Studio cat Ghost has been helping me with the ‘admin’ side of getting ready for my exhibition at Skyeworks, all the things that need to be done besides the ‘fun’ bit (creating the paintings vs painting edges, varnishing, adding d-rings and wire, photos, price list etc). His favourite role is photography assistant, providing the white for checking contrast.
“There’s ‘painting’, the noun, and there’s ‘painting’, the verb. As in all kinds of work, there is a distinction between between the painter’s process, and the products of her process.”
Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!, page 33
This quote brings to mind the concept of dancing a painting, which the artist Jerry Fresia introduced me to (it comes from Robert Henri) and I’ve never forgotten. You may well have heard me mention it before, a few times, but then it resonates so powerfully in me.
In a nutshell: the creation of a painting, the doing thereof, must be enjoyable in itself, separate from the end product, which is another thing entirely. Easier said than done, certainly, but not having an end product has never stopped you from dancing has it? (The quality of the dancing isn’t part of this either, it’s about the quality of the enjoyment.)
Be willing to change things, to try new approaches and techniques (and mediums and colours), risk ruining it … don’t always repeat what you know you can do and have done before. It may not work out, but what if it does?
“Art is a way of preserving experiences, of which there are many transient and beautiful examples, and that we need help containing.”
Quote source: Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong
This quote caught my attention as it reflects something of what I’m trying to do in my paintings, to capture the sense and memories of a location without it being only one precise moment in time. The challenge of capturing an ever-moving subject (the sea) in two dimensions without it feeling static.
At Patchings Art Festival I had someone ask how I got the white spray on one of my Minch seascapes so dimensional. I invited her to touch it as it is flat, the illusion created by layers of paint, that depth that working with glazes can produce. (I was, needless to say, well pleased with her comment.)
I’m in Nottingham for the 2016 Patchings Art Festival, my stand is all set up and ready for tomorrow and the four days of festival. (And the answer to a question I’m sure will be asked several times: it’s about 500 miles.) Had a little wander around the paintings marquee, and looking forward to doing so again when everyone’s set up and exploring the other sections. Though whether going into the art materials section is wise or not remains to be seen, not least because Rosemary & Co have a stand. Wonderful to see paintings in real life rather than only photos on the internet, especially by artists whose blogs I read already.
On arrival, the bare tables and backing board. I opted for a wooden floor because I’ve stood in soggy grass at craft fairs before and it’s not pretty; though the problem with weather today was the opposite as it was sweltering.
Three hours later and I’m all set up and ready for action, complete with sales assistant (my Mum, who fortunately thinks coming to an art festival is an interesting extra to her holiday). The canvas on my demonstrating easel has a composition of Coral Beach on it, with dried texture paste. On my stand I have a stash of the poster for my “Interlude” exhibition which opens at Skyeworks Gallery on 4th July), catalogues, my new “Painter’s Pocket Muse” book, small wirework sheep and a few wirework brooches, sheep paintings, coasters, tablemats, mugs, earring cards, prints and cards, plus three large Minch seascape paintings.
Now it’s on the upcoming courses list (and thus all official) I’m excited to be able to announce that at the end of next May I’m going to be doing a workshop at Higham Hall in the Lake District titled Capturing Skye: Vibrant & Atmospheric Acrylics & Watercolour. So if you like the idea of painting expressive landscapes and seascapes but Skye’s a bit too far north for you to travel, how about heading to near Cockermouth (location info) in 2017? Find out more here…
I don’t always use masking tape when creating the trunks of a tree painting because sometimes I don’t have any tape to hand and sometimes I haven’t the patience to tear the tape to create uneven edges (the straight edge of the tape is too rigid for my liking these days; I did use it earlier). But doing so has two great advantages: it allows great freedom with splattering colours onto the main trunk colour and creates a magical “reveal” moment, when I pull off the tape to see the tree trunks in context. That I can’t see how the trunks look against the background while painting is both a disadvantage and an advantage; I’m committed to whatever I do with the trunks, though know it can always be painted over, and can’t fuss with the rest of the painting.
These photos are from a current painting-in-progress. First photo: starting to remove the tape is always fun mixed with a little apprehension about whether I messed things up or not, whether the tape had been stuck down well or if paint had seeped underneath (especially if I’d turned the painting on its side and encouraged the paint to run).
Second photo: sticking down the tape, leaving what will become tree trunks. When you start taping, it’s crucial to remember that you’re preserving the background and the tape doesn’t represent the trees (seems obvious, I know, but the shape of the tape seduces you into making nice tree shapes with the tape and not the negative spaces).
Third photo: Half removed.
“Don’t look at nature and consider an inch at a time. See what one big spot is in relation to another. Search always for more beautiful notes of colour, don’t search to put more things in. … Let the eye go from one spot to another without the aid of outlines … don’t insist that the eye shall stop at the edges … don’t paint up to a line, work from a centre …”
Hawthorne on Painting p42/3
I’ve been pondering soft and hard edges, how the former suggest and the latter dictate, the balance between the two and the influence on the dance between abstraction and realism. How colour and tone might do the job of a hard edge more subtly, creating the painting where what seem to be definite edges and lines dissolve into specks of colour the closer you get. The point at which it works and the point at which it’s a chaos of colour. I started a new large tree painting yesterday and found myself breaking up some definite, straight lines even at the very lowest layers that I know will be painted over.
“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!