Charles Harris Awaiting Excalibur Square

Awaiting Excalibur – and the revival of tone in painting

CHARLES DICKEN’S wrote, “Never fear good people that Art will consign Nature to oblivion. 

Yet today I do believe there is good reason to truly fear this outcome, simply through those excesses of modernism occurring in our world of art today, with a narrow-unchecked blindness. 

With travel and work as a practising Classical painter, I have written recently and offer the following about some of the processes of traditional painting, and the practical reality in making them.

These features contain a photo of the two landscape paintings involved, each as usual, painted directly in front of Nature with a number of new understandings; and I trust show the pleasures of the landscape, which I do believe is now being lost to us continuously.

After the first, described here, the second of these paintings I finished recently with a photo for you above. It was an afternoons and evenings picture, to capture the mid-afternoon light, but unfortunately, I overran my usual three months of time for a large major landscape, because of constant rain here in Scotland those past weeks.

While I also enclose the observations I made then too.                                        

Awaiting Excalibur

“After so many attempts at working in poor weather, today was a fantastic day. I happily believe I have now finished this painting. I shall photograph when I am certain.

“Yes, the sun was shining brightly all afternoon. There was no wind and the reflections of the trees lay unmoving on the still surface of the loch. It was with a true pleasure I was able to paint them again and try to balance this work finally in tone and temperature today.”

Standing beside the water and looking at the picture in bright sunshine, I wondered how many others have endeavoured to complete proper tonal paintings in the past hundred years and what happened? For at the beginning of the 20th century, modern artists removed Tone, a word describing three separate tonal values, a light, a grey and a dark, from the artists palette, and replaced it with bright colours in an unchecked fashion and flat linear abstraction. 

Today, lost with the failure of conceptual art, we can also see, if modern artists ever bother with a canvas, this same lifeless decoration shown in one form or another; just lifted from photographs; or drawn from a computer tablet. Whereas with traditional work, you will be compelled to discover you cannot make a convincing description of how light settles or falls without a solidly drawn three-dimensional structure underneath. Whilst to show this light, there must also be an equal balance of dark, as well as the grey.

And practically without light there can be no life. Thus standing viewing the reality of my painting I realised I will have to write about this all over again, but it did not stop me from enjoying hopefully that finished moment then, and again after in the evening.

While today, I hope you may have enjoyed it too.

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