Saturday, February 10, 2007

Slieve Croob sunset, Co. Down, N. Ireland

“Slieve Croob at sunset, from the Saintfield Road, Ballynahinch."
Oils on canvas, 20” x 30”.

It has been awhile since my last post, but I have been thinking a lot about what I am trying to do with my painting. In one sense, my aim is completely straightforward, I am trying to record what I see as "realistically" as I can. But the realism is the one of my perception and experience of the scene, not as a camera would record it. The above example illustrates the point. I decided to create this painting after seeing the sunset from this spot whilst driving between Bangor and Ballynahinch. I took photographs to assist - but these could not actually record the play of light the way I was seeing it. If I photographed the sky, the ground was under-exposed, and even if I allowed for this so as to photograph the land, the contrast was still too great between parts which were illuminated by the setting sun and the areas of shadow. However, I could see details within the shadow, the highlit areas and the sky as I scanned the scene. Hence my experience of the scene was as a whole.

I started the painting by, as is my custom, sketching in the composition from observation - but under normal lighting conditions. Some of the filling in was then done with the assistance of photographs - but modified by my memories of the scene. When a similar sunset occurred, I returned to the site to attempt to check details from observation - but I found that the way the light fell on the canvas was so extreme that it largely made this impossible. In the end, I simply used the experience to refresh my memory of the colours and shading and then completed the painting in the studio.

In fact, I am very pleased with the result. I believe that it portrays the "truth" of my experience of the sunset in a way that is impossible for photography to do.

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