Re-purposing II

2015-10-25 St Abbs head July 2014 (4)

This is how this picture now sits after working into the distant moor and cliff faces with sandpaper, knife, pumice, washes of sepia ink and a dusting of conte crayon.  I have accentuated the highlights of the water and brought the tide further inland.  The next challenge is the foreground which needs more respect.  I like the textures that arose from the netting but want to wash over the white and bright green, and shape the near slopes more.  I need to unite foreground and background into one image and that means, in part, stripping off the clean white sea I seem now to have painted.  I have a photo showing grass heads – but how much now should I follow the photo?

Here is a gallery of images of this one scene on St Abbs Head in the Scottish coast, drawn originally in July 2013, some original field sketches and some in various stages of re-purposing.

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Re-purposing

2014-07-14 Pettico Wick

This was painted in July 2014.  I sat on the bluff of St Abbs Head looking down on the series of inlets from the sea forming Pettico Wick.  I worked on board with charcoal and pastel, lifting and scrambling the fragments with very wet sepia ink and gouache.  Despite all my contrivance, the board whipped in the wind, striking me paint-side on my face, and flew to land paint-side down in the damp grass.  I scoured into it with hard eraser and knife, revealing the under-surface to define the crags.  It dried to muted muddied tones in the boot of the car, and has languished in a box for the last year.

2015-10 St Abbs head July 2014 (4)

Last weekend, I pulled it out again and wondered how to develop it – to experiment with its surface but keep something of the chaos of its making.  I worked back in with conte crayon to refresh the colours and refloated the pigment in water and inks.  I sought to control the wet mix by layering it with netting, restraining the fluid from covering the central highlight and holding the puddles to evaporate on the image rather than pour over the side.

2015-10 St Abbs head July 2014 (3)

I have painted in a low sky, giving definition to the distant coast and a sense of scale to the whole piece.  Here it is photographed by lamp and by day light.

2015-10 St Abbs head July 2014 (2)

It took a week to dry out and I am ready to work into it again.  I think I will next use knife and sandpaper to regain some of the earlier layer, particularly in the rocks forming the coastline.  Then I will paint successive dilute acrylic glazes over the grass and heather to bring some coherence to the higher land.

How would you develop this?  I would welcome advice and suggestions.

 

Layers

Here, one evening, I looked down from the high bluff made of volcanic rocks that had been forced through the more ancient softer petrified sediments.  I had previously drawn these contorted rocks in watercolour and sketched the shapes made by the two rock types in ink and wash.

I approached this using a board covered first in thick, unfixed charcoal, drawing in shapes with fingers and an eraser, reserving the brightness of the light reflecting from the sea. I then worked into this with very wet white acrylic, suspending the charcoal dust and building the contrasting tones.    Finally I worked into the wet layers with coloured acrylics, a couple of sticks of chalk pastel and a sharp knife hacking my way back to the paper beneath.  I photographed the piece on site.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

I set off with the piece on a board in the back of the car.  After a while I pulled into a lay-by and looked at it again.  In the deepening gloom, I ground more charcoal into the surface and slopped on more white paint, lifting the charcoal but obscuring the colour.  I tipped my remaining sepia ink in a streak along the line of the rocks.

I imposed rotational acceleration on wet, slowly drying paint as I drove round twisting lanes up and down hills, catching in the headlights owls, startled into flight by my progress.

I photographed it late that evening, still drying, paint still moving slowly to invade the bastions of ink.

2014-07-20 Pettico Wick (3)

This is the dried form, as it now is, waiting further action.

2014-07-20 Pettico Wick (2)

 

 

 

Seen out to sea, drawn in the rain.

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These feeding gannets were viewed  out to sea and drawn with me standing, steadying the telescope against  the wind.

2014-07-16 feeding gannets (2 1)

17/07/2014 St Abbs

Just out to sea – many gannets suddenly congregate.  They turn, wings outstretched then slip into a dive, wings held behind tail, neck outstretched. They can be seen as a trace of bubbles below water before they surface.  Wings beating they stretch up their body and necks to swallow.  Then  they take off into the wind to repeat this or fly off, sated.

