tretower remembered

This is a painting made in 1997, when Tretower was the foremost subject of my landscape work. It was made in acrylic ink… that hard-to-master medium that all my early works were painted in… and seeing again in this image the qualities that the inks had… the looseness and the translucent layering… makes me wonder about having another go with them. I think my original inks, long stored in a drawer, will have reduced to sludge in their bottles by now, and so they’ll need to be replaced before I can give the technique a spin again. There’s a clarity and luminosity to the paintings I made at this time that I find very appealing, though by necessity they were relatively small as the inks were so temperamental to handle. While I love the process of painting with oil or acrylic paint loaded heavily onto a brush, I can see that the acrylic inks had exceptional qualities. They were formulated for use with air-brushes , though I used them only with brushes. They’re hard to handle, but worth the effort.

18 thoughts on “tretower remembered

  1. one day, i’m going to come sit next to you as you paint and ask question after question as i watch the process. i hope you’ll survive it 😀
    i really love these, it’s a fascinating technique, and yet another i really, really want to try… thank you for sharing all this with us!

  2. 1. For God’s sake, use the gloves and save the hands!

    2. What an amazing dark but lucid dream: the discernable cloud layers swirl at different speeds and swallow the viewer. I would love to sit with, and then deep inside, this one. The magical effects remind me of another vivid hallucination, Nicola Barker’s Wide Open. Ronnie, the Other Ronnie, black rabbits, white horses, inside/outside, mutant creatures, escaped and dead pedophiles: truth, ghosts and personality shards all ultimately coalesce on an Isle of Sheppey beach.

  3. Just imagine what wonderful things might come of this medium when paired with your current color sensibilities. Though these are beautiful and haunting, the obstacle of a new attempt with the inks would perhaps be not to default to the dark palette again. Having to buy new inks would bring fresh color choices. Now the perpetual question, these days… “when” will you get the chance to do it? Mark September 1st on your calendar!

    • Mmmm, when indeed! Mind you, I do get things done eventually. It just always takes about four times as long as I imagine. Not helped of course by how short the Winter days are in this northern clime. It’s 3 pm and getting distinctly gloomy out there, and I must stock up on wood and get the horses sorted before dusk, when everything becomes more difficult. (My hand froze to one of the metal gates this morning. That’ll teach me to take my gloves off!)

      Um, September the first…


    • Glad you approve Dave. This trip down memory lane is fascinating. I was a little fearful of looking back… there’s always the danger of remembering past work as being better than it actually was… but so far the early stuff is looking OK!

      • Oh, I love these early works too, both for their brushy freedom and their moodiness, that relies on the monochromatic palette. In your latest post – that snowy landscape, and the little one with the tower – all have a tremendously emotional quality that resonates with my own feeling about the landscape, and the tower can be symbolic of the self (and other things too) in so many ways, as I’m sure you were exploring, Clive!

        • Yes, I think that the lonely tower did in some way become a stand-in for me in my paintings, and moreover I believe I realised the fact quite early on, though it seemed an odd notion. (I never talked about it because of the danger of being seen to personify myself as something so monumentally and undeniably phallic!)

          The early acrylic inks gave me a calligraphic freedom that came from their being so liquid. I often combined them with oil pastels, and later with tube acrylics. But the disadvantage of the medium was that the bottles the inks came in were and still are tiny. That combined with the fast drying time limited the size of the work that I could attempt with them. All these early works were small, and while I love working on small paintings, it’s very hard to hold your own in a large gallery and among large works if you your own are not much larger in scale than the size of the average paperback novel

  4. The effect is absolutely stunning. Must admit never heard of acrylic inks.
    Many thanks for sharing that and all the other great images over the past year.
    I do hope you are not snowed in again??

    Happy Christmas from Derek, now living in Paraiso de Bonaire. Perfect for the golden years!

    • It’s interesting isn’t it Lucy? I think that the ‘floating’ is partially to do with the exceptional qualities the inks offer to the artist. There’s a marvellously crisp separation between the layers of pigment, which in a very tangible way float, when still wet, one above the other. Hence the clarity of that pale tower, the sharpness of its outline. The other quality I love about the inks is that even in a dark painting like this one, the colours have a vividness that is far from muddy. I’m really looking forward to some of these early works being borrowed for next year’s retrospective. It’ll be quite an eye-opener for me, I think, to re-visit them.

      • Inspired by some British calligraphers who were exploring layering and mixed media in their work, I did some pieces a long time ago using acrylics thinned with matte medium, and was starting to revisit these techniques earlier this year when making cover papers for some handmade journals. The layering potential was fantastic and created very rich depth; it also worked when applied over inks. I never tried the actual liquid acrylics or acrylic inks formulated for airbrush, although I was doing large airbrush paintings in the 1980s; I just thinned the regular paints but found it very hard to clean the equipment afterwards if any bits of it had dried. What we go through!

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