All Saints Church in Maldon

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All Saints Church in Maldon – Oil on Canvas – 52 x 63 cm

A couple of years ago I spent several months living and painting in Maldon in Essex. I rented a self-contained apartment on the second floor of a building attached to the Blue Boar Hotel. I was hoping to do some paintings of the trees around All Saints Church coming into blossom so I booked the apartment for the months of April and May.

The Blue Boar Hotel used to be very old fashioned and quirky at the same time, parts of its interior date back to the Tudor period and everywhere there were antiques and paintings. In the bar huge logs burned in a large hearth and on the walls beside the old oak beams there were swords and muskets and sporting prints, between these the mute stuffed heads of stags and foxes looked down at the customers with unseeing eyes. In short the place had atmosphere so my staying at the hotel was a bit like being on holiday. It’s worth mentioning the eccentric hotelier, some of his exchanges with the guests were reminiscent of Fawlty Towers. Since then I’ve heard that it’s being revamped but hopefully the place will retain is other worldly charm.

Unfortunately during my stay the weather was abysmal. It rained profusely and it was cold. I was fairly snug in my makeshift studio so I started working on some pictures. It was my intention to paint from life as much as possible. However the trees were very slow coming into blossom so I started a couple of pictures thinking that if I brought in the basic structure with some of the branches and the surrounding buildings then I would be ready to paint in the blossom when it finally arrived. Meanwhile I often found myself staring at the unusual flint wall opposite my window. This wall was constructed during the 13th century and although flints are often used on churches I have never seen any as large as these. Asides from that the tower is triangular which is very unusual.

With the poor weather continuing I started to paint a section of the flint wall with the nave behind. The good thing about painting buildings is their consistency, they don’t move, so you soon get used to how the light will be at different times of the day. As it wasn’t possible to do much work on the pictures I had originally intended to paint I spent more and more time working on this picture of the church painting in the stones as faithfully as I could. Sometimes I like to expand the space in a picture so that if you was view this scene in real life you would have to move your head up and down in order to see all of it. So in this painting I’m looking down at the side door of the church then up to the cross on top of the nave. To the right of the gothic windows the scrubby tree was rapidly coming into leaf but sadly there were no blossoms. Because the mess of twiggy branches was not very interesting I’ve painted a pigeon flying out into the space outside of the picture plane. However I’ve never been entirely happy with this addition and I may paint it out. With the spring delayed by a month I thought that perhaps the autumn effect was what I should go for. Luckily I was able to book the same space for November. So I returned to rural Essex to soak up some of the autumnal atmosphere and by the end of the month this painting of All Saints Church was almost complete.

allsaintsLORES copy

 

http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

After the Floods

After the Floods – oil on canvas – 76 x 102 cm

This is a marvelous example of contemporary painting.Am I being boastful? I don’t think so. Most artists, myself included, are inclined to be shrinking violets reluctant to praise our own works we’re waiting patiently for someone to notice, for the world to wake up and recognize an original talent. But that will probably never happen. So I am going to explain to you dear reader exactly why this painting is a marvelous example of contemporary art.

Many of my paintings are very detailed and this one is no exception. It was painted over a period of three years or more and perhaps the end result is over worked, there is always a risk of that when it comes to composing pictures like this. In order to create this image I have referred to hundreds of photographs seeking suitable images with the right eye level and lighting. I don’t have a problem with using photographic images, in any case I would never have had the time to make all of the drawings that would have been required.

The abbey in the background is part based on the ruins of Athassel Abbey situated just outside the town of Golden in Ireland. Most of the gravestones and statuary come from Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington near to where I live. The trees and wildlife have been sourced from various places including the Lea Valley which is also close to my home. If you interested in seeing the work in progress then there are a number of images in the blog section on my website.

So why did I paint this picture? I have always been drawn to the gothic imagination. I like ruins and overgrown cemeteries, twisted trees and cobwebbed staircases, places with atmosphere. In some ways this picture is a homage to Arnold Bocklin’s ‘The Isle of the Dead’, a painting I have admired since my childhood.

My painting depicts a scene overgrown and abandoned, buffeted by the forces of nature and currently flooded. There is no sign of any human presence instead it is home to various kinds of wildfowl while a swan searches for a mate. The rosy light of early dawn is creeping in from the right and mist is rising from the surface of the water. We could be looking at a scene set in the future when much of the land is flooded, hence its title ‘After the Floods’.

This is a picture which invites contemplation, the subtle colours pulse with light and if one lets the eye meander then there is much to see. I have tried to make this picture as perfect as possible whilst accepting that although perfection is something to aspire towards it will never be attained. But how many artists would go to the lengths that I have gone to in order to create their image and how many would have the technical skill or the patience to produce a work such as this?

The answer, dear reader, I leave up to you and thank you for reading this blog.

http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

The Ruined Abbey

 

This is another early picture. The style is looser and more expressionistic than my later work and this is something I may well go back to. I have always had a fascination for ruins and these subjects are often most atmospheric at dawn and dusk. I will be featuring some more pictures in a similar vein in future blogs.

I have this picture available as a high quality stretcher framed canvas print in 2 sizes 59 x 75 cm and 30 x 37 cm.

http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

Friday Woods

Friday Woods – 0il on panel – 91.5 x 122 cm

This picture is based on a real place called Friday Woods just outside of Colchester in Essex.  I painted it to recall the time I spent living in the country at Blackheath near to Fingrinhoe in Essex.

