Oil on Linen Canvas, 19.75 x 27.5 inches
I had to do a big canvas for the Affordable Art Fair in London next month, so I produced this one after I got an idea in my head and employed my usual fleet of underlings to do it for me, as it's far too beneath me to daub it on myself (yeah, right - a nod to Damien H)
This was a bit of a hand-brake turn for me, using such vivid colours after my more subtle, quieter tones of late. When I took a reference photo of the fireball sunset last June from my village, an amazing mist had settled in the valley and produced this ethereal effect of just the tops of the trees poking above the ectoplasm. The trickiest thing about doing justice to a sunset is to paint the sun itself with sufficient brightness to appear convincing. As I've said before, the brightest paint in the artist's arsenal is totally inadequate to portray the intense, pure light of the setting sun. The fireball was just that, a fierce orange. I put down strong orange, but it looked dull compared to the lemon yellow of the underlit clouds above, so that didn't give the effect, so I had to compromise, using a strong yellow, with a halo of orange. I could have stayed with the orange sun, but that would have necessitated toning down the rest of the painting, and the foreground would have to have been too dark and the hanging mist would have been lost.
So, this was quite a struggle with tones and colour - probably even more so than my usual, more subtle paintings. When I took the photo, the wheat was still green and that's how I painted it. Sitting back, I felt it lacked what I wanted - the near harvest time of high Summer, so I grabbed the palette knife and scraped it all off, moved the time on a month and painted it in its more ripened golden hue with a smattering of crimson poppies (good job it wasn't a watercolour!).
By the way, have you spotted the silent hunter of the title? This wasn't a hopelessly romantic addition - a ghostly Barn Owl with its lopping flight can often be seen in just this spot, quartering along the hedgerows of his territory, so I felt he deserved his place in the composition to give it a bit of life. I tried a few different places, using a cut-out scrap of paper before finally settling on the best spot so as not to be too insistent.