaded with two or three colours at a time. The mixing of the colours was achieved on the canvas, not on the palette, giving a freedom of the tonal and colour variance.
With a semblance of the mid-distant landmass established, I painted the significant feature of this view – the delightful, abandoned tin mine head workings. The first marks of the old mine head were established with toning grey, indigo blue and a touch of raw sienna. I carefully observed scale and location of these workings to ensure perspective and depth in the painting. When presented with such a significant focal point, it’s all too easy to enlarge the image and completely alter the whole perspective and depth of the work.
1. Moving on I noted that the dark colours I first applied to the moors now required lightening. For this I added bright green light to my palette and this, with the existing paints on the palette, provided the colours needed to repaint many areas.
2. I then developed the lighter high points while retaining the original darker tones for the lower undulations. Dependent on the sun’s position, it is usual for the higher points of landmasses to be lighter.
3. At this stage, further painting of the moorland closer to the foreground was blocked in before I added distant trees and hedges.
1. Standing back to draw breath and observe the work at this stage, I was immediately struck with the imbalance of the still untouched foreground in purple. This became the next issue to resolve before I tackled the middle distance and background detail.
2. I added sap green to the palette and loosely blocked in the majority of the foreground grasses in varying shades whilst using natural earth colours where the reeds would later be painted. I was careful to retain the dark areas, which, when painting the details of lighter reeds later, would make them stand forward.
1. Being relatively satisfied with progress so far I began to introduce some of the wonderful gorse bushes. Working with a No. 2 Round brush for control and again, for the most part, working darks to lights, I painted the larger bushes on the left. Once the deeper tones were painted and while it was still wet, I introduced other greens.
2. I allowed a short time to let the paint dry a little before adding both yellow ochre and cadmium yellow medium on top with touches of white pushed in for even more highlight.
3. Careful observation brought to my attention smaller gorse bushes in the distance and I swiftly established these with the yellows already on my brush, telling myself that I could come back later and work on these with darker undercuts, which I did.
With a vista of this scale selecting how much you need to include and what to leave out to achieve the vision you require needs a large amount of thought. After all, this is a painting, not a photograph and was created to give the atmosphere and feeling of Bodmin Moor in spring. Tweaking large areas of rough moorland terrain, introducing additional distant gorse bushes and other details, including the location of the trunk of the lone tree on the right, now took place. The foreground landmass attracted a second visit at this time by defining the shape of the gullies left after the drying of the winter flooded areas. These earth trenches were painted with indigo, dioxazine purple and madder brown. Between and around lay the grass areas and it is here the shapes of the rolling indentations of the rough moor were defined with varying shades, hues and tones of greens.
With the fresh green shoots of life showing on the branches, the lone tree added yet another important aspect to the composition. Still mostly bare of foliage, the darks of the tree trunk and its size in the middle distance made it visually strong and forming a line of sight through the painting. The strength and location of this appeared to make the old tin mine head recede, providing even greater depth to the work. I avoided the mistake of using brown for the trunk and branches and opted for laying touches of dioxazine purple and indigo to produce strong but warm darks. Working into this with Naples yellow on the side where the light caught the trunk provided a light grey-green to that side of the tree.
1. Constantly reviewing and adjusting the whole moorland area ensured I captured little moments of fleeting light or shadow.
2. I began painting the reeds and wild moorland grasses using a No. 4 hog hair fan brush. The brush’s stiffness allowed me to create the effect of reeds being blown by the wind by using a flicking upwards motion. Naples yellow and raw sienna were used for the initial stages of the blocking-in process.
The finished painting Bodmin Moor in Spring, acrylics, 16x20in .(30.5x51cm)
1. Working with my No. 2 Round brush and a Rigger I reached the final process of flicking in long reeds and grasses of various colours. I used the darker colour of dioxazine purple at the lower end of the stems, running through madder brown, raw sienna and yellow ochre as I worked up the stalks.
2. Standing back and looking at the work I contemplated the overall piece. I was looking for aspects of imagery, form or colour that I should have included or indeed any that I needed to delete. Some small adjustments were needed at this stage, but eventually the time came to put down the brushes and accept what had been achieved.
Tony runs art holidays and courses for all abilities from his home studio in Cornwall from April to October. This year Tony will also be running courses in Scarborough in early May and late July, Venice in early October and Spain at the end of October. Visit www.hoganart.co.uk; email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01208 895088.
This demonstration is taken from the May 2017 issue of Leisure Painter
Click here to purchase your copy