Painting journeys: Leaving the North

Good morning! I've just posted Leaving the North – off to its forever home. How exciting! Thought this event marked a good time to share the evolution of this painting with you.

Landscape painting of the Angel of the North presiding over green and gold fields.

Leaving the North (acrylic on cotton canvas) 

In pre-pandemic days, I hurriedly snapped a few photos of The Angel of the North out the blurry train window on my way home from a conference in Newcastle. My intention – besides proving to Richard that you can see this iconic Anthony Gormley sculpture from the train – was to attempt a Fauve-inspired rendition of the Angel presiding over multicoloured, late summer fields. 

At home, I started the painting with gusto: marking out a composition on the plastic of the wrapped canvas – something I often do to help me decide on the size of canvas or test out composition and proportions. And then the deep-edge canvas, with its hopeful sketch, lurked around the corners of my studio-cum-living room for months. Every now and then I’d test out a different composition by re-cropping the reference photos on my phone but some of my painting have a long incubation, and this was one of them.

Plastic-wrapped art canvas on a drawing board. A landscape sketch is roughly marked out on the plastic covering.

^ Leaving the North – preliminary sketch 1

Three years later, while watching a Find your joy Q&A (Find your joy is one of Louise Fletcher’s art courses that I took this year), I spied the canvas awaiting me and inspiration kicked in again. I grabbed the closest materials I had to hand to sketch my Fauvist rendition. Medium: chunky marker pens in a satisfyingly garish array of colours. Surface: my art journal (which as you can see in the pic is a mix of quotes from the course and my own reflections, brainstorming and doodles).

Detail from artist journal with rough sketch in bright marker pen colours of a landscape with the Angel of the North sculpture silhouetted against the sky

^ Leaving the North – preliminary sketch 2

Determined to finally put brush to canvas, I sat outside in my summer garden and experimented with using a large brush on a small canvas to help me develop bolder strokes than I usually make. 

Leaving the north – photo of artwork-in-progress against a paint-splattered drawing board

^ Leaving the North – work-in-progress

I added some finer details towards the end. I particularly like the clouds and how these contrast with the repetition of the yellow lines.

Leaving the north – photo of artwork-in-progress (more detailed than previous image) against a paint-splattered drawing board

^ Leaving the North – work-in-progress

I continued to explore the scene on paper in some of our Find your joy contrast assignments. I wanted to see if changing the volume of sky VS land made a difference. The assignments were also about contrast and mark-making. I contrasted marks made with different sized brushes or with my dominant and non-dominant hands. Unexpectedly, something about the A3 paper format and the somewhat muted colours reminded me of a landscape I painted in my school days that my mother insisted on hanging below the kitchen clock (I didn’t think it merited the position). 

Painting landscape study of Gateshead hills

Cross country service – incomplete (acrylic on paper)

Painting landscape study of Gateshead hills

^ Leaving the North II (acrylic on paper)

Until I packed it for shipping this morning, the one on canvas has been proudly displayed where I have been able to see and enjoy it. Absolutely delighted that someone else has fallen in love with it too.

I like to return to subjects and explore the potential in them, so I’m sure there’s still another Gateshead landscape to come from me. I suspect I’ll probably try to combine the loose chunky brushwork with the colourful and somewhat geometric composition I’d first imagined. And I’m thinking a splash of purple too … watch this space.

P.S. After posting this, I came across a couple watercolour and ink studies I did for this in 2019. Here's one:

Watercolour study of Angel of the North on the hillside

Back to blog

1 comment

Fascinating peek into your painting process. Thanks, J L.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.