Sunday, February 20, 2005

I’ve currently been working on a pastel sketch that I made some years ago on a painting course run by Claire Spencer PS at Westhope College in Shropshire. I think it was Claire’s suggestion to use a portrait format for an in situ pastel sketch of a view along Wenlock Edge. That did not present any particular problem but I never really resolved the composition satisfactorily and my enthusiasm for the painting went off the boil. I discovered the unfinished picture in a folder of work and decided that I ought to take another look at it.

The decision to work on it again was encouraged by my current preoccupation with ‘Land and Light’ as a progressing theme and the happy memories of the late summer weather when it was begun. Thinking about a strategy my first idea was to catch the sunlight on the rising slopes of Wenlock Edge. The second was to simplify the foreground in some way. In the original sketch there was a broken hedge in the foreground. I had been lured by its rampant summer growth much of which had gone to seed. The seed heads created interesting forms but they were really a distraction - but what to do?

The solution was found by simply playing! The joy of pastel is the pleasure taken in just making marks - it offers almost unlimited possibilities to rub, blend, scrape, and add new marks at will. So the first task was to rub out the hedge by making random marks with dark pastels and blending them – great fun. Then the thought occurred that a grassy path emerging from shade would create a simple foreground that would emphasise the feeling of sunlight on the rising ground beyond. All that remained then was to create a little more interest in the sky and enjoy a little more creative mark making in the fields with complementary colours.

After an hour or so of total absorption I felt the painting was finished – and as Alwyn Crawshaw used to say at the end of his TV demonstrations, ‘”I’m happy with that!”

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