A place connected to everywhere and from where any destination could be accessed, the crossroads would have been a landmark in rural Ireland. Older country people will tell you of the Summertime dances and parties at the crossroads that would last till daybreak. But this is not a Summertime scene. Its the approach of the Winter Solstice. Its daylight, long before the sun rises and only the high clouds are lit by the sun, reflecting a golden glow. Its the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
There is an underlying theme of crossing boundaries in this painting. This scene is based on the crossroads just over the hill from where I live. The little river is a Diocesan boundary (see this post) established exactly 900 years ago this year, but probably based on an even older boundary. I ‘fudged’ the sky/earth boundary on the horizon in keeping with the time of year and this time of day – the long grey wait before the coming of the sun. For many people the beginning of a new year is like a crossroads. Its a time to consider changing direction and resolving to stay on the new path. Irish folklore has many stories concerning crossroads. There is a tradition that if a hen crowed like a cockerel it would be caught, brought to the crossroads to be released unharmed. Like many such practises, you can only guess at the reason for this.
There is a complete change in the colours this time. Indian Red, Raw Sienna, Prussian Blue and black and white. Again just 3 colours to ensure clean mixes. Indian red is ‘rust’ colour and produces very dark purple mixes with Prussian Blue. In many mixes it can produce a ‘dirty’ colour, like that ‘mucky’ brown mixture that always seems to be on the palette when you finish a painting. But with Prussian Blue and Raw Sienna its OK. The purple, when mixed with the blue, is not reproduced well in the photograph or the video. It appears as black, as in the line of trees going over the hill on the left in the distance. This is a photographic limitation that does not do justice to the painting.
You might think there is a lot of work in background areas which are covered up in later stages of painting. I like to think of this as keeping the options open. As a painting develops, it may be necessary to leave something out which you planned to include. Trying to fill a gap at the later stages of a painting is a lot more difficult than putting it in to start with.
I will have the video ready for posting in a few days.