At The Friluftsenter

At the Friluftsenter – Oil on canvas 70 x 50 cm

Recently I spent the evening a short walk away with my outdoor oil painting gear outside the Stavanger Friluftsenter. It’s a place where people enjoy nature, they go on walks, look at wildlife, try activities like kayaking and learn about the geology of this beautiful part of the world.

Norwegians totally understand nature and ferociously protect the rights to enjoy it and preserve it, I like that so much. It’s difficult not to be impressed with the effect this has on everyone. Small children here know how to hunt and make shelters, I walked past a group of toddlers on a lakeside dog walk with Tanzie the Labradoodle. They were supervised and in their teeny little high vis waistcoats. I thought ‘how cute’ to myself as we walked past, then I saw something flash, so I stopped. What I’d seen was the flash of a blade in the bright sunlight. These children, probably no older than five had hunting knives and were carving traps for fish! Wow, they are into it!

Anyway, I’m digressing, so, I took my gear and some lovely tea smuggled from England and set up a canvas, and painted outside for a few hours. The composition, I think anyway, was solid and went to plan. I’d got a fair representation of the colour too. As often happens, the elements caused a change of plan. Painting in Norway, I am used to brushes freezing and the wind blowing things around, I have sheltered myself and my work under my paint rag (a great look) to avoid hailstones and lashing rain. But, if it gets dark on you, you’re done! So, I walked home with a wet canvas, people stopping me and chatting about my work, which I totally love by the way, as I trekked back through the hazy light of dusk.

So, a few weeks went by and I did other things, like return to England for a painting competition, then a few weeks holiday with family, anniversaries, moving to a new studio… you know how it is! I’d often catch myself looking at this painting, I knew it wasn’t there yet. I like to finish a plain air painting in one hit and outside but this doesn’t always happen.

So a couple of days ago I decided the time was right to do some editing and reworking. I made the trees in the background less obvious, made the sky clear and suggested light in the foreground foliage. I wanted to play with reds, I adore reds and don’t paint with red enough, not too many things are pure red and the excuse to use it is rare but if it’s neutralised it’s fine. Well, I enjoyed it and I know when something has worked when I take a photo of it on my phone and then keep looking at it for hours and don’t feel regret. I just like it and that’s good enough! Like my wife says ‘good enough is good enough’ and overworking a painting tends to muddy it and stop it telling a story. Please enjoy this painting.

John O’Neill

See this painting in The Sale Room

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