Writing as a Landscape Painter on the subject of painting landscapes of the Moors and Valleys of Lancashire in winter. I always feel slightly down at heart when November ends and the evenings draw in with full dark at about 4.30pm. In the past especially when I returned from painting in Southern Spain I ignored this feeling of melancholia by painting away at a canvas with oodles of bright colour only to have to scrape it all off and paint it again because it didn't feel quite right. My partner and friends aghast at my actions. I've worked hard to make myself a painter whose responsive to what's around me and its difficult for me to switch that lever to off. My paintings would change as the sky lightens at the end of January. The worse case scenario is a wet Lancashire winter which sometimes lasts until Easter when spring and colour bursts forth.
Around that time I had a number of large commissions which called for bright spring light. Luckily my studio was and is windowless so that my bread and butter work could carry on under bright lights from the English Lighting Company along and a blaze of colour that bounces from one painting to the next.
This year I'm going to try something new and welcome melancholia by walkin and drawin in the gloamin this weird time of the day and year. I'm taking my cue and inspiration from Poets who are Land based. Like Wordsworth, Jaccottet plus the excellent work of Scots Poets such as Alexander Grey, John Stuart Blackie and Kathleen Raine who describe the daily living made from scratching the poor soil of the uplands. Winters good for poets, for them its a time to sit in front of the fire, reflect and make poems. The same can be said for painters. How to maintain interest in gloom can be read as how to maintain interest in the day.
|Gloamin 1 drawing mixed media on paper Charcoal, ink, watercolour|
With this in mind I set out to conquer melancholy.Once started and in the painting zone in winter I find it hard to tear myself away. Though I know the benefits of good fresh air and exercise. To do this I set my alarm for 4.15pm, strap my fitbit to my wrist, get into my buffalo jacket pick up my sketch bag and I go and make drawings. I'm lucky that in just a few minutes walk from my easel and tables, up a track there's an old rough stone wall to sit on. From this vantage point a view of soft browns emerge the top of tree branches brushing a greying orange sky, high above deep grey blue clouds arce. To my right above a hedge of stunted scrag end Hawthorne blown lateral a cold grey colour block of sky turns dark. This is a good place for drawing the living landscape drawing with charcoal and watercolour. Further into the wood an enormous chattering group of Crows emerge as they scold a fox or another walker and his dog. I wander over a still green field, onto the flat ridge top its crusty inch of soil spotted by outbreaks of millstone. Over the field a view of a steadfast copse of ancient twisted beech is loosing itself in a smudge of brown. Beyond all this a still glittering band of sea stretches from Barrow down along Lancashire's silver coast, to Liverpool and North Wales. A splendid place that is quintessentially Northern. To the west a dimming orange horizon spreads up to a silver blue that shivers between the trees. This is the gloaming the moment of near dark a still light lingering and flickering as the winter sun slowly ebbs away.
Fact check I use the word gloaming because I like it very much. I first heard it in the poetry and songs of the Scots and of late via an Irish group of musicians. According to the dictionary it's also an old English word descended from the Norsk settlers. Here's a dictionary definition of Gloamin. which is a very very old word, https://wordfoolery.wordpress.com/…/roaming-in-the-gloaming/, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gloaming