Two weeks ago I woke up, incredibly early, in an attic bedroom in Corris, North Wales. After a long 10 hours of travelling the day before I was physically and mentally exhausted, but excited to get out and explore what the area had to give me and my work. Ready to throw myself into making and my field work practice, I left Stiwdio Maelor at around half past seven in the morning, then caught the bus (packed with school children!) to Tal-y-llyn.
The bus would eventually take me to the beginning of a trail around the right hand side of the lake that I had planned to do that morning, however, I got off the bus a couple of stops early.
As we passed the left hand side of the lake on the road, I was completely struck by the reflections that were appearing - the lake was a bright and clear mirror. As soon as I saw the glowing tops of the mountains reflecting into the water, I got off at the next stop and did the entire loop around the lake. I wanted to take in this landscape on foot, stopping when I wanted to for a photograph, for a drawing, or just to take in the view.
To say I was apprehensive about the first of my field work trips would be an understatement. Not knowing the landscape at all, I was worried I wouldn't find a diverse range of colours to use in my paintings, or that I wouldn't be as inspired as I had hoped I would be. Really, it was just a matter of keeping an open mind.
The area is packed with old slate mining villages - so the Welsh slate is everywhere. Not wanting to just use slate as pigment, I had to change my way of thinking and approach my pigment making in alternative ways. Tal-y-llyn is a spot for many campers and so there were remains of burnt out camp fires peppered around the lake. I took some camp fire charcoal from these spots to put a deep, moody black into the piece, alongside the graphite rock rubbings I had taken and the slate and rock pigments I had collected and made.
Due to the time of day and the weather conditions, I managed to capture the glowing red top of the mountains as the sun unfolded onto them, reflected in the lake.
In my Wales sketchbook I've scribbled "Reflections, colour, pool of water acting as a mirror... early morning light... bring reflections into the painting". I knew as soon as I got there that I wanted to bring the element of reflections into the first painitng.
When back at the studio I sorted through all the materials I had collected on my field trip and started work on the first painting. I crushed down some of the camp fire charcoal that had been left by the side of the lake and made it into a paint to use on the lake piece.
Working with rocks, I have never been able to produce such a dark black, only greys, so it gave the piece a certain moodiness from the get go. This moodiness in the colour actually captures the sense of what it felt like for me to be at the lake at that time of morning; the surface of the lake a bright mirror for what lies above it, the water a deep and dark pool. Although beautiful, it was eerie there. Eerily beautiful.
I then made a slate pigment and applied that in washes to the canvas. Alongside working on the painting I also made some simple line drawings using my pigments, inspired by the landscape and the arching mountains and reflections at the lake.
On Thursday morning I spent a couple of hours working in the studio before walking out to the Aberllefenni slate quarry to do my second day of field work.
As with Tal-y-llyn and the reflections, one thing stuck out for me at the slate quarry, a sense of something that I knew I wanted to imbue into the painting. The blue-grey slate, dark and deep and moody, juxtaposed against pops of colour from the orange autumnal trees lining the hills behind. The contrast was breathtaking.
There was this sense of being almost engulfed in this slate-scape, surrounded by these subtle tones, with just hints of colour protruding from the distance.
That sense of being immersed by the slate landscape was what stuck with me from being at the Aberllefenni quarry - and that was what I wanted to portray in the painting.
When back at the studio I worked on finishing up parts of the Tal-y-llyn painting and made a start on the processing of the pigments from collected earth and slate for the Aberllefenni painting.
The rest of Thursday afternoon was spent working between these two first paintings, reflecting on my introductory field trips and planning the rest of the week ahead, full of anticipation and excitement for the next place / painting I was to embark upon.