The inspiration behind 'Burn Back'

Dec 07, 2023

This is the first painting to be completed for an exhibition in May 2024 at the Inspired By... gallery in the North York Moors National Park. I started it in October when the burn-back season had just commenced and my project with the NYMNP was at the forefront of my mind. It was also a time when I was looking to do a little bit of experimenting with colours and playing around with using a variety of metals in my work.

If you are familiar with my work then you will know that I love my dark colours so I went straight to my go to colour, indigo. This is such a lovely inky colour which you don't need much of on your palette because it is heavily pigmented.


Burn back palette by Paula Dunn Artist


Next up was magenta but I wanted to ensure I didn't go too heavy on this colour and end up with a very pink painting. So I introduce quinacridone gold so that when mixed with the magenta it would give some really nice rich, warm colours. I don't know about you but magentas and orangey yellows always remind me of India and Indian weddings.


Burn back palette by Paula Dunn Artist


The last colour to add was Paynes grey light as I thought this would add some nice mutated, cooler greys to the palette. Of course not forgetting some titanium white to create some lovely tints and provide light into the painting.


Burn back colour palette by Paula Dunn Artist


So I started off using the quinacridone gold as a base layer, followed by a layer of magenta. Both are lovely transparent colours that work so well together and create some beautiful glows. I then followed with some indigo but not across the whole board, just the lower half.

Introducing some titanium white and allowing it to mix soon started to create some interesting colours. Have a look at my work in progress video on my YouTube channel for more insights into my process.



I've been incorporating gold leaf into my paintings for a number of years now. I like to use it to create the suggestion of pathways or light on a landscape and I love the glows it creates to paintings. I'd recently seen the work of another artist who uses silver leaf in her paintings and I just loved the cool, shimmering effect that the silver had on the her work. This got me thinking about alternatives to gold leaf and so I ordered some copper from Jacksons Art Supplies as I thought this would really work quite nicely with this painting.

Copper leaf is a lot cheaper than gold leaf and the leaves are a lot thicker and not quite so easy to apply to the painting, even though I was using cold wax which acts as a glue when embedding light materials.

To be honest it was a bit of a faff and I'll have to think about how I use it going forward but once I'd eventually got it to stick I applied some of the quinacridone gold over to push it back and also ensure it was truly embedded in the painting. In the photo below you can see a chunk of copper and how much warmer it looks compared to the more delicate gold leaf marks.


Burn back with copper and gold leaf by Paula Dunn Artist


I applied the gold leaf when the painting was dry which allowed me to create some more delicate marks such as these circles which contrast nicely with that splash of copper.


Burn back gold and copper leaf by Paula Dunn Artist


I use squeegees to apply paint and blend paint on my surfaces but more recently I've started using more and more brushes for blending and mark making. I've really enjoyed creating a range of marks in this painting and I think it has made it look and feel more dynamic. Also means I get to use all those brushes I keep purchasing everytime I'm in an art shop!

I love the dry brush marks contrasting with the hard straight lines created by the squeegee.


Burn back brush work by Paula Dunn Artist


I have really enjoyed creating this painting. The colours were just so lush and there was no pressure at all to get this finished so I could truly experiment and just see where the colours and mark making took me.


Burn back by Paula Dunn Artist


As it's five months before the opening of the exhibition I am going to enjoy having this painting hanging in my house, something I don't always get to do.



Burn back by Paula Dunn Artist


As it is such a special painting that I've created a limited edition print of it which is the same size as the original at 50 x 50 cm and like the original is finished with gold leaf. Boy is that stuff a faffy faff to work with!

Each print is finished with a deep bevel mount and you can get hold of a framed print from Artworks in Otley and Giddy Arts in Saltaire. Alternatively you can grab hold of a mounted version of the print directly from my website.


This Diverse Landscape

Saturday 18 May – Sunday 14 July 2024
Inspired By... Gallery, Danby Lodge, North York Moors National Park

The North York Moors is a place of diverse landscapes of moorland vistas, the endless horizon of the North Sea, rugged coast, sweeping dales and picturesque villages.

This exhibition is an artist’s emotional response and interpretation of these diverse landscapes and changing climates, light, altitudes and terrains.

From leafy lush grassland to the vast open spaces of the moors and unpredictable sea where solitude can be found and an artist’s journey can begin.

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