01 February, 1985

R1 Ravine

R1 Ravine
36x24" oil on panel
Private Collection

For some time I was making loose, gestural sketches of scenery, full of big, loopy shapes. I coloured them with pencils and watercolours, and was pleased with the effect, but was unsure how to translate them into oils. I began experimenting with sgraffito, using a thick layer of cadmium red oil paint over the primed panel, and drawing freely with a stylus, producing white lines. Thinking of cloisonné, I used the lines as a sort of wire frame to work within. As well, the intense red of the under-painting showed through to great effect.

This sketch was done on one of my walks, a spot along our road that caught my eye, where the wind-tossed undergrowth, full of dark shapes, reminded me of the dark wings. Frequently populated by the local ravens, who hang out in the garbage dump nearby, it is a deep V full of dense grasses, ferns and bushes. It is always dark and cool-looking, and in the fall, full of brilliant red and yellow moose maple and poplar.

This was the last scene I did, and a departure from the entire scenery series of last year. The etched lines and shading technique were already firmly established in the other scenes, but the V shape began appearing in my ink drawings, along with the wing shapes. In fact, in several watercolours and inks recently, the trees and clouds have had distinct wing and finger shapes.

There was quite a lot of joking among family and friends about the faces and shapes supposedly hidden in the foliage, but my favourite spot in the painting, and I think it is quite amusing, is the odd pale green cluster hanging in front of the black area.

Everyone finally stopped trying to figure out what direction my light source comes from; since I don't care, I don't understand why anyone else should. I think a world with such diffuse lighting would be quite pleasant.

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