The Needles from The Landslip, Totland Bay
The painting process of the Island’s famous landmark is explained by Julia Tanner, a very talented Island artist. Julia describes how she begins, right the way through to the finished piece…
Julia’s original photo of the Needles that will be her starting point
We are so fortunate to live on The Isle of Wight, it provides inspiration for many of my paintings and my Husband and I spend as much time outside as possible where I take photographs, sketch and absorb as much from the landscape as I can – as well as the visual I’m also influenced by sounds and smells. When I’m painting in my studio I try and envisage myself back in the landscape that I’m painting.
The west of the Island has the most amazing sunsets and we’ve spent many happy hours on the beach at Totland Bay with friends, watching the sun gradually dip below the horizon.
I have photographed many sunsets and people always say that I should paint one of them and my reply is always ‘nobody would believe that the colours could be that bright if I did’. However, it occurred to me the last time I said it that if I didn’t try I would never know so…here goes!
I wanted an interesting composition with something to focus the eye on the horizon. We discovered quite soon after living here that if you walk along the esplanade from Totland Bay towards Colwell Bay – an easy flat stroll – that when you get to the landslip, The Needles rocks and lighthouse start to appear on the in the distance. You can park at either end and during the holiday season there are places for refreshments at both Totland and Colwell – The Waterfront at Totland Bay is open all year round.
The Needles have always been my favourite place on the Island so I decided that this would make a fabulous painting.
The landslip is so named because, at the end of 2012 a large section of the cliff slid into the sea, taking the esplanade with it. The path was reopened 3 years later, going over the the top of the fallen land and this has left a piece of land on the seaward side where many plants still grow, clinging on in the winds. We have seen many signs of animal and insect habitation such as bees burrowing in the sandy cliff areas, rabbits in the late afternoon sun and kestrels hovering above.
I like to create a painting that has a view but also foreground interest so I’m always kneeling down and running up hills to find viewpoints that contain all these elements.
Once I decide on my final composition I choose the paints that I want to use. For this painting I used acrylics, I always use professional quality paint to ensure that my paintings will last a lifetime and beyond. I selected Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Titanium White, Cadmium Orange, Paynes Grey and Lemon Yellow, and for the flowers: Pyrole Orange, Primary Yellow, Teal, Sap Green Hue, Napthol Red Light and some pastes in bronze and gold.
I don’t usually do any drawing first, I just go straight in with the paint although I do use masking tape to make sure that my horizon is level. I paint on white canvas boards and stretched canvases that have been tripled primed by the manufacturer, this ensures that the paint will adhere well and the white surface keeps my colours bright and true.
I then worked on the sea, reflecting the colours from the sky and trying to avoid mixing the blues and oranges as these are contrasting colours, opposite each other on the colour wheel and therefore, by default, will turn into brown.
I then walked away and left everything to dry so that I could return with a fresh eye and make sure that I was happy with everything. Once the paint is dry it will not shift (old clothes are a must!) which means that I can paint over things and amend things as I need to, it’s one of the reason that I love to use Acrylics. As it dries quickly I can also build up a lot of texture to give another dimension to my art.
Once I’m happy with everything I add the foreground land. I know that I will be covering most of this with flowers and grasses so it’s more a question of adding darks, lights and colours than painting actual hillocks and dips. I pick up lots of different colours on the brush at once and pull across the canvas and this almost makes the paint ‘do its own thing’.
After that I start adding the foreground grasses, I use brushes called ‘Riggers’ and ‘Swordliners’ for this, it sometimes takes a deep breath to start these as I’m aware that I am painting over everything that I’ve just done and any slips mean that I will have to repaint everything!
To create random flowers I flick the paint. It has a habit of going everywhere, mostly over me, so I mask off all the areas of the painting that I want to keep clear of paint using large sheets of paper. I do this with the canvas flat as the paint needs to be runny and has a habit of dripping if I’m not careful (this is how I paint my ‘dripped’ abstract sports paintings, you can see them on my website www.juliatannerart.co.uk). Once I am happy I leave everything to dry before moving on.
The final part of the painting involves adding all my slightly quirky flowers. I use fluid paint and drop colours on top of each other and then pull out patterns using needles and tiny brushes. After the very loose spattering this takes a lot of concentration and I can only work for so long before I have to walk away and get some fresh air! I outline some flowers with pastes from tubes and also use gloss and sparkle mediums. My colours gradually develop, I don’t have a plan for these before I start, it’s a very organic process where I keep working and building one flower at a time.
When I think that a painting is finished we will frame it and hang it in our kitchen where the light is perfect and both my Husband and I will study it at various times of the day and night to make sure we are both happy with it. I really value his opinion at this point, much as I sometimes hate to admit it, he is always right when he points out something he doesn’t think works….
The finished piece of art
I hope you have enjoyed learning about my painting processes. If you want to see more of my work or ask any questions please do visit my website here. You can also see some films on YouTube where I paint and share more Island inspiration!