Well hello 2020, so far Australia seems to be on fire, south Africa in the grip of drought and famine, Jakarta is flooded, Harry and Megan have resigned and we are told by those who are really paying attention (unfortunately not the ones who should be) that we have ten years to get our act together or we are doomed to fry drown or starve before the end of the century if not before.
In the light of all that I thought I would share some of the good things that have happened for me last year starting with my lovely Garden.
A while ago I shared my work on a painting called Sea Kale which had languished in my studio for a couple of years. Having just registered for the 2020 Chichester Art trail I decided I had better get on with finishing it. Its always hard stopping and starting a painting with long gaps between work and as I began I realised just why it was the painting got pushed to the back of the pile in the first place. As I started I wondered what fit of madness had made me attempt the thing in the first place but I have a thing about finishing things so gritted my teeth and got on with it. After a while I began to feel chilly as I did not have the heat on though I did warm the studio, a log cabin in the garden, before I began. Oil paints make fumes so its not a good idea having a heater going whilst working with them. Before you get your violins out, its long way from the starving artist in a garret and I do retreat to the warm house when I get cold. Any way the painting progressed though its not finished and there are many hours of frustration left in it!
I live in Elmer, by the sea, and sometimes I forget what a lovely place it is to be especially when harsh salt winds blow in to scorch my garden plants, but this beautiful September morning I took a walk to see the progress on the improvements being made to our sea defences. There are some lovely old Groynes washed by the sea but as I suspect some of them will disappear under more rocks I decided to do a photo sweep before that happens. I won’t say any more but let the images speak for themselves.
I was so distressed at the sight of the burning Amazon forest and all that means for the animals trees and humanity that I got a large, 100×120 canvas on my easel to express what I feel. In the end I settled for covering the canvas with red, orange and yellow alkyd oil paint diluted with thinners. I allowed the paint to drop from the top edge rather like tears then took a cloth to wipe out the shapes of trees using photos of the forests as shape guides to make them appears negative images, like ghosts. Alkyd oils are quick drying and can reworked again after six hours especially when thin. The next step was to turn the painting upside-down and dribble black paint down the canvas wiping the trees clean again after. I’ve added some grey and one or two white bits. This makes no difference to the forest but helped me with the grief I feel.
This painting in oils which is 70×70 cm on box canvas started as a wild sketch but as I worked on it in my studio I was afraid of losing the wildness. I find most paintings end up as a compromise between what one sets out to do and what one is able to do. I’m sure I could go on working on it but feel to do so would end up with what I call knitting where all freedom has been lost, not that I have anything against kitting, just not in a painting. No doubt I will see things that need tweaking as it hangs around my studio though.
Well my oil paints have come in from the cold and I am enjoying using them. The odourless thinners is working well and can be seen in the Bombay Sapphire gin bottle (must remember its not gin!). I enjoyed using my old oil sticks so much that I’ve indulged in a set of larger ones, Its summer and I can open the doors and windows of my studio and throw paint around with glee, so look forward to more gleeful paintings.
Today I returned to this painting started plein aire in my garden about a week ago. Went at it with paint sticks in the first session but used a more careful approach this time. I didn’t want to lose the freedom though so tried to to keep it loose whilst giving some structure to the plants.. I worked all day until the wet paint prevented my from continuing. I used alkyd oil paints which dry overnight so it should be ready to work on again tomorrow.
At last I have managed to get down to work in my studio again. This is stage two of this one. I have used lovely Prussian blue for the background and as I’m using alkyd paints it shouldn’t be too long before I can add the gold stars with my new paint stick. There are other things to add on the figure too.
My garden is a peaceful therapeutic haven where I can sit with a coffee early in the morning to watch the bees wake up and get ready for another day. I miss it in the winter but try to go out as long as I can until its too cold to sit out. Through the dull months the memory those bright buzzing mornings carries me through the times when my studio is really too cold to think of heating economically without destroying the planet.
About 20 years ago I bought many large tubes of oil paint on offer in a sale and as I can’t resist a bargain I greedily snapped them up. Sad to say they have lain cluttering up three drawers in my little studio. It’s not that I don’t like oils, just the damaging fumes and the mess, also I moved to acrylics and water based oil paint. Now I have discovered an odourless thinners, bought a large can (it really does have no fumes), as its summer and I can throw all the doors and windows open the time has come to use the languishing paints. I have started three works the last few days and this Harlequin jumping for joy is the latest.
We live near the beach and Sea Kale grows in the pebbles every year and in the spring emerges with beautiful purple tinged foliage. Here the tight flower buds can be seen too. I began this painting two years ago but scraped most of it off leaving just flat colours and I’m determined not to be beaten this time.
Having decided the moment was passed for a painting in acrylic I started over a year ago I primed over it reducing it to pristine whiteness. I carried it out into the garden along with easel and oil paint sticks and let myself loose on it covering the whole canvas in one session. I really enjoyed the freedom of working direct onto the canvas with the sticks and thinner. Just what I needed to kick start my flagging creativity. I will have to wait until its dry now before I can finish it off.
We spent two weeks in our old beach hut which looks over to Cowes on the isle of Wight. Most of the first week we had weather which I quite like as clouds are much more interesting to an artist than clear skies. My friend gave me a concertina sketchbook and I tried to do a view from our doorway each day.
Last year I got this garden up and running after having front relandscaped to improve drainage. This year its taken off and I’m enjoying sitting outside in the morning with a cup of coffee. Its delightful to see folks enjoying it too as they pass by, worth all the hard work.