This humble little board has come a long way from its hurried plein air beginnings out amongst the fire scarred trees and stony ground of the Bushmead Rifle Range. After the previous session, I leave it to dry. The end is in sight now with one more push.

I paint in the major tree trunks which gives me a tonal fulcrum to lever the contrasting high notes against.

For the sunlit leaves I turn the dial up to 11! I stretch my palette to its absolute physical limits then take it a little further beyond as I borrow some Divisionist and Pointillist techniques from the French Impressionists.

I place particular contrasting colours in certain strengths and juxtapositions, challenging the Retina’s ability to resolve colour and the brains ability to interpret it. At the correct viewing distance in the right light, the colours will shimmer in the eye in certain parts of the foliage – an optical illusion. I’d like to be able to do more but it’s only pigment bound in oil and that’s as far as I can take it in my efforts to emulate the Sun.

I tidy up the shadows on the ground and finally, add some flickering highlights around them, pulling in warm colours from the foliage to unify the composition.

Finishing a painting is almost an anti-climax. That initial thrill, the excitement of the challenge, the thought of so many possibilities fired by the vision of what could be, the brain churning around with all the swirling thoughts of creation as you envision what will be done to bring it alive, what pigments, what brush strokes, what clever devices of shape and colour and contrast and a myriad of other little tricks, the ever present optimism that this finally will be the one where it all comes together, the goal you know you are going to reach – that thrill is gone.

It is replaced with the certainty of what has been and what is. I’ve had all the fun. I know what worked and conversely where I reached too high. There are no surprises left. The last touches to a painting are really just like ticking boxes. Fine tuning the little things that have to be done before sending it to the framers. Not very exciting but essential. Also the point where a great painting is made perfect, a good painting is made better and a poor painting is made worse. The latter, usually by ineptness or overworking. When you are dealing with a great painting, which happens only occasionally – and by this stage you know if it is or not – then there is a feeling of elation. With all the others, it’s just finishing out the process.

Rarely do I finish on a high. I learned long ago that the work on the painting should always be completed before the creative energy for the painting is spent. Once you cross that line, a labour of love just becomes a labour. With this one, the line was looming so I wrapped it up.

There, it is done. At this time in this place for this subject, I have done the best I can. There is nothing to be gained by lingering. My head has well and truly moved on to the next challenge.

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Did I achieve all that I had set out to? Well, technically I guess I have to say I came pretty close. But, was this the painting that scratched a very deep itch and in so doing allowed me to release a long held captive from my prison of muses? Let’s just say I’m still out there looking at trees in raking light.