Themes and Vignettes

Written by Paul, November 05, 2020

Themes and Vignettes

Vignette: A brief evocative description account or episode

A small illustration which fades into its background

Short impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment to give particular insight into a character idea or setting.

The Theme

When I contemplate a particular theme I like to explore as many aspects of that scene as possible. Recently, I have been absorbed by three main themes: The River Dart, fields, and the beach at Strete Gate Devon.

When analysing a particular subject I immerse myself as deeply as possible. I like to set too and produce as many images as possible. I look at different aspects, different compositional arrangements, different atmospheres. I generally work to a limited palette which enables me to concentrate on the abstracted forms.

Vignette Methods

When working on my themes I invariably paint small vignettes approximately 20 cm high by 29 cm wide. The small scale enables me to avoid fiddling with superfluous detail. I usually work right to the side of the paper which gives a soft faded edge.

I like working on a wet surface using a loaded Haké brush. I then lightly blot using a tissue leaving the paper damp but not wringing wet. This technique enables me to have soft atmospheric edges to the forms which can be more defined as the paper dries. I frequently add texture using a combination of splattering and salt sprinkling. This must be done carefully as all the results might not work for you.

Subject Matter

The River Dart

The moon at Dittisham village

This river is quite spectacular, being wooded for much of its length, by many oak trees. The water surface reflects these tree shapes beautifully especially during a slack tide. Yes, the river is tidal which results in many varied appearances. I am particularly attracted to the numerous ripple patterns that, impart movement to the image. The other elements that add special effects to the river’s surface are the sun or moon. During the exploration  of the scene I’d like to imagine as many manifestations of their influence as possible.

Devon Fields

Harvest Mood
Autumn Wind
Autumn Sparkle

The Devonshire countryside consists of low undulating hills mainly farmed for dairy. These beautiful hills are quite small, which means the patchwork of fields are also small in scale, and quite often bordered by biodiverse hedgerows. The patterning of the landscape sets up a fascinating opportunity to explore abstract shapes and textures. Possibly the best time for painting these places is around Autumn. The golds and yellows lift the spirit before the onset of winter when a whole new set of colours predominate.

The Sea at Strete Gate

Wild Water
Wave poised
Surf wave

The sea in Devon is a combination of channel and open Atlantic. The weather affects the water, as do the tides, creating a constantly shifting drama. I am always searching for new ways to express the fluctuating nuances of motion and light. Water is a reflective medium so the sun and moon play a big part in revealing the nature of the sea’s activity, be it violent or passive.