Landscape – using up canvas board

Over time, I’ve come to realise two things. First my close vision isn’t up to small scale, it has me cross-eyed and visually furred up; and second, I’m less keen on canvas board than I was. Put together with my resentment of waste, I’m on a mission to use up my boards, one of which is an excruciating 8″ x 10″.

A couple of days ago, I took some photos of the river banks and the hills behind; fresh, bright, and green and very much the English spring scene. My aim was to stay dilute and go for a jewel-like transparency between all the many parallel lines of the landscape. I’m not sure that’s entirely come off, but then who am I to judge – I can’t see the darned thing!

This moved very quickly because a lot of it was worked while wet so really there are only three photographs. This is the first:

I’ve used acrylics with line work in willow charcoal. I discovered recently that it’s possible to ‘paint’ with this medium – wet it and it behaves like watercolour but can be persuaded to resolve into a finer line than it’s possible to draw. I used it to make outlines of fields, trees, structures, and parts of the bank, wetting and blending as I went.

Here, I’ve washed some areas with dilute white paint and some with bright green, paying attention to the dark area at the edge of the river bank and setting the layers ready to become reflections distorted by ripples.

Final image with foreground foliage and a stand of bare-branched trees on the hill top left which I nearly forgot. The shadows are all layered paint with a smidge of charcoal for final definition. I’m rather pleased with this now it’s done, and I’m particularly impressed at the self-painting roofs on the upper right because I really can’t take credit for what I can see here on screen and not at all in real life!

It probably needs a coat of varnish to stop the residual charcoal from dusting off then it’s done. Might even let it loose on the market.

‘West of the Adur’ (c) suzanne conboy-hill 2021

Video. Animated in MotionLeap, video produced in Filmora10.

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As a footnote; boards are better than paper for anything you don’t want absorbed; duck cotton is great for a real canvas feel where paint just sinks into the fabric but it comes in metres and you need to be able to stretch it and fix it somehow. This isn’t yet one of my talents but I like using it anchored only by bulldog clips or pinned to a piece of foam board. Primer stiffens it up and reduces its mobility. Canvases pre-fixed onto frames so they look like box lids are wonderful for that feeling you might be about to paint a real classic whether or not that actually happens. If you’re selling these, there are no mounting, framing, or hanger issues because they manage just fine with a nail in the wall.

Paper though, and other kinds of materials like carboard, glass, metal, bits of old tat you found down the garden – these, to my mind, tread a fine line between innovative purposeful creativity and tricksy gimmick. Personally, I’d recommend trying to paint on anything just to get a feel of what these things are capable of, then when you have a need for a particular effect, you can choose. Example: I wanted to replicate a Degas feel using a photo of a contemporary dancer. Degas does light, he also does tutu fabric that glows. I had some old net curtain and I used that to form the base of the painting where its folds and tucks created a set of textures I could highlight with white and silver paint. Here it is, and subject to framing, it’s found a new home.

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