November 27th, 2022 – Golden Forest

The newest series of paintings I called The Golden Forest Collection. There were 20 paintings in the series, I think that’s my vibe these days. On reflection, I think it’s always been my preferred way but I think the last couple of series (Japanese Circle / Hill / Forest Collections) have been the first time it’s been more formalized as a single set in one theme/style.

That’s mainly down to the surfaces I made these paintings on. Which themselves have a reason for being. A combination of I’m finding it easier to work on a small scale these days, a desire to re-purpose workshop offcuts into making my own surfaces, bypassing reliance on stock availability and wider concerns over the origins of the materials used, who made them, and where they were shipped from.

In short, I would feel better about the whole affair if I could just make my own surfaces. It’s something I have wanted to do for a long time.

A couple of years ago I bought a track saw for the studio to make the job of cutting sheet wood easier, in order to make crates to ship paintings in. It is essentially the same procedure to make a painting board so after a couple of trials I made a set of 20. I like the board does not require a frame, it could get one but you can also just hang it straight up.

Image – Constructing the surfaces. This is the final stage before sealing & priming.

I didn’t have a direct plan for the boards while making them. From the initial trial experiments, I did some very minimal birch trees in an Indigo watercolor on white which I thought I might pursue.

Image – Painting Indigo Forest III – June 2022

Now I can’t quite remember the sequence of events, but I had finished my Indigo with those ones so I think I just moved on to using something else… and that was back onto the ink. I fancied doing something big so I taped a huge bit of paper down on the floor and went at it with brushes and my feet and heaps of different inks. I think one of the effects being investigated was how different inks looked on top of each other. I bought a selection of different Sumi ink recently.

Image – Work In Progress on the studio floor 2022

I tore up pieces of this sheet and glued them to a 2x1ft board. The idea was to create a fractured landscape, like snaps of a memory of the dark shapes from a car window driving north. The only bit of the picture that had any definition was a torn hill line in the upper third of the painting. The rest is all built around that keeping it structured but abstract enough to be undefined.

Image – Painting North By Night – 2022
Image – Painting North By Night – 2022

Doing this paperwork refreshed my interest in revisiting my painted tape rolls. I have been working with them since around 2019. I had taped down a sheet of paper with masking tape. When peeling it away I was taken with the material, marked by the various brushes and inks, these strips of tape were collected and I put them in my sketchbook. These bits of tape were used to create a work for the end of the Portfolio course at GSA.

Image – Painting North By Night – 2022
Image – Photograph of Sketchbook 2019

I used the strips horizontally, without cutting them thinner. Just blocks of tape, placed with intent, but not with the intent to evoke a landscape directly. I don’t have a photo of these but this is one of the very first. This one may have been leaning into the intention of landscape, but with the idea that there is perhaps a natural inclination to just view it as a landscape by projecting a horizon in the upper third, but the picture can be viewed with any point being the horizon. The viewer decides.

I made about 4 rolls of tape so I could have a bank of materials to use in this fashion. Laying out entire rolls of masking tape onto a 6×4 board and painting over it with inks and brushes. The strips of tape are then rerolled onto the tube to create a custom tape roll.

Image – Work In Progress, base coats of paint 2019
Image – Completed roll of tape 2019
Image – Experimental Work circa 2019
Image – Experimental Work circa 2019

Returning to the current work, inspired by the work North By Night, I decided to use my new set of surfaces to work with the tape rolls again. This time I wanted to use the tape material as tree forms and create a background with inks.

The first job was to create the background. I wanted to use some new colours, my default would be straight copper but I wanted a more yellow-golden vibe. Went down to the local art shop Millers and picked up a selection of inks. These were then applied to the boards using different levels and orders to create variations in the final tone.

Image – Photograph of boards during the inking process.
Image – Photograph of boards with final ink surface.

I applied a tone to each surface, working in sets of 3 or 4 at a time, each batch having a certain mixed flavor. Towards the later numbers, I experimented away from the golden yellow into more moss green. Some were also more dark copper. I spent the most time trying to capture a golden situation.

The next phase was to create trees. I select a roll of tape and unfurl heaps of strips onto a large cutting mat. I then look for areas or tones within the strips of tape and cut out a splice of it, usually no wider than 1cm.

Image – Full-width strips to be cut down.
Image – Work begins cutting thinner sections.
Image – Three rolls of the premade tape.
Image – Sections of tape being selected for use.

Once I have a few cuts I like I start laying them on the golden inked surface. Everything is built from the first tree, with each additional tree having to complement the previous as it builds. This process takes several hours of moving the strips around, with a scene being arrived at and then each tree being A/B removed or included to refine the scene. Once it’s down to a final selection I may remove everything and then reconstruct using the final choices. The final stage is gluing the trees in position, there will be a final fine tune of the angle and position as I glue each tree down.

Image – Tape layout before the final choice to be glued in position.

As the background is almost uniform I started shaping the tree bases with curves and angles to imply variation or direction in the terrain. Distance is given just from the thickness of the tree, and where the base of the tree is positioned.

Through the course of the 20 surfaces, I experimented with different styles. The first was very straight-cut vertical trees. As the set progressed I started curving the trees and added branches and ground foliage. There was usually a focal point tree in the distance. The idea is you (the viewer) are exploring the forest or remembering a time lost in the woods. Off the path, perhaps following an animal’s path but probably being guided by curiosity. The trees lead you to a destination. The pictured scene is the moment just before you see the destination, or it’s hinted at.

The collection was all finished with a surface coating of clear resin, as I have been using it on nearly all my work for the last few years. The pour is only just over 1mil. deep, what I enjoy is the depth is perceptible but only just. The surface at an angle can look glossy and wet. It adds to the fluidity of the scene, everything is in slow movement. The picture isn’t static.

Night Birch Forest
Among The Birch

The remaining paintings are all on the page Golden Forest Collection, at the time of writing I think there are 10 of the 20 available.

I’m interested in making more surfaces, now I have a technique down the plan is to make larger boards. I’m not sure what I am working on next, the tape may be involved as a development of this series.

But something new.

Exhibition Photo – Dornoch St, 2022
Exhibition Photo – Dornoch St, 2022

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