Abstract-ish poppy field
I’ve not done any painting at home for several weeks. I started a self-portrait in the style of Hopper but got scared of continuing after the drawing and blocking worked out fairly well – stupid, but there it is. Then, yesterday, I was reading an article in Turps Banana about Robert Welch‘s paintings (quick interrupt: I don’t believe this; only the second time I’ve referenced specific articles in that magazine and this one, too, is available in pdf form) when the style of his paintings and the discussion in the article brought to me what I can only describe as a visceral urge to execute a specific painting.
I love the bread from the Breadfirst shop in the Ferrers Centre and drive there once or twice a week to get a loaf (not to mention some of their cakes). On the way is a field which, over the last few weeks, has erupted into a lava flow of red flowers running down the hill. I assume they’re poppies but have never stopped (no immediate place to stop and the A453 gets some fast traffic) to see. I’ve always meant to pull over somewhere nearby and take photographs but have never remembered to take my D90 with me: I’ll typically work from photographs.
Anyway, this urge was to paint that field of poppies. Not in any exact way, but more in the style of Welch. It was not that I could see what the painting would look like, but that I could feel how each part of the painting should be executed: strong ochre yellow upward strokes to indicate the field, single red twirls of solid paint for the poppies and harsh, jagged strokes of green for the hedge.
And that is what I did. I went straight downstairs to the kitchen, put a canvas (first time I’d used canvas instead of paper but this felt to be a canvas type of painting) on the easel, got the paints out and got to it. I wasn’t sure about having a bit of sky at the top so put some wet blue/white horizontally across the top quarter. I figured I could leave some of it or paint it all out. In the end it looked good with just that small bit at the top I thought. I added the small black dots to show the flowers were poppies without being too precise about getting them in the middle. I wanted the painting to veer more to the abstract and to look so. The rest was exactly as I wanted it to be.
It was a little heavy so I added some thin strokes of bright yellow to lift the ochre and add interest to the hedge. Also smeared bits of red into the hedge: I wanted that to look more ‘lived in’. So, this is it:
Am I happy with it? Yes and no. I’m pleased that I was able to execute pretty much what I had in mind. I like the way the poppies float over the field, almost like butterflies: it wasn’t deliberate but the look is right. The hedge is supposed to look cluttered and messy, which it does, but does it look it in the right way. I keep thinking of ways to change it but then think that those ways would also have their own problems. The field, I think, needed more solid paint, less water mixed into it. And maybe each stroke could have been edged with burnt umber to put some more structure in there;. Actually, maybe overlaid it with some thinner upward strokes in solid colour to give an indiction of depth (the solid being more foregrounded and the washed out receding). I think the wash effect of the sky worked ok. It does give a sense of distance in the upper quarter where the ochre has washed into the blue/white.
So, yes, overall I’m pleased with it. Whether I’ll keep it or paint over it remains to be seen. At least with this blog, I get to keep a record of it.