“We become painters at some deep level not out of a love of images ‐ after all, there are many ways to create those. Instead, at some point, we fall in love with the very stuff of our chosen medium. And if that happens to be oils, then our love is with the silky, dense, slippery, and intractable mud we spend our lives trying to master. We fall in love with those materials that speak to our sensibilities and souls; to being lost within the muddle of the mess of it all.”
Sarah Sands, A Palette of Textures , Just Paint, 1 February 2015
And if that happens to be pencil, then our love is with the … shape and smell of pencil sharpenings
And if that happens to be pastels, then our love is with the … sticks of pure colour
And if that happens to be watercolour, then our love is with the … paper
And if for you … share by posting a comment below. One thing I love is the squeezing of paint tubes!
This is what will be facing me when I head into my studio later, after a leisurely Sunday morning start: a small canvas with texture paste mixed with magenta, that will become a member of my flock of sheep paintings. Don’t know what the background will be yet, whether it’ll have a single-colour background or “weather”; it’s something I’ll decide when I get painting. In the one from earlier this week (photo at the bottom) the weather was sun-showers (read: wet but bright). Ideally I leave my studio at the end of a session with something ready for ‘next time’ as it makes it harder to procrastinate; not that it always works, of course.
I discovered if you search Vincent van Gogh’s paintings using the word “undergrowth” rather than, say, trees or forest, the results are paintings that remind me more of Klimt‘s forests than a Van Gogh, for example, these four at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. He was in Paris at the time he did the one below, so no surprise really they also remind me of Monet.
”It had struck me how firmly the saplings were rooted in the ground – I started on them with the brush, but because the ground was already impasted, brush-strokes simply vanished into it. Then I squeezed the roots and trunks in from the tube and modelled them a little with the brush.”
Letter to Theo van Gogh, 3 September 1882
Every now and then I think my long-time love of Van Gogh’s paintings might have worn thin, only to find paintings new to me, fresh inspiration and a reminder of what I so enjoy — the colour, the mark making, the determination. You’d think I might have realised by now I’ll never stop learning from his paintings and drawings because as my painting develops what I see and learn changes. This week it was “undergrowth”. Look at that glow of a shaft of sunlight in the painting below for starters!
Patchings Art Festival is a four-day event near Nottingham (see map) and I’m very excited to be participating! I’d enquired about having a stand next year only to be told there was one stand available for this year’s festival and was I interested. Of course I said yes, and am now trying to get my ducks in a row. I’ll be demonstrating on my stand, so there’s my easel to pack for starters.
“There is a constant exchange of emotion between us, between the three of us; the artist I need never meet, the painting in its own right, and me, the one who loves it and can no longer live independent of it. The triangle of exchange alters, is fluid, is subtle, is profound and is one of those unverifiable facts that anyone who cares for painting soon discovers… The totality of the picture comments on the totality of what I am.”
Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery, quoted on Brainpickings
My latest large (100x100cm) tree painting: Echoes of an Ancient Forest is due to makes its way to Inchmore Gallery on Tuesday morning. It’s currently hanging in the in-house art critic’s office, in a spot that gets strong side light, and it’s been interesting watching how the painting changes as the light does (one of the effects working in layers and glazes can create). In dimmer light, the darks become more prominent, and in bright light the whites/silvers on the trees shine. Over coffee we’ve been having discussions about this, and deciding which our favourite part of the painting is. Mine is shown in the detail photo, a bit of the texture on the second-from-the-left tree that goes off the bottom of the composition. What’s yours (share in comments below)?
This time of year, between the position of the sun in the sky and the long daylight hours, there’s lots of light bouncing off the sea in the afternoon as the sun heads to the horizon. Little wonder then I’ve found myself reaching for iridescent pearl not only for my current silver birch painting but also my Minch seascape paintings-in-progress. (Buy: USA or Buy: UK) It conveys the silvery glare beautifully and works both in the top layer and lower layers. A little can be quite determined to show through layers! Depending on the light falling on the painting, and your viewing position, you may see lots of it or you may see nothing at all.
There are many reasons I love living on Skye. The long daylight hours for much of the year is definitely one. Sunrise today was at 05:12 and sunset will be at 21:29 (and it’s more than a month to solstice so the days get even longer). All those hours for painting in the natural light in my studio, plus a leisurely picnic lunch in the sunshine without the pressure of feeling I’m “wasting the day away”. For warmer-clime friends shivering at the 20°C, it’s tshirt weather here; Friday will be jumper weather again and back to what you probably regard as “normal” Skye weather.
One of the paintings I’ll be working on today is this new 100x100cm tree painting. This photo is from yesterday, when I was adding iridescent pearl (Buy: USA or Buy: UK) onto what will be silver-birch trees.
It’s that time of year again when the sun’s moved north and is setting past the tip of the Waternish peninsula and late (about 9pm) making for hours of enticing patterns and colours on the expanse of the Minch (sea between Skye and Harris). My fingers have been itching to paint it again (see Moods of the Minch catalogue). Here are a few work-in-progress photos, canvas size 120x60cm.