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  • Writer's pictureWill Topley

Two Summer Landscapes

Morning view over the Chalke Valley 7″ x 8″, Oil on gesso

 We went to say with friends for the Chalke Valley History Festival. It only takes about an hour and a half to get there by car from where we live but it is always much more fun to stay with friends. I got up reasonably early the next day and spent a few hours painting the view from the south front of the house. I then had an attack of FOMO; which you may know is Fear Of Missing Out and so went inside for a considerably large breakfast of scrambled eggs and kippers and a pleasant discussion on the general state of the world. It is only a small picture, so I had the bones of it done and decided to finish it off in my studio. As a rule; I don’t really like to touch a painting when I’m away from the subject but I have been reading quite a bit on light and colour of late and feel that on this occasion I did manage to bring the thing to a satisfactory conclusion. There was a curious lemony light bathing the fairly dry panorama and a streak of blue from a field of Flax which had just come into flower. This played off against a pink orange I put into the gravel in the foreground. It was hard to make the bright yellow flowers of the Verbascum Bombicyferum stand out as much as they appeared to, as the flowers are so small in the painting but you can sort of make them out as they stand proudly from the otherwise bareness of the drive.


Stooks at Chirton 6″ x 8″, Oil on aluminium panel

At the other end of summer and the linseed in the Chalke Valley will be harvested soon but in a field next to our village the corn had been cut. Instead of rectangular or cylindrical bales as we are now used to, stooks are carefully arranged to dry, set fairly regularly about the field. It is a wonderful sight and although I have seen the same thing here now for about 3 years, I have never got round to painting it. This year I got out and put that right. I don’t know if I was the cause of inspiration as I stood painting but several people stopped to take photos.

Delivery man, parked and snapping.

Artists are often dismissive of “the general public’s” visual sensibility but this little scene certainly brought out the Artist in quite a few. The farmer was very pleased with his crop and asked that I didn’t put the stook that had blown over in the wind into the picture. A bit like asking the portrait painter to make your bum a bit smaller

Farmer in his field

Strange and sometimes interesting thoughts go through ones head while painting. One of the first things that struck me was that the composition had a lot of pyramids sitting in it and it reminded me of the topiary in my friend’s garden. Although I was painting this mid morning from about 8.30am to midday so at a roughly similar time, I was looking north rather than south and the light was quite different, less lemony. I started to think of Sir William Gillies. I was introduced to his paintings by one of my tutors at the Slade, Jeffery Camp. He had been taught by Gillies at Edinburgh and had shown me several paintings by him that he owned, they were stacked up in his studio behind a curtain and they gave me quite a surprise and a thrill when I first saw them. So Gillies taught Jeffery and Jeffery taught me. Ergo Gillies taught me.

 Landscape with a House and a Field by William George Gillies

© Royal Scottish Academyphoto credit: The University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection

The Scottish painters of that time seemed to love purples and maroons in their landscapes and once you see one of their paintings you start to see those colours whenever you walk in an overcast British landscape. It’s a strange thing as purple can be a very garish colour in the wrong hands and is very hard to pull off successfully in interior decorating. When I was a school boy my housemaster’s wife had one of our dorms painted a particularly ugly shade of purple and we found it was hard to rest your eyes anywhere in the room. It was a tough year and I expect it was that which drove us to drinking Bacardi and orange redoxon in the evening. I think purples worked for the Scottish painters as you can make very grey greens and when placed next to or near those purple hues they will read greener than they otherwise would have as they are a kind of split complimentary.   If you want to try a Bacardi and Orange Rodoxon here is a link for the Rodoxon

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