Unfinished business


"Top of the run" Courchevel April 08. Watercolour 8"x14"

There are unfinished paintings that silently reproach you from the shelf where you know they are hiding. This is one such painting. Painting in the Alps is diametrically opposite to that other “A”, Afghanistan. One is cold and wet; the other hot and dry. So while in Afghanistan watercolour dries almost instantly on the paper, in the Alps you might freeze to death waiting for a wash to dry. So a different approach is needed. In a nutshell it is…use as little water as possible. In snow of course the paper is helping you  – you don’t have to paint anything (well, roughly speaking), and if the sky is cold and grey and trying to snow, you don’t have to paint the sky either. So this is very much the minimalist approach.

It was enought trouble carrying my gear with me, and I was really there to snowboard. However, this view had to be grabbed. People coming off the lift, and shuffling off on the shallow slope towards the beginning of the run was a stoty I wanted to tell. The fact that the skiers were disappearing over a slight ridge, and you can’t see them skiing, added to the sense of expectation.

I got as far as placing the figures in colour, painting the gearing shed on the left, touching in the snow shadows in the foreground, and a plain grey wash over the background ridge.  And that is how it sat until last night. So I put in the rocks in the background (which I had noted in pencil at the time), strengthened one or two of the figures, and finally – carefully – spattered some “snow” using a large brush loaded with fairly thick permanent white.

I had in the back of my mind the snow paintings of Sir William Russell Flint, an example shown here painted in 1927. He was fantastic at putting such life into skiers before the days when artists used cameras. He must have had a fantastic visual memory – or be able to afford models to pose in the right positions. I wonder if anyone knows.


~ by noelgarner on November 9, 2009.

2 Responses to “Unfinished business”

  1. “Top of the Run” really takes me there! You’ve got me wondering which is more magical: Is it your gifted hand, or is it your brushes? We all know the answer to that, and who your Supplier is.
    Thanks for the spiritual experience

    • Thanks for your several very generous comments Glenn. It’s really encouraging to hear that someone else has drawn some pleasure or inspiration from some of my paintings. I like your “Supplier” idea. That puts it neatly, not just for art, but all of life. I’ve never been keen on overtly religious art – especially those that involve crosses and doves – but that’s my opinion. Rather, I respect – and aspire – to art that expresses beauty or a spirit of enquiry.

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