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.
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.
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.