Today it is a Cornish hedgerow, forever changing and always fascinating.
Just over a year ago I was looking for an excuse to paint a hedgerow when I discovered a poem by Don Moore called “The Hedgerow Watcher”, It was exactly what I was looking for, a Cornish hedge, with many wildflowers and small animals in a Cornish landscape.
Here I will describe how I went about creating the first of what turned out to be a four part painting.
The poem is full of descriptions so that made it very easy to visualise the scene. To begin with I did some very rough sketches of what I was aiming at and then some sketches of other images I could find of Pan and of men sitting on the floor.
As Pan is sat in the an Elder bush I chose to use the more upright of the figures, it also felt more exotic and would adjust better to look like the god. I added the horns and beard and made the cheek bone more pronounced, then finally added the faun legs and feet. Next I had to work out the size that would fit best, so I copied out various sizes and tried them on a rough sketch of the scene drawn out on the same size paper as the final piece. It sounds long winded but it saves problems later. When I was happy with everything I copied it out on to the watercolour paper and drew the Elder bush.
So that I didn’t loose Pan amongst the leaves and branches I painted his skin first to make him stand out. Next I painted the branches so that I could see where they crossed the body and where the leaves would be, adjusting as I went along. I tend to work from the top left to the bottom right to reduce the chances of damaging any paint, so once the structure was done I filled in from that corner down adding the detail as I went. When all the scene was painted I added shadow to give depth.
As I said earlier this was the first part of four, each 22 x 15 inches all four parts were painted simultaneously so as to keep them all consistent with each other, for example , Pan also appears in the last part so I painted both Pans at the same time so that there was no variation in colour.
The final four panels were the centre piece of my foundation degree exhibition last year.
I have a fascination with hedgerows and roadside verges and have amassed a huge collection of photographs of hedges, walls, banks, field edges and general clumps of tangled greenery. They are miniature worlds of intertwined plants and scuttling bugs in various layers, mostly oblivious to the rest of the world. These photos have been a great reference source in many of my projects especially when the hedges are the subject themselves. Here are just a few.
Whether it is Spring or Autumn there is much to see just beside the roads and lanes of the countryside, as the year progresses the same spot can look completely different and sometimes it is enough just to paint a small metre square section. In the Spring there are the leaves unfurling and the wildflowers in bud, I love to see the first Celandine, in the Summer the banks are covered in flowers and insects with grasses rustling in the wind, in the Autumn all the fruits and berries and the leaves turning red and even in Winter there are the dried seed heads and the frosted edges, and that is just the plants. Usually there are insects and butterflies but if you are quiet and lucky there may be small mammals and birds. When I do paint places like this I think of them as the ‘unlooked for’ subjects, things that are around us everyday that we don’t notice and I love them.
This last photo is of a work in progress, so I can only show this stage, it is one that I am painting when I have time to fit it around other things. The subject is mainly Bindweed and Ivy but I think the some small creatures may be about to crawl in.