Lynne Roebuck (Handwritten)

Sheep painting in oil

Avoid the Ash, It counts the Flash

Driving from Harrogate to Ripley one day, I caught a glimpse of some sheep in a field under a distinctive tree as the road curved round.

There are times when potential artwork jumps out at you. You can be minding your own business entirely, then bam!

I've never understood the myth that the artistic muse is fickle and difficult to coax into action. I find it's virtually impossible to switch it off.

So when I saw this scene, I had to stop. If I didn't, I'd have thought about it for weeks, if not longer. Oh, the missed paintings that haunt me still.

Getting out of the car – I always carry my camera with me – I discovered I'd seen what I thought I had: a striking picture of rural England.

The serene animals were in the shade under an old Ash tree that looked to have suffered one or more lightening strikes. That, or it had simply got so old it's branches were breaking, perhaps in fierce winds.

The old tree had much character that would make the painting quite unique when compared with similar landscapes. Unfortunately I couldn't stay long, so was not able to do more than a quick thumbnail sketch, and take a couple of photographs for reference.

Below: some work in progress photos

Oil painting in progress

1) This is another painting I've started without doing a small study first and this could spell disaster. I may regret not having done my usual preparation.

Sheep painting in progress

2) You can see here that I'd blocked in all the colours and then decided the composition was not quite right. The tree was far too upright and the horizon too high so I began to outline some corrections.

Oil painting composition change

3) I'm much happier with this though there is much still to resolve. If I'd made a small painting first, I'd have already resolved most of the things I find myself unhappy with at this stage. There's no wrong or right – some painters carefully plan a canvas and some don't. It simply means they spend longer on different stages of a painting.

The painting above is oil on a canvas which is 40.5cm x 40.5cm (16" x 16")

As I've worked on this landscape painting, I was struck by an old saying: ‘Beware of an oak, it draws the stroke; avoid an ash, it counts the flash; creep under the thorn, it can save you from harm’

Of course any kind fo tree is a danger in thunderstorms, including the Thorn.

I've decided it's a good candidate for becoming the title of the finished painting. I often try a few out though during the course of the painting's progress.

Watching paint dry

The brave decision to post an in-progress landscape painting, here on my website, has turned out to be not so clever.

Some paintings have long periods where I don't work on them. Instead, other art gets attention. There are a number of reasons for this.

Sometimes, the artwork just refuses to develop in a way I'm satisfied with. Art is not about giving up too easily – you leanr most when you persist.

Of course taking a step back and putting the art asside for a while is a powerful thing to do. It means you can look again with fresh eyes. I can't tell you how often the solution smacks me in the face as a result of turning an artwork to the wall for a while.