Sunday 29 March 2009

What does a Mallorn look like?

and other questions which arise when illustrating scenes from the work of JRR Tolkien!

Spring Surpassed his Wildest Hopes
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Amidst the mad March flurry of painting (which resulted in seven pictures, only one of which has been consigned to the rejects pile) I've produced one Tolkien-inspired work which is good enough to take to this year's Oxonmoot. Spring Surpassed his Wildest Hopes is based on the scene in Lord of the Rings Book Six Chaper VIII (The Scouring of the Shire). The title is a quote taken directly from the book and Sam is standing in front of "the only mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea" which has just burst into bloom in the Party Field next to Bag End.

For the layout I consulted a map of Hobbiton in Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle Earth - you might not be able to see the river running through the horizontal line of trees beyond the village, but it's there all the same LOL. The large house in the middle of the picture is The Grange. I decided to base the mallorn sapling on a silver birch which grows on the green in front of my house; Tolkien describes it as having long silver leaves and bursting into golden flowers in April. Elsewhere in LoTR we learn that full-grown mallorn leaves turn to gold in Autumn but they do not fall until "the new green opens . . . and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers". So I figured the "new green" would be a bit like the silver foliage on our own garden plants, and that the sapling's original silver leaves would have fallen already . . . Oh, and the figure of Sam is based on me standing hands on hips with my back to a mirror. Although his legs are better than mine LOL.

I was really keen to portray a gentle spring day so I used the same colours as for my spring flower paintings: indian yellow, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson. I laid down a wash of raw sienna first so that the finished work didn't look too cold (I failed to do this with a previous Tolkien painting of Tom Bombadil's Wedding and have come to heartily dislike it!). During the couple of weeks I painted Spring Surprised we actually had some gentle spring weather which helped tremendously! For example, my first attempt at the trees in the background was far too green - I had to take a lot of the colour out and overpaint with yellow or pink to prevent it looking like Summer. And I knew this was necessary by taking a look out of the window!

A lot of the ideas I've had recently for Tolkien paintings have been based on his descriptions of colour rather than action in the book. Here's a clue to the next one . . . I've downloaded several photos of runner bean plants . . .!?

Sunday 15 March 2009

Swanning Around

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

I've recently completed a couple of paintings which got me thinking about inspiration and ideas, and where they come from. This swan (of which I am inordinately proud) was painted from a photo taken over a year ago in the RHS Garden at Wisley. I had no intention of painting a swan; instead I did a less-than-successful depiction of some ducks on the ice of Harpenden Ponds. Although the painting didn't work, I discovered I enjoy painting birds - hence the swan. It's not like the photo in terms of colour - it was a grey day and I've rendered it in cobalt blue and raw sienna -but very like in form. And I've managed to paint water successfully at last!

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

This little picture, on the other hand, was painted from life. The tall bloom at the back had flopped, and is held up by a stick. I sketched and underpainted it in the morning and when I came back to it in the afternoon, not only had the light changed but the flower on the right had grown! Having got the hyacinths & bowl how I wanted them, on the spur of the moment I mixed my three colours (cobalt blue, alizarin crimson and indian yellow) into a neutral beige and crudely overpainted the background - which had originally been pale yellow) - with a large flat brush. I like to think that not painting right up to the edges of the flowers has given them a backlit effect. I could pretend that I intended the horizontal strokes on the background to be a counterpoint to the vertical thrust of the flowers but, like a lot of my work, that's a happy accident . . .

I like the immediacy of this painting, but what you gain in vibrancy you lose in composition. I soon realised it was too close to the top of the paper (and slightly to the left) but having started, I didn't want to stop. Oh well!