Afon Dwyryd, Portmeirion: oil 20×16″

Several weeks ago I started a larger oil painting, one of the biggest I have tackled for quite a long time….and even then, 20×16 inches isn’t exactly large by today’s standards.

This is the River Dwyryd, as seen from near the White Horses tower in Portmeirion, North Wales. A lot of scudding clouds that day, with the occasional rain-shower. It is not so colourful a painting, because the focus is on the mosaic of mixed clouds.

For a long time I’ve been trying to break my painting away from a “drawn” style to one that is a little looser and impressionistic. I found a linen canvas in my stock that had a few turpsy outlines for an unfinished painting; this was dispatched with a quick coat of fast-drying alkyd white and put aside for a day or two before starting the sky.

My drawing and photos showed a very complex sky and it was really too much to do, so I selected out some of the more interesting clouds and marked them up on the canvas in thinned paint, choosing to place the shadow areas first. In the following days I went on with the dark shapes of the hills and placed in a base colour of purple-grey for the water.

Not many colours used for all this; cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson (permanent), cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, titanium white.

I stayed much further from the canvas than I usually do, employing larger brushes for the clouds and palette knife for cloud highlights. I found it difficult to avoid “fiddling” with small areas but managed to hold off and leave the paint alone once in place.

The foreground proved a little tricky in terms of getting it to look like water rather than a concrete road; the initial purple-grey was fine but too dark to pick up light from the sky. Ultramarine blue mixed with a little cobalt, white and a small dot of alizarin finally got applied to the surface in broad strokes, but avoiding too much detail so as not to clash with the sky.

The picture is still drying and won’t be on the website quite yet, but probably around middle to end of May.

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