dyfroedd afagddu

water night 

approx 65cms x 75cms


Even on a bright night with light cloud cover, the study board reflected almost no light - so it was impossible to mix and match the colours of the scene. To counter this I lit the board with an exceptionally weak LED light.
The results show that there was enough night light to filter down to the walls of the pool. The pale rectangle lower right was the same light catching a bat.
The photo of the study above was taken in day light. It shows heavy, clear brushmarks that actually represent soft edge transitions. The study only resembles my experience in extremely low light, when most of the sharp edges disappear. So the problem is : How to use material that only looks 'true' in very low light, for a painting to be hung in day light?


The study is to the far left of the photo, in shade; but the canvas is lit by overhead daylight. This set up helps me to transfer something like the original perception from the study in shadow to a painting that will work in ordinary light. I also refer to a degraded night video of the fall which, because it is poorly resolved, is closer to the actual perception, along with written notes, a diagram and memory.

what I expected to see

The experiment below was a guess at what the fall might look at night, before I saw it. Compare it to the study made on the spot and see how different nature can be from how we imagine it, even for someone who has spent half his life painting landscape:


The most noticable difference was in the large scale geometry of the fall, which in daylight was relatively stable and white, but which at night became a shifting mobile grey. Nothing i saw 'settled down'. At the same time the darkness round the fall was not as simple as I thought it would be: there were many different blacks, each with its own character. These blacks seemed to interact with the greys of the water to make a new element, a kind of water-night. 

It was nothing I could have predicted.

dyfroedd afagddu  'Waters of darkness'. Afagddu is in use to convey 'pitch-blackness'.
In Welsh legend Afagddu is also the name of the hideous son born to the sorceress Ceridwen. She prepared a cauldron full of herbs which after a year's boiling would spit out three drops of knowledge. The drops burned Afagddu's hand and he swallowed them. The story leads to the birth of the miraculous child-poet Taliesin, whose supposed grave is only a mile or so from this waterfall.

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