A week on and I’m still feeling my way toward my Sir Gawain and the Green Knight project, but the swirling ideas are starting to condense. There are many key moments which I could plunder from the tale: the Christmas feast in Camelot, the arrival of the Green Knight, his challenge, his beheading (all good clean family fun). Or perhaps Gawain’s trials in Bertilak’s castle; preserving his loyalty and honour when faced by lusty temptation in the persistent and comely form of that lord’s wife (ooer missus…)
But no. My interest lies in the landscape, without the walls of court and castle. For inspiration I’ve decided to focus on one of the shorter passages in the poem, Sir Gawain’s winter journey, two months at the year’s end to fulfil his part of the bargain with the Green Knight. And it’s a miserable journey. He’s wet, cold, hungry and beset by all manner of beasts: serpents, wolves, wodwoses, bulls, bears and wild boar. It’s an epic; dark and cold. My imagination runs riot.
Physically I’m thinking along the lines of five, maybe six, panels. The two end pieces, Gawain to the left and the Green Knight to the right, would represent the beginning and end of Sir Gawain’s journey.
The central panels will be panoramic and largely topographical while hinting at elements from Sir Gawain’s personal trial; the deer, the boar and the fox will all be in there somewhere. I’ll work the panels in acrylics and possibly oil for the later layers. In my mind the treatment will be loose, hinting at rather than completely describing a scene.
While the journey in the poem is at the years end, there is a temptation to extend the central panels to four, one for each season of the year Sir Gawain has to wait to fulfil his grim promise. Contrast of the bleakness of winter’s dark with the bright flush of spring appeals and sits very nicely with the poem’s life/death/rebirth undertones.
I’ve got a lot of thinking to do…