Painting from experience

'Between Creise and the Buachaille, winter'

'Between Creise and the Buachaille, winter'

It’s amazing to think that this time in four weeks I’ll be back in my studio in Irvine. My time here has gone by very quickly and I’m now getting in ‘panic mode’ as my final exhibition looms and I’ve still much work to do!

I’ve now completed eight paintings and have another four still on the go. I’ve also been working on a couple of small ‘Scottish’ pieces for forth coming exhibitions and have a couple more of these on the go too.

It’s been interesting working on the two different types of subject matter…..the bigger paintings based on the cathedral in Speyer and the Pfalz landscape and the smaller Scottish landscapes. It’s made me realize just how important it is to really get to know your subject when it comes to doing a painting. My Scottish paintings are all based on the places I walked (sometimes many times and in all conditions) and so when I get back to the studio I not only have numerous photos and some sketches, but I have many many hours of actually being out observing and experiencing the landscape I’m painting. These experiences are in a way stored in my memory and are used in all my Scottish paintings. As such it has meant that despite my being in Germany for the last three months, I’ve been able to work on these small Scottish scenes with the use of just a couple of photos as memory joggers.

'Beinn Dorain from Beinn Odhar, April'

'Beinn Dorain from Beinn Odhar, April'

‘Beinn Dorain from Beinn Odhar, April’, is based on one of the views from the summit of this fine steep grassy 900 m hill and I’ve stood here on a good number of occasions. It makes a good short walk but it is very steep so it gives your legs a good work out – we normally head here in April to tone up the muscles before our two weeks walking holidays in early May each year. The point is that although I haven’t been there this year, I’ve all the memories of the previous times I’ve climbed the hill and all the different conditions I’ve seen it in, the different light and in rain and cloud and sun. If I’d only been out occasionally over the last eight years rather than every few weeks, I’d not have been able to do this painting ….working from a photo on its own is very difficult …even if you have got good eyes to see it.

This is why for the most part I’ve put all my attention on painting the Speyer Cathedral while I’ve been living here. It is the most obvious thing to paint in this city, but as I can’t easily get out into the countryside, it has offered me something which I can visit regularly and get to know. Over the time I’ve been here I’ve built up a mental impression of it …so that I have much more to work on than just a few photos. This is where I’ve had problems trying to produce a couple of paintings of the typical Pfalz landscape. I’ve only been out into the wine growing region a few times and have only experienced it very briefly. I took a few photos and as I’m a landscape painter I wanted to do something before leaving that was of the local landscape …rather than just the man made landscape of the city……and I’ve been struggling! It’s just that I really don’t know the subject I’m trying to paint. The colours and light are very different here and I haven’t got a head full of ‘information’ to fall back on.

I’m not sure whether I’ll complete these two paintings …we’ll see I guess. It’s certainly made me realize how important it is to get out and as I’ve done very little hill walking this year it’s made me determined to find the time as soon as I’m back in Scotland. Fingers crossed for some good September weather in the west of Scotland.

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