There is a value in keeping a painting you think is finished hanging around the studio where you can see it because it will talk to you sometimes screaming until you pickup a brush and correct the offending area. This painting was such a one. It didn’t look right and had a sort of empty space in the middle. I had tried to keep the area with the golden marjoram in the centre clear but just ended up with a hole so I decided to extend the white umbels using oil pastels instead of paint. I won’t work on it again however loud it tries to make itself heard I have had enough it.
This last couple of weeks I have started painting again. It all dried up during the stress of the covid outbreak with all its accompaniments leaving my studio littered with several unfinished works. I have now reduced that to one which is very large. This painting of part of our garden was the first to be attacked and now after several sessions seems to be finished. Summer Garden, oil on cotton box canvas 80x80cm.
I see in my last post I said was coming out of hibernation but that was a bit premature as we entered more months of lockdown. Now two vaccination shots and a lot of Winter later life is gradually taking on a semblance of normality though still very different from before Covid. Stuff I planted in my garden last year survived the unusual cold (for South England) in February, an April that had morning frosts nearly every day, plenty of sun but cold winds and no rain at all for the whole month. Everything was late and now after lots of rain everything is making up for lost time and is growing like mad. My front garden is like a jungle and and as I went in to do deadheading I joked ‘If I’m not back in half an hour send in a search party.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
I know some people think I’m mad planting one of these architectural thistles but I do love them. It looks great against the wall of the house and yes I also know I will be in for a hacking time down the line but for now its lovely and the bees are flocking to it.
Gosh, I last posted here is May. Apart from art trail 2018 has seen the creation of a new bigger garden in front of our house. Someone asked me why at our age we are making the garden bigger. The first practical reason is drainage, as there was far too much hard landscaping and concrete for a narrow road with hardly any drains. The second is simply, I like gardens, but after digging the exposed patch over several times taking out at least half a ton of rocks and concrete that the digger missed, then doing it all over again to incorporate 7 bags of compost I was beginning to ask myself the same question,
The easiest way from there would have been to lay a lawn which would give the drainage but I wanted a colourful patch buzzing with butterflies and bees so as well as the plants I had taken out last year I sent for more with the bee friendly label.
I ordered some in the depths of winter when the first spring catalogues came out and when the tiny things arrived I was assured they didn’t need pampering and could remain outside even in snowy weather. Humph! ‘The Beast from the East’ had other ideas so against advice, I brought the poor things into our cool utility area.
We visited a garden centre in February for quite another reason but I couldn’t resist having a quick look at the plants outside. If you have never visited a garden centre in the depths of winter let me tell you its like a cross between the Marie Celeste and a pub with no beer. There was nobody there but the two of us wandering round an arctic waste with a few heavily discounted plants dotted here and there. In a recent gardening program someone said he was a great fan of the “Half price half dead” way of buying plants. He would have approved of the four specimens I brought home, to be fair they were dormant. I put them outside too but took pity on them when the bad weather came, the result was an obstacle course to get to the washing machine but then who needs to wash in winter?
Against the odds all the plants have survived even after being planted out the day before ‘The Beast’ came back for a second rampage.
It has not been the best year for establishing a new garden with severe frost and snow, then a cold wet spring followed by a Bank Holiday cloud burst which tested the new drainage system to the limit with several inches of water flowing onto the garden from the road and overflowing gutters, and finally a two month drought and heatwave but I LOVE it,
The new buzzing garden has given both of us enormous pleasure and we often have breakfast and lunch out there with the bees. I like to think our neighbours love it too and judging by the passers by stopping to admire and compliment I think they do.