Painting: Stonehenge

Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a tourist hotspot. Commercial and overpriced I hate it. However, spiritually, and generally, it’s a place very close to my heart.
A couple of years ago, I believe it was 2009, I was lucky enough to be there the night of the summer solstice.  Like everything about the monument, this was commercialised (there were burger vans, for goodness sake) and drew a mixed crowd but it was also one of the most amazing nights. Being able to walk by the stones, touch them, and be there with so many other people, there was undoubtedly an energy.  Of course, it’s hard to tell how much of that energy was because of the smog of marijuana smoke sitting over the place!
When I got home, at some time in the early morning the first thing I did was painted a picture of the stones themselves. It’s a sloppy painting, done in an hour or two, carried by the energy I was feeling, and, if you listen to my parents’ views, painted while the marijuana was still having an effect(*)! It’s probably one of the worst technical paintings I have ever done yet it remains my favourite and also was probably the first painting I painted in what has now become my style.
My parents have always tried to talk me into doing more paintings of Stonehenge and I have always shied away from it because I wouldn’t be able to replicate that one painting and nor would I want to try. However, today, I sat down and decided to have a go at painting Stonehenge again.
Usually, when painting I will draw out my sketch onto printer paper because I find it difficult to draw on the slightly more textured paper intended for sketching (and canvas/board is just ick to draw on!) I wanted to do this sketch very quickly to try and capture some kind of energy as opposed to replicating it perfectly. I also used the only source pictures I have, photos taken at sunrise on a camera phone in circa 2009. They aren’t the highest quality in the world but that was not the point, as far as I was concerned.

The original sketch, pre-editing. I actually really like this sketch and might end up keeping
it in my art folder. It’s rare I let myself do something with sloppy lines but it works here!
Once I transferred it to my heavy duty paper I had a fiddle with my original sketch, shading it in, to work on the aesthetic of the silhouette and decided that I would work with two tones of black so I could keep some of the depth aspects and also to cut out one of the stones because it made the whole thing look wrong.  A couple of stones also changed shape for aesthetic purposes.
At this point a coke bottle exploded everywhere and I lost my rubber so things got a bit delayed. This is also the point at which I turned off Dickinson’s Real Deal and put on some music to work to instead. Things were getting serious.
I then started to paint the sky of my painting. Although I had planned to work with reds I experimented a bit with some blue hues that I don’t normally use, fell in love with Phthalocyanine Blue. It’s one of those useless shades (in my opinion) and therefore I’ve never really used it. That said, it gave just the otherworldly tone I was looking for here. I can see myself using it more in the future.
The main problems occurred in this stage. Even with the fan turned off, which was agony for me, my paints were drying way too quickly. I guess it’s the heat. Anyway, to get a smooth layer of a single colour was basically impossible and a gradient… lets just say my nerves are in tatters. I guess it developed a lot more organically than I planned and that’s not always a bad thing.
Adding modelling paste onto the stones… and onto my hands, of course!
Ultimately, I made the decision to paint a smaller gradient and to add some modelling paste which was interesting. I’ve only started messing around with this medium recently but this was the first time I applied it with a paintbrush. My least favourite paintbrush. I didn’t rate its survival rate.
Anyway… a long wait for the slow modelling paste to dry (why can’t paint be like that?) a bit more painting and it was done!
A bad photo taken while paint’s still wet and with a flash on (silly Havanah)
but I’m not disappointed with the outcome overall.

(*) I have never smoked or taken an illicit drug in my life. Heck, my parents had to fight with me to get me to take painkillers when I had pneumonia! The point being, we always joked that there was so much smoking going on everyone must have been passively high.
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