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Wet, wet, wet.

Headwater


I started this painting of a stream in spate with a deployment of rigid geometry, with a triangle from the centre point of the top lie extended in a straight line to the two bottom corners. An arbitrary horizontal line truncated the this into a pyramid about 10 cm from the top. I then connected the two top corners of the canvas to the points where the horizontal line cut the sides of the triangle.


Why?


Well, I knew I wanted to paint wild water and I needed a counter point to the inevitable arabesques that would occur, to set up a tension. Then, about half way down the canvas I introduced a fallen tree – like many we have seen across mountain streams in Scotland and Sweden. Next, I introduced some rounded shapes at various points along the edges of the triangle above and below this horizontal break line, to suggest boulders. I tried to set them up in the threes, with the top set centres to the right and the lower set to the left. I had decided to make them pink and grey, so that set the river in the Cairngorms granites. There are two or three such settings that I can recall.


To remind myself this was a river I drew a salmon lying below one of the rocks. If you look carefully, you will see its head breaking through the water. Imagine then that it is swimming up towards the redds, which maybe lie just beyond where the river disappears.


The river would have worn into the steepest slope in the peat that is laid in a shallow layer over glacial rocks. I represented this by roughly dividing the vertical edges of the canvas into a series of equal points and then running a sloping line towards the points where the outline of the rocks cuts the edges of the triangle.


I decided that the stream should run through a plantation for reasons of colour. Pine tree trunks tend to be pink once they are a certain distance above the ground and this would pick up on the colour of the rocks. So I introduced a series of tree trunks in the top third of the canvas, set at regular but off set centres as they might be in a plantation.


The peat banks are shown with a light flowering of ling over the dark soil. In my memory they all tend to blur out into a grey but I painted this as a series of oranges, pinks and purples. Al the colours are more vehement than they are in nature, but, hey, this is a painting not a photograph.


The flow of the water suggested itself by wrapping round the rocks and gathering in pools. In the pools the colour of the rocks is softened to suggest sand and gravel shallows. The broken water picks up the base colour of the peat banks and is highlighted by streaks of ochre and white.


The brushwork is much freer than in some of my other pictures, a consequence of my feeling for the water shapes and the textures of the tree trunks.




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