A good number of you seem to be particularly interested in seeing my process, which I share on Facebook through a sequence of ‘walkthrough’ photographs. I am just about to embark upon a new painting that is being created for the ‘Lands and Legends’ artist anthology. As the piece is creator owned, and thus exempt for the NDA (non disclosure agreement) I am usually bound by, it seems a perfect opportunity to share that process as I am actually doing it.
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Over the next few days that it takes to complete the painting I will be posting my progress adding some explanation as I do so. The subject matter is Tír na nÓg. Here is a short passage from Wikipedia:
‘In Irish mythology and folklore, Tír na nÓg ([tʲiːɾˠ n̪ˠə ˈn̪ˠoːɡ]; "Land of the Young") or Tír na hÓige ("Land of Youth") is one of the names for the Otherworld, or perhaps for a part of it. It is depicted as a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy. Its inhabitants are the Tuath Dé, the gods of pre-Christian Ireland. In the echtrae (adventure) and immram (voyage) tales, various Irish mythical heroes visit Tír na nÓg after a voyage or an invitation from one of its residents. They reach it by entering ancient burial mounds or caves, or by going under water or across the sea.
In the tale,Oisín in Tir na nÓg, Oisin is visited by a fairy woman called Niamh Chinn Óir (Niamh of the Golden Hair or Head, one of the daughters of Manannán Mac Lir, a god of the sea) who announces she loves him and takes him away to Tir na nÓg ("the land of the young", also referred to as Tir Tairngire, "the land of promise"). Their union produces Oisín's famous son, Oscar, and a daughter, Plor na mBan ("Flower of Women"). After what seems to him to be three years Oisín decides to return to Ireland, but 300 years have passed there. Niamh gives him her white horse, Embarr, and warns him not to dismount, because if his feet touch the ground, those 300 years will catch up with him and he will become old and withered. Oisín returns home and finds the hill of Almu, Fionn's home, abandoned and in disrepair. Later, while trying to help some men who were building a road in Gleann na Smól lift a stone out of the way onto a wagon, his girth breaks and he falls to the ground, becoming an old man just as Niamh had forewarned. The horse returns to Tir na nÓg. In some versions of the story, just before he dies Oisín is visited by Saint Patrick. Oisín tells the saint about what happened and dies.
I found the story of Niamh and Oisin particular evocative, and whilst my initial temptation had been to show the idyllic land of Tír na nÓg I quickly became drawn to the idea of showing the lovers galloping over the waves; with Tír na nÓg still just a dream yet to be properly discovered or fully realised.
After a series of thumbnail sketches I arrived at a composition I was happy with and worked up the line sketch.
Whilst the story is about Niamh and Oisin it is also about the primal force of nature and magic so I wanted that to be reflected. The figures are prominent, but placed in the mid ground so as to be within the environment rather than dominating it. The horse, Embarr, is oversized with foaming sea for tail and mane both of which emphasise its ‘otherness’. The sea and sky are major presences.
The next step was to work up a colour study, which I did digitally.
The intense saturated colours are saved for the magical elements and give focus to Niamh and Tír na nÓg offset against the somber tone of the sea.
I hope you find my progression interesting, and I look forward to providing updates as I paint.