Work such as this is time-consuming… probably more so than it looks. There are so many tones involved and since those slender leaves need the slimmest brushes to produce them, the tide of foliage across the surface of the painting creeps at a snail-like pace. There are blackbirds too to be included, and those will start going in tomorrow.
This dense patterning isn’t intended to draw too much attention to itself in the composition. In some respects I want it to go almost unnoticed, the idea being that it’s there to reward anyone lingering over the composition and taking the time to step close to it. But even though that’s the effect I’m aiming for, it needs a meticulous execution or the ‘busyness’ could at best unbalance the painting, or worse, overturn it. So the result is that fronds get painted in and back out again rather endlessly as I try to find the perfect balance. Sometimes I dream that the mice will come and finish the leaves for me at night after I’m done at the easel, as they come to finish embroidering the mayor’s wedding waistcoat in Beatrix Potters The Tailor of Gloucester. Alas all the Ty Isaf field mice seem to do is remove our shoelaces in the boot-room and then weave them into winter nests inside our wellingtons! My walking boots these days are laced with garden twine!