Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Sorting The Sheep From The Cows

The photographs above show recent progress on the large landscape that I started here in late spring.

I had hoped to bring it to a conclusion before now, but a variety of circumstances and other projects got in the way. This meant that the time between painting sessions was longer than I would have liked.

As a result the landscape has changed enormously. When I started this painting the top field was intensely-yellow flowering rape, and the field in the foreground had sheep and new-born lambs grazing in it. They kept the grass short, and the colours were paler as the new grass emerged.

Now the view is very different.

The field in the foreground has great patches of nettles which have grown rather high, obscuring some of the previous view. The flowering rape is now over, and has turned green. The hedgerows are blossoming white. And the sheep and lambs have moved to fresh pastures to be replaced with a herd of Holstein bullocks. The scene has the lush, deeper colours of early summer.

The top photograph was taken today, and the lower one on Monday.

As you can see I have had to take a positive decision to lose the sheep from the painting. I was sad to see them go, as they were part of the inspiration for starting it. I am also not ashamed to say that the lambs were very cute and full of personality.

Looking at the lower photograph you can see that the loss of the sheep was not a snap decision. On Monday I cautiously began to add the cows, leaving the sheep present in case they returned as they sometimes do.

During today's session the angular black-and-white bovines began to dominate. And although I have 'lost my sheep', they have not disappeared entirely from the painting. In places I have deliberately left ghostly echoes of their presence.

This is because such a painting is not a photograph. It does not capture and freeze a single moment in time. It is rather a record of the time I spent intensely observing and absorbing the ever-changing, living, evolving scene in front of me. And this is naturally reflected in the painting.

That is not to say that the sheep will necessarily still be there in any form when the painting is completed. But that their presence for a time has influenced what I have painted in some way.

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