As a print this picture has been popular and I’ve sold a few. I have one left in stock. It’s a fine art quality stretcher framed canvas print AO size 76 x 102 cm.

http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

Still Life with a pint of Guinness.

Still life with a pint of guinness – oil on panel – 53.5 x 74 cm

I haven’t painted that many still life subjects. This picture was painted entirely from life in a series of sittings. I wanted to do something reminiscent of the golden age of still life painting, this was back in the 17th century especially in Holland. Superficially my picture resembles these old-style paintings except that Guinness hadn’t been invented. Also I’ve painted a blue rose into the top left corner and as we all know there is no such thing. The wine glass contains a reflection of myself painting the picture.

When this painting was completed I did wonder if Guinness PLC might be interested in purchasing the item but I found it very difficult to get in touch with them. Then I thought, well they already have their own excellent marketing department, why would they need my contribution.

At present I have 2 excellent stretcher framed canvas prints of this picture available measuring 50 x 72 cm and 35 x 50 cm.

http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Man

The Green Man – oil on canvas 50 x 60 cm

I like to work in various styles, sometimes I want to closely observe a subject from life and at other times I’ll using all kinds of photographic references to give me the visual information I need to proceed with the picture. Some of my subjects may appear at first glance mundane whilst others are in the realm of the imagination.

The Green Man represents the spirit of nature and rebirth. He represents the renewal and freedom felt by living beings when spring arrives. He’s mischievous and we find him associated with Jack in the Green, John Barleycorn, Robin Goodfellow and Puck. The Green Knight from Arthurian legend and Robin Hood also share aspects of the Green Man’s nature. So does Father Christmas, originally intended to represent the tree spirits his robes were always green. The Jack in the Green is part of the May Day parade and relates to customs practiced by the Celts and Druids. The Green Man is often seen in those discrete carvings called misericords that decorated many Christian churches and cathedrals built in medieval times. It seems that the builders and craftsmen had no problem mixing Christian faith with the old ways.

I came to paint this picture in a roundabout way. At first I was going to paint myself a Green Man t-shirt using fabric paint. However fabric paint is very different to painting with oils. Fabric paint is very stiff as it cannot be thinned so it is slow to work in and once it is on it can’t be washed out. This means that a strong sense of the final design is needed from the word go. Despite fabric paint being almost the opposite of oil paint in its application similar realistic effects can be produced. Quite a few of my t-shirts designs can be viewed on Facebook and I’ll quite likely do some blogs on fabric painting in the future.

So in order to make a t-shirt I would need to make a picture first using oils. One can take several approaches when it comes to composing a picture. Sometimes sketches are made and the entire picture is planned out in advance. I rarely work in this way. Most of my paintings are put together on the canvas. I draw with thin paint until I have a good idea of the composition. I can always wipe oil paint off and redraw something if I choose. The medium I use stays fresh all day so I can alter and develop the section of the picture I am working on throughout the day. If I decide to repaint a part of the picture that has dried then I will need to paint that area back to the ground colour.

A painting like this is put together from many sources. I’ve used photographs that I have taken myself, images from books and from the internet. Putting together the source material is much easier than it used to be. Thanks to digital technology I just plug my camera into my computer upload the images I wish to use and doctor using programs such as Photoshop or Affinity. I can put images into reverse if need be. I can create my own enlargements and print off onto A4 paper.

My Green Man is made of oak leaves. I looked at botanical drawings in order to construct the head. As human heads are more or less symmetrical I’ve used an arrangement of leaves that is similar on each side. Once the head was established I started to paint in more leaves using some photographs I had taken. Then I began to think of adding insects. I love painting butterflies so they were the first to go in followed by a ladybird and some bees. I then put a nightingale into the top right corner to represent the birdsong that one associate with the woods. When using photographic images it’s important to use an image that will work with the eye level of the picture. So you appear to be looking down at the leaves and insects in the lower half of the picture and up at what is in the upper part of the painting. If possible I like to make use of the space that is outside of the picture. This is a tricky thing to do because it involves creating a sufficient illusion of reality amongst the foliage so that the butterflies appear to float in space.

http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

 

 

 

Welcome to my Blog

Self portrait with eyes shut – oil on panel – 41 x 71 cm

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a long time as I’ve been living in splendid isolation for too long and I need to get more exposure for my work in order to attract sales and commissions. Asides from that I have a lot of paintings in my possession and I’m now seeking suitable opportunities to exhibit them.

On most days I’ll be featuring a different picture, some will be from the past and some from the present. I’ll be discussing painting technique, subject matter and the use of source material amongst other things. My kind of art is considered old fashioned by some people because it is based on drawing and it is hand made. Painting and drawing is an activity, like playing a musical instrument that involves a direct link from the hand to the mind. This the kind of work that I find most interesting.

I thought I would start with a self-portrait. I’ve painted quite a few of these but this one is the most ambitious. It’s painted from life onto a warm brown ground. There are technical challenges involved in a work such as this, keeping the pose whilst working and especially painting my right hand which is holding the brush. Both hands and the lily intrude into the space outside of the picture plane. This is something a do in a lot of pictures. It’s an unusual picture because I have my eyes shut. I have tried to think of my reasons for setting this pose, eyes closed, the empty shelves behind and the lily etc. There could be some unconscious symbolism here but I suspect the reasons are all aesthetic. The shelves are empty because placing objects on them would detract too much from the face, the lily looks good against black and if my eyes are closed it’s because I’ve never seen another self-portrait like it.

You can view more of my work at http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk