Monday, 15 April 2013

A Spring Blizzard

In my last post I jokingly announced the birth of a new one man art movement, Cubedism. Since then though, I can't stop thinking in multiples, so I might need to start taking cubedist Sav seriously. I'll have to find a more appropriate word for the movement, suggestions on a postcard please. The principles advocate creation of no less than three images to describe a given subject at a given moment. On this occasion though, I easily gathered enough reference for at least ten. In the end I settled for six images, a hexaptych. The subject here demonstrates the flexibility of those guiding principles; it is not a person or an object, but a space, Edinburgh Castle esplinade.

Top of the Mile
The first painting is a view right at the top of the Royal Mile, just before opening onto the esplinade. Driving snow settled within minutes, making this amazing place look even more magical.

Streaming Tourists
The second image is a wide angle view of the esplanade showing a stream of bewildered tourists filing back down to the Royal Mile with the castle silhouette barely visible behind them. This was actually the first image I painted, attracted by the odd composition, content heavy on the right with almost nothing down the centre or on the left. However, as Facebook Oil Pastel Group member Alphonso Foster points out, the dark tone of the turret and small group of people on the left provide just enough balance to pull you back. I love the idea of a composition which, to quote the infamous swine triumverate, 'by the hair of its chinny chin chin,' teeters on the edge of a workable solution.

The Tour Must Go On
As I start walking round to my left the small group of people by the turret catch my attention and it eventually becomes clear a tour guide is still doing her turn. Now there's professional dedication for you! Another group of tourists were not originally in the image but I liked the forms they made. We often try to keep focal human outlines separate from each other so the viewer can clearly read a situation, but I really like the way these glued together groups make interesting creatures with too many legs and not enough heads!

Walking towards the castle brings more opportunities for interesting compositions. This one shows the sheer drop down to Johnston Terrace on the left, while a brace of giddy lads make great shapes as they play.

Turning Back
I think this is my favourite of the bunch. Turning back towards the Royal Mile reveals a line of superb architectural silhouettes, including Ramsay Garden on the left originally built by Allan Ramsay the elder. The just visible gothic spire is The Hub, home of the world famous Edinburgh International Festival designed collaboratively by Augustus Pugin and J Gillespie Graham.

The final image shows roughly the same spot as the first, but this time looking down the Royal Mile. Perspective is exaggerated to fit the 50cm x 20cm format and the result pleasingly sucks us in towards the vanishing points. That is plural because the buildings either side have slightly different vanishing points. We're not talking grid system street design up here.

All these paintings were made with mashed up Sennelier transparent oil pastel medium and Cornelissen pigments on a Hahnemühle Cornwall watercolour block, matt texture. All surfaces were primed with a wash of burnt sienna acrylic. I used the series to test the making of neutrals from Pthalo Blue (green shade) and Venetian Red, a combination I'd not previously tried. Streaming Tourists was painted with just these two colours and Titanium White, but for the other images I also added Raw Sienna. This Accidental Tourists sub series also prompted the evolution of some new tools for my pastel port setup which I'll detail once tested in the field. I think I've solved the problem of slow initial blocking in and If successful, the solution is laughably simple.

A Spring Blizzard