River Suck, Galway, Roscommon – Oil Painting

River Suck

Little James

We travelled to East Galway over the weekend to be present at the Christening of James, one of our grandchildren. He is the happiest little boy, always smiling. After heavy rain overnight, thankfully the rain stopped during the day, and the little ones could go out and run around and play in the puddles of water. Great fun was had by all, and the mothers thought this was great (yeah!).

The river in the painting forms the boundary between counties Galway and Roscommon. Its normally less than 10 meters across, but after recent heavy rain it looked as if the whole countryside was a lake. It would be very difficult to know where Galway stops and Roscommon starts. The land is very flat here and its close to the river Shannon which is also prone to flooding the countryside after heavy rain.

The scene presented itself as we were travelling home, just before sunset. I can’t resist a beautiful sky and couldn’t wait to get painting while it was fresh in my mind. The scene was all about the sky and the reflections on the flood waters but this alone does not make a good painting. Simply recording this natural phenomenon is not enough. I constructed a scene to allow me to indulge myself and include the sky. To heighten the drama, the composition is on a knife edge.

Remember I wrote about composition in a previous post, the see-saw of left and right side balancing. The traditional method of creating drama or tension is to have a vertical rather than horizontal shape to the painting and include diagonal lines in the design. Well neither of these methods would suit this scene. I placed the sun a little off centre and then put the boats a little to the other side. So all the important bits are in a narrow space. This is in effect what happens in a vertical painting. In planing the design I also included diagonal lines in the sky (the shafts of light) and the lines are echoed in the shape of the mid and foreground.

The colours are: Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and French Ultramarine. Plus, of course, black and white. There is a lot of work in the sky to achieve the movement. Of the hour and a half to complete the painting, the sky alone took nearly an hour. The video will show the buildup of shapes and the efforts in creating a random chaos in the clouds. I find it easier to make it up as I go along, taking advantage of the shapes created in the earlier ‘mad’ stage of underpainting.

The video will be included in the next post.