Biting the paper IV: sylvan idyll.

I pay a yearly subscription for access to a private nature reserve.  Here there is a small wooded hill, largely ignored by the twitchers who congregate at the hides facing the flooded gravel pits.  I am self-conscious painting in company whereas this secluded wood is free of children, walkers and dogs.  This allows me to spend time just looking and experimenting in paint.

Siden Hill Wood - March (5)

I painted this in March, weather shifting between drizzle and sleet, a dry-run perhaps before my sketches in the Yorkshire Dales later that week.  At the top of the ridge, weak sunlight through the trees gave a luminous quality to the lichen covered fallen logs.  My painting had elements I liked, but the woodland floor was over-painted and dull (the digital image flatters the actual painting by being back-lit on your screen).  This weekend, I scraped it back with a knife, re-painted a single layer of green over the refreshed paper and brought more reds into adjacent areas for contrast.

Siden Hill Wood - March

Minds play tricks and odd thought pathways become ingrained.  Each time I cut into paintings in this way, an ugly little phrase recurs in my mind: “It has been knife work up here”, a comment by the Elf Legolas in the Lord of the Rings as he reports his tally of slain orcs.  I find I have  sympathy for the orcs, represented as a caricature of and metaphor for the industrial working class, invading and despoiling the rural idyll, mobs marshaled by elites and slain in their thousands.

15 responses to “Biting the paper IV: sylvan idyll.

  1. I wouldn’t know where to being with such a scene 🙂
    I think it really has come to life now with your ‘ cutting in ‘ … lichens and moss do seem luminous in different lights.

    • Thanks. I think you hit the nail on the head. I also had no idea where to begin. This is why revisiting the work with a knife allowed me to learn from the process, rather than discarding the plein air sketch, as I might easily have done. I might have a better idea from scratch next time.

  2. I enjoy your musings as much as the paintings. Also the knife and paint really did add depth and definition. I’m about to spend a few days at a camp and hope to do a little observational work for a change.

  3. Love the bright green moss against those greys… and OH NO! – I knew where that quote came from as I read it (I am such a nerd), you have probably cursed my brain to always think of it too, when holding a scalpel!

    • Sorry for the meme. That quote has chilled my marrow since I first read it 40 years ago. I guess I belong to that lucky generation of men never tested in battle whereas Tolkein’s son was in the North African desert while he wrote this.

      • No worries! and that’s interesting, did not know that about where the book was written. May help to explain the lack of convincing females!

      • I think the book was written in Oxford but his son was in Africa (but surely on his mind). It must have ben a time when killing your foes would seem pretty normal. Still Oxford college or African desert, there would I am sure be a paucity of women, with the effects as you say on his writing.

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