Herne’s Oak: A work in progress

Posted on June 10, 2009

Herne’s Oak, this morning
48″x48″, acrylic on canvas
©2008 Caroline Roberts

Herne’s Oak is a painting I ‘finished’ a year ago. Except that I wasn’t finished, I was just stuck. The painting didn’t have the drama and mystery I wanted but I was afraid to mess up what I did like about it.

After a year of looking at it on my wall I’m no longer afraid to change things around – that intense initial attachment to the painting has faded. Plus I have more experience and my abstract studies have given me a lot of insights. I’m building up the contrast to heighten the drama and I’m trying to clarify the fantastic branch shapes that I love. In the process a whole tree disappeared, branches moved around and Herne’s owl eyes and antlers got pushed back to glare eerily at you through the ghostly trees.

Herne’s Oak, work-in-progress
48″x48″, acrylic on canvas
©2008 Caroline Roberts

Herne the Hunter was a huntsman at Windsor Forest for King Richard II. Legend has it that he was caught poaching in the forest and was hung from an oak tree, now known as Herne’s Oak.

I first came across Herne whilst reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series as a child. In the second book Herne comes in as a Wild Huntsman who flies across the winter sky with the face of an owl and the antlers of a deer. Since then I’ve found other references to a similar huntsman in Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy that has him as Arawn, the King of the Otherworld. So this painting should be dramatic and downright eery to do the legend justice.

I plan on bringing out the front ghost horse a little more. I also want to push the central tree back by lightening it and blending it into the background somewhat. I think it is too central to be so dramatic. I checked the circularity of the moon (good old Photoshop!) and, as I guessed, my moon is off a tad at the left. The red sky will be gradated – enough that it makes the moon glow but not so much that I lose the branches (I hope).

Perhaps I need to use highlights to make the branches glow in the moonlight, then I can have a darker sky at the edge?. By adding layers of paint I have lost some of the ghostly, other-worldliness that I wanted, tomorrow I shall try and regain that.

5 Responses

  1. Kim Bennett
    June 11, 2009

    I like the ghostly look that you are achieving. The more you look at it the more there is to be discovered in the painting.

  2. Anna T.
    June 15, 2009

    Lovely painting! I too read Susan Cooper as a child!

  3. Erin
    June 16, 2009

    I'm not sure which on is the current painting (the second image?), but either way it's beautiful and I'd love to see what it looks like in the end!

  4. Caroline Roberts
    June 23, 2009

    Thanks Kim, Anna and Erin! I'm still working on this one and I'll be sure to post the final result. Studio time is scarce around here for now but I keep working on it in my mind, trying to figure out how to add drama and increase the ghostliness.

  5. Yellow
    July 24, 2009

    Art seems to be as much about courage as about technique. You're not alone.


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