Review of ‘Looking Out’

A combination of circumstances has meant that I haven’t got through as many of the exercises as I would have liked for this module.

With the exercises that I have done so far I have tried to choose subjects that would allow me to explore a range of landscape techniques and styles. For this module I also tried out different mediums, specifically gouache and oil pastels.

As I worked through the exercises a bit of a theme began to, unwittingly, emerge starting with the exercise ‘Working from a photograph’. I used an image of Suilven, a mountain in the North West Highlands of Scotland, that had been taken many years ago when I had a summer job in the village of Lochinver.

It is hard to say what it is about Suilven that has so much impact. It is smaller than a Munro (a mountain over 3,000ft) but, somehow, its shape seems to transform depending on where you view it from or the way the light is falling.

Working on the exercise reminded me that I had always felt that I would like to be able to, somehow, capture that hill in paint. While thinking about that I remembered the work of the artist Beth Robertson Fiddes which I saw at the Beauly Gallery several years ago. That particular image had been of Glencoe and I had been taken by her ability to capture the drama of the glen.

In doing some research I discovered that Beth Robertson Fiddes had also painted Suilven. That bit of research, in turn, reminded me of the work of Simon Rivett which I seen at the Morven Gallery on the Isle of Lewis. Again it was his ability to capture the drama of the Scottish landscape, in an almost minimalist way, which had impressed me.

Suilven by Beth Robertson Fiddes

This image captures the light as I often saw it when working up North. The sun trying to break through and Suilven, which is often completely covered in cloud, appears to materialise from the mist seeming to recreate itself every time. What I like about this image is the subtlety of the palette and how the whole scene has been evoked by the contrast of warm and cool colours and the use of smooth and rough textures.

Harris Mist (2014) by Simon Rivett

This image demonstrates Simon Rivett’s ability to capture the scale and texture of the mountains. The hill is swathed in mist and you can feel the movement of the cloud as it rises, allowing a glimpse of sunlight on the flank of the hill. Your eye is led in from the deep shadows of the foreground to that shaft of light. The blue sky in the corner teases you as it hints at the view you can’t see until that mist lifts. In this image I like the cropped-in composition which gives a sense of the scale of the hill and the reduction of shapes to something that is almost abstract.

Thinking about the work of both these artists has inspired me to try a painting of Suilven. What I’m hoping to do, with the perverse optimism of the art student who hasn’t worked out the steepness of the learning curve, is capture that monumental, breathtaking quality that the mountain has whenever you see it.

Future plans

Interestingly, I can feel a bit of a theme coming on. Having painted Dumbarton Castle for the exercise ‘Creating mood and atmosphere’ it occurred to me that there are distinct similarities between the rock on which the castle sits and Suilven. The distinctive shapes and textures and the effect of light and weather conditions have given me food for thought and something to explore in the next module which looks at mixed media and abstraction.

Postscript

My attempts with this assignment can be seen at Assignment 4: Landscape – Suilven.


References

Beth Robertson Fiddes, http://www.bethrobertsonfiddes.com/ [Accessed 11/08/2014]

Simon Rivett, http://simon-rivett-9f1w.squarespace.com/ [Accessed 11/08/2014]

Images

Fiddes, Beth Robertson. Suilven [online image] Available from: http://www.bethrobertsonfiddes.com/gallery1image97.html. Accessed [11/08/2014]

Rivett, Simon. (2014) Harris Mist. [online image]. Available from http://simon-rivett-9f1w.squarespace.com/hills/eawb5rzhr90yan26v1lfepwbw02ygn. Accessed [11/08/2014]

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