A typical November day, drizzling rain, moist air and a colossal grey sky with slowly moving clouds. I tried hard to capture those thin clouds that smoked from the wooded hill named “Burgberg” in the background. I have been there on top to meet the “Schreckstein” which translates to “the stone that scares you”. And indeed the name is justified. It is a big black massive landmark that suddenly appears in front of you while you walk on a narrow path through dense woods like a ghost from the nowhere. It is said that some wimpy lap dogs (not laptops) passed away by heart attack when meeting the “Schreckstein”, at least some pale bones lying around there suggest something like that, if nothing worse yet.
As usual the thing is done down from the sky and from back to foreground. The grass around me and the thicket, that constantly whispered in my back, had been spaded by hordes of wild boar. Only recently a whopping number of seventy of them had been laid down on a single hunting afternoon. Unfortunately the sketch does not show these circumstances at all, instead it pretends a peaceful loveliness that seems to scorn the creator being a scared cat.
My latest entry in the old style landscape drawing book consists of only two types of elements: circular and linear marks, vertical or horizontal.I started in the upper right corner and made my way to the left and downwards from there.
The local bookstore has proven indispensable one more time. I found one copy of “Oak,one tree,three years,50 paintings” by the British painter Stephen Taylor lying on top of a pile of art books as if it was left there with purpose to be found by the right buyer. A quick look made clear that I had to have the book in any case. At home I slowly realised that I had made a really lucky discovery.
Painting is dead since Duchamp . If painting is dead, plein air and/or landscape painting is deader than dead. But it is something painters cannot let go it seems. I can spare you explanations about the artist Stephen Taylor and his motivations (Stephen Taylor writings) because the artist has documented his work on his website. After seven years of studies in the same open Essex landscape Stephen Tayler has turned his attention to painting water. His almost scientific interest in the perception of colour and light becomes more clear after watching the short videos on painting water.
It is the first time that I see a painter making use of digital photography and plein air field studies with convincing results. The big paintings are photorealistic in an irritating way as they contain a breeze of Rousseau at the same time which makes the image toggle between photography and painting. The book has a some interesting detail reproductions which illustrate indeed the intention of the painter to display the perception of nature with his observation-based painting. The “pictures of a tree” seem the inevitable by-product of that process.
For someone who has done observation-based sketching in the woods for a couple of years Stephen Taylor and his work are a great confirmation. After the forest diary I feel that I need to take the next step with drawing,sketching or painting trees without making “pictures”. That was the mantra I had in mind over the last 12 months when I set out to the next sketch : make notes of what you see, sketch without making a picture. Reading this book might be the required catalyst.