2014-07-16 feeding gannets (1)

 

Staple Rock

At St Abbs Head, the rounded cliff tops fall away into grass-covered, steep inclines, which drop straight down to the rock-strewn sea.  Looking from on high, it appears that the sharp blade of Staple Rock is suspended over the waves, hanging there ready to drop and cut the sea in half.  A scramble down the scree allows access to a lower platform.  From this view point, the triangular stack is firmly rooted, its base visible through the water.

2014-07-14 St Abbs (1)

I covered board with charcoal and clawed back the tones and shapes first with my fingers and then with water and finally with layers of white acrylic.  I poured sepia calligraphic ink onto the central mass, squirted it from the water bottle and rocked the board until the ink settled and dried in the sun.  The darker tones were mixtures of sepia and paynes grey inks or charcoal.  Lastly, I used watercolour over the various tones created by acrylic white and charcoal for the sea and sky, grass and flowers, and the receding stained rocks at the back.

The distant sea was teeming with moving white specks, distant feeding gannets, added with a shake of the brush.

2014-07-14 St Abbs (2)

Here are the preliminary sketches from the same day, made first in ink lines, liberated with water to create the tones, and then in freehand watercolour.

2014-07-14 St Abbs (9)

 

 

Contortions

I sat on a grassy dome of ancient lava, ate a mutton pie and painted this small sketch. In the left corner is Pettico Wick, the little harbour marking the transition between the hard igneous cap of St Abbs Head and the softer sedimentary rocks making up most of the coast line.

2014-07-18 Pettico Wick St Abbs

Along this coast are cliffs made of high angled slabs of layered rock.  These layers were laid flat during the Silurian period more than 400 million years ago when fish first developed jaws and land became clothed in plants.  What is so striking here is that these layers have been contorted and tightly folded by unimaginable forces, affecting the shapes of the overlying grassy slopes.

I drew this in indelible ink before washing over watercolour.  Below are fast line drawings as I tried to get a sense of the scenery.

2014-07-18 Pettico Wick07.29 (1) 2014-07-18 Pettico Wick07.29 (2)

My knowledge of the geology comes from monographs called the Coastal Geomorphology of Great Britain.

Pettico Wick

St Abbs sits on the right shoulder of Britain, just below where the landmass tapers to a narrow neck and is topped by the head, which is the bulk of Scotland.  It is a headland of high cliffs.  In the summer, the precipices host colonies of breeding kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills.  For this painting, I was sitting high up on cliff tops at St Abbs, looking northwest to where land curves round out of sight to the nuclear power station and Dunbar, on to the mouth of the Firth of Forth and then to Edinburgh.

2014-07-14 St Abbs (3)

One evening last week, I walked 20 yards off road to Pettico Wick, a small bay at the north east of the headland.  Suddenly, a story  jumped out at me, a narrative of lifeless depths and sudden fiery violence.

2014-07-14 pettico Wick (2)

This is the first drawing I did, as usual using pen and ink and water on the fairly resistant paper in the Moleskine sketchbook. It has been adjusted using the “glow” filter on the photoshop app.

What I tried to show is the bay and sea, with a jetty stretching from land to slide beneath the water.   To my left are the regular layers of sedimentary rocks sloping down into the sea. These are formed of compacted silt, mud or of greywacke, a term for irregularly sized mineral granules set in a fine clay-like matrix. These rocks  fracture with simple percussion.  In front, only a hundred yards away are sea stacks formed of amorphous dysplastic lavas, the same stuff that forms the right hand cliffs.   These rocks are much harder and resist the limited force I can bring to bear.

The original sketch is below.

2014-07-14 19.45.41

It was obvious that in this small bay, I sat on a boundary marking ancient cataclysms.

I now know that the rocks on my left were laid down in very deep seas about 430 million years ago.  This is before our ancestral line could be dignified by the term fish.  The greywacke rock comprising mixed size rock grains is apparently formed from submarine avalanches and turbidity in the deep water of oceanic trenches or at the edges of continental shelves.  Some 15 to 30 million years later, volcanic eruption sent lava flowing in various directions.   This was at a time when fish had radiated and come to dominate the seas.  The relative resistance of these hard rocks has created the headland to my right.