A mixed-media Abstract painting
- Pouring acrylics
- Heavy-bodied acrylics
- Metal leaf (gold and bronze)
- Texture paste
- Loxley 12 by 12-inch canvas, 1. 5 inches deep.
Today I read a quote by Paul Klee
"A line is a dot that went for a walk"
and that feels so appropriate for this painting....
On a bright, but chilly January morning, 'Liquid Woodland' was inspired during a reflective woodland stroll. I was walking with my partner, Neil, along a frosty path in the rural, wooded village of Minley, in the north of Hampshire. The path followed a narrow stream, twisting its way through the woodlands. Soft blue-grey light from the sky filtered through the trees reflecting in the ripples of the gently moving water, trees arching and reflecting prettily on its surface. There were no leaves on the trees, and a few small birds darted about. The air was cool and crisp. I took a few photographs with my phone as I knew I was going to create an abstract painting inspired by this scene.
Stream in Minley, Hampshire, UK.
My abstract paintings are often fluid and spontaneous, incorporating bright colours with contrasting shapes and textures. I wanted this one to reflect the colours, shapes and textures I had seen in that beautiful woodland stream in Hampshire.
My plan was to paint the water surface with a pallet knife using acrylic paints and then draw in the tree reflections with a syringe, filled with pouring acrylics. I used a similar technique last week when painting The Alluring Riddle. Painting with a syringe would add a real element of unpredictability to the picture and create an interesting contrast between the controlled palette knife painting of the water and the far less controlled painting of the trees reflecting on its surface.
The canvas I chose was a 12 by 12-inch Lockley gold triple-primed canvas. I had already applied a mixture of texture paste and white acrylic paint to the canvas with a palette knife and allowed it to dry, so the surface had a rough watery texture.
I began by painting the water in white, blue, burnt amber and raw sienna, using my favourite palette knife to draw ripples and reflections. I then painted in darker patches where the trees were overhanging the water and sprinkled small pieces of metal leaf, both bronze and gold onto the painting to add warmth, shine and reflection.
The base layer was complete and it was now time to add an impression of the trees. I loaded a painting syringe with layers of acrylic paint; gold, white, black and a little more gold and began injecting life into the painting, forming the branches and tree trunks. Branches of gold with thin black lines began emerging. I loved the delicate interaction of the gold and black paint but felt it didn’t stand out from the background enough so added black, wiggling out of the syringe to strengthen the shape of the suggested branches. I then dribbled red dots on top of the black to warm the colours and draw attention to the watery twigs.
Detail of the gold and black branches.
I don't quite know what happened from then on as the syringe drawing took over and the painting developed a mind of its own. I let it happen with a sense of wonder and delight.
It needed more black so I piled black paint into the syringe and drew heavily onto the bottom half of the painting creating branches and twigs. The paint was flowing and dancing from the syringe in a rippling stream of lines. Occasionally an air bubble trapped in the paint, splattered out of the syringe causing a spray of black droplets. With gentle pressure on the syringe, I could draw dots, by increasing the pressure the dots turned into a line that I could take for a walk.
At this point, the painting did actually follow the photograph surprisingly well, but the painting felt unbalanced with too much black dominating the lower half.
So I ripped up two sheets of metal leaf into large chunks and carefully laid them over the black paint. The thick, soft, wet paint rippled beneath my fingers as I gently pressed the metal leaf into place. Replacing the heavy black lines with more reflective surfaces, felt like a better representation of the reflective quality of the water.
To integrate the metal leaf into the rest of the painting I coated it with a glaze of blue acrylic, this reduced its excessive shine. I then loaded white and pale blue pouring acrylic into the painting syringe and drew dots and lines across the metal leaf, building up twigs and branches until the metal leaf blended into the painting, becoming a part of it rather than sitting on top.
Detail showing the gold leaf after it had been integrated into the painting.
Before I began this painting, I had a very clear image in my head of how I wanted the finished painting to look and began by following the colours and shapes of the reference photograph. But something else took over while I was creating it, stronger reds and blues appeared and the painting developed its own character. I am constantly surprised by how often paintings take on a life of their own, transforming into something totally unexpected, which is exactly what this one did!
When it comes to expressing our innermost thoughts and emotions, there is no greater medium than art. Abstract painting has long been a popular tool for reflecting the complexity of the human experience, tapping into the depths of creativity to allow us to explore and express ourselves in new ways. I had a great deal of fun painting this picture. If it was possible to have a one-person party with paints, pallet knives and a syringe, well, this painting was it. The joy of abstract painting comes from the process itself; it’s always an adventure without knowing exactly where you will end up.
“Liquid Woodland” has a watery, winter woodland feel, well at least it does to me, and anyone who knows me will understand how important that is to me, as I have spent so much of my life on, in and underwater, photographing watery places. You could say it's in my blood...
The final step was to add two coats of varnish. This will protect the painting from dirt, moisture and dust and will make cleaning it easier. The varnish also adds a subtle sheen that complements the painting.
The finished painting. Liquid Woodland
All, January 2023, Mixed media, Original Painting, Painting, Painting Process, Stretched Canvas