This is the canvas for the second in the series of my letterbox format paintings of Dartmoor National Park. As in the first one I have done a very basic drawing of the vista with an HB pencil and then sealed it with a wash of Raw Sienna acrylic paint which tones down the starkness of the white canvas and can prevent you suffering from snow blindness painting alla prima on a sunny day, I have actually suffered this fate myself and can honestly say that this is best avoided as it is very unpleasant!
The sky has been painted using Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Raw Umber and White and as the sky is cloudy will cast lots of shadows on the wide expanse of patchwork fields. Looking beyond the little village of Widecombe, famous for Tom Cobley, the old grey mare etc.etc. you can see that this is organised , farmed land but in the top right of the picture the scene turns once again to the open moorland of Dartmoor. The joy of painting this picture is in portraying the shadows, and sunlit patches created by the clouds on an otherwise very bright day.
I have started to put in the patchwork of fields, though at this stage have not put in any hedges or trees. The colours used to this stage are for the moorland :- Raw Sienna, Olive Green, Cobalt Blue, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Dark, Yellow Ochre, White and Burnt Umber. For the cultivated fields I have used mixes of Lemon Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ochre and Olive Green and White. For the ploughed fields I used Burnt Umber, Naples Yellow, a little Burnt Sienna and White. I have left the hedges at this stage and where I have painted fields without boundaries I have re-drawn the position of hedges in the wet paint with the end of the handle. I will now start putting in the trees and hedges and deepen shadows or lighten areas in the fields where necessary to accentuate the dappled cloud shadow effects. If you would like to ask any questions please feel free to e-mail me.
This stage of the painting was concerned with the establishing of trees, hedges and the copse that form the boundaries to the patchwork of fields and moorland, this was the first stage. I have painted the hedges etc with very dark tones for the underlying shadow colours consisting of slightly varying shades made up from
Permanent Sap Green and Payne's Grey, with variations created with the addition here and there of Cobalt Blue, Olive Green, and Raw Umber. It is important to note that where the fields are lit by the sun shining through gaps in the cloud the underlying colour is slightly lighter and the subsequent highlights will be at there brightest so that where the clouds are casting dark shadows on the landscape the hedges won't be highlighted to anywhere near the same degree and the underlying shadow colours are at their darkest.
Here I have added some more of the near distance trees and have started putting in the light side of the hedges and trees and I will continue building up (modelling) the light and shade and will put the shadows on the fields because of course if the light lights up one side of the trees and hedges it stands to reason that these will cast shadows on the fields, it is around three o'clock so at this point the shadows are not particularly long.
When sketching and photographing for painting it is best to work either reasonably early in the morning or later in the afternoon as the shadows are longer and make the subjects far more interesting than around mid day when the sun is at it's highest and the shadows at their shortest.
With the addition of buildings, a lot more highlighting on the trees and hedges additional shadows the background and middle distance are near completion the decision as to whether or not it is completely finished can be left until after the foreground is put in, the painting can then be judged as a whole.
More highlights have been put into the closer trees and hedges and using various mixes of greens and bracken colours I have painted in the foreground moorland vegetation. I created the rich browns and golden rust coloured Bracken using Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Yellow Pale and Cadmium Red Pale and white. Where the long narrow format has the effect of compressing the middle distance which is the focus of the painting, the idea was to create a foreground without too much detail which I tried to paint in a fairly (for me) loose style so as not to compete too strongly with the middle distance, I think I have achieved a reasonable balance and I am happy with the result. Dartmoor being very good sheep country I decided to include a couple that were browsing at the time, and flocks are dotted around in the distance. As you can see I also resisted the inclusion of Uncle Tom Cobley and gang much to my wife, Cynthia's disappointent! I have now prnounced this painting finished and signed it off.