There’s a lot of this going on at the moment.
Seem to have lost the will to paint.After the excitement of being accepted at a local gallery, entering the RA Summer Exhibition….in my dreams??***, then hearing that my friend, Sarah has got us a date to exhibit in Aldeburgh at The Garage Gallery, I started getting stuff together to exhibit at The Minories in Colchester and thinking about what to do for the Aldeburgh Exhibition. Now everythings gone a bit flat.
I realised I was running out of paintings so panicked and started painting furiously. But it’s not happening….
Maybe my motivation is wrong. Must stop thinking about selling paintings and get back to just painting from my soul. Think I need to get out and draw from life, whatever inspires me.
Packing canvases, tidying materials and generally concentrating on the ephemera of art is soothing and may lead to something more important.
I started a comment to Elena’s blog and then realised I’d morphed into a new blog post on my own blog. So transferred here. BUT PLEASE READ ELENA”S THREADS BLOG FIRST before you read this comment. It’s a good blog !!!
I’ve been loosely following your blog for ages and have made the occasional comment. I try to follow your example and keep blogging regularly but I don’t always stick to it.
But I digress. The bit which struck a chord in your latest epistle was about ‘ very few artists actually make a living purely through their art.’ Like you, I taught for many years and bless my Teachers pension which keeps me going even though I feel a twinge of guilt for the younger generation of teachers who will not benefit in quite the same way. I even got a lovely lump sum back in 1996 when I took voluntary redundancy when, the then government, got their sums wrong about teacher numbers…. it happens regularly … too many …. too few. That enabled me to go backpacking round Australia for 3 months and the experience is still resonating in my art today.
Having reached the grand old age of 75 I sometimes think I should give up and watch daytime TV, go for coffees in garden centres and generally live my age instead of, like you, imagining the speech I’ll give when I win the Turner Prize!!! or get featured on some programme about late-flowering art. But then I think …actually that doesn’t appeal and I squirt out some more luscious acrylic paint and am off again painting. You see I can’t really stop myself.
END OF COMMENT TO ELENA.
And so here is the start of a new blog proper. Having just spent two glorious weeks in the Dordogne /Lot region I returned determined to paint from my sketches, photos and memories. If you read my last blog you’ll know that I am often completely overwhelmed and defeated by trying to capture such intensely beautiful scenes such as Scotland and my fears for the same thing happening in France were justified.
So I didn’t even try looking back at actual reference material but just got stuck in to what was in my headspace….hurtling through deep, deep forest shade on impossibly narrow roads – no traffic!!! with flashes of strong sunlight, a distant view of a turreted village with crumbling barns and gorgeous pan-tiled roofs, fields of sweet smelling cut hay, wild flowers of intense blue. Yes it was all too, too beautiful but I tried to do it justice. Initially it started to get really figurative. But I was prepared to resist that and kept sloshing more acrylic at the surface and then went in with charcoal, pastels and plain water and it began to emerge. Not quite capturing my memories of beautiful French countryside yet but will have another go soon. You see, I can’t stop painting and definitely can’t act my age and give up on art !!!
Footnote to Elena’s blog…. Sold a few paintings at Aldeburgh recently and have taken on two students – a little bit of teaching. Yes I need to feed my posh paper and paint habit, Elena. I’ll never make my fortune through art but neither will I ever stop painting.
June already!!! I missed blogging in May and only one post in April. But despite that its been an intensely rewarding and significant period for my art practice. After being stuck for a while and with the inevitable and regular dip in confidence I then struck gold again. I should be used to these ups and downs by now but they still disturb me.
The visit to Skye via the incredible scenery of the Lake District and then Glen Coe stunned me. I drew in sketchbooks like crazy but when I attempted to translate my memories and feelings back home in acrylic on large canvases, I drifted back to my comfort zone of more figurative painting. Scotland is just too magnificent and beautiful !!
This wasn’t how I wanted to paint Scotland. So I went quickly back to Australia painting again, from memory.
I called this ‘Night-time Dreaming” – a reference to the aborigines landscape and lifestyle. Much better I think????I began panicking to get ready for the exhibition in Aldeburgh. We called it Sea of Stars and this latest painting seemed to fit with that. I ordered some Giclee prints based mainly on the Australian series. Not at all sure I like these now. It feels like cheating to me but decided to give them a try. I think I prefer the watercolour sketches – pages from my sketchbook. They seem more immediate and fresher than the prints. This was all in an attempt to produce smaller more saleable stuff for exhibitions.
It’s a dilemma. I want to be true to the art I want to produce but in order to be able to do that the harsh reality is that I need to sell my work and get my name ‘out there’. So I have to do some semi-commercial stuff too. With that in mind I’ve actually enjoyed producing quick watercolours of the beautiful irises which have burst into colour in the garden
I’ve been invited to show work in two galleries and am taking part in open studios and even selling work !!! All good exciting stuff. And on Wednesday we’re off to the Lot Valley inFrance for two weeks, with a brief stop to see Monet’s Garden . So life is very good again. Hope I don’t do another nose dive when I discover France is as beautiful as Scotland.
I’ve just come back from a brilliant trip to Scotland. I went specifically to paint, to research the Scottish coastal scenery. I didn’t actually manage much painting but did loads of sketching and took masses of photographs. So on my return I rushed to get my paints out. But I felt blocked. It was horrible. I just didn’t know where to start. It was all too much; too beautiful; almost sublime – see above! How could I do justice to all that stuff?
I put my paints away thinking I just had to stop and think instead. I’d captured the physical appearance of the places as well as it’s possible to do with a camera but a camera cannot capture the essence, the presence of the scene; of actually being there. How can a camera translate the feelings of passing through Glen Coe or of the sunrise over the sea at Skye? My skill with a camera certainly can’t. But with paint it’s got to be possible surely?
In desperation I started to look through old canvases. I began to panic as I am sharing an exhibition with a friend in May which is not too far away. I had to get some painting done. I found a canvas started back in 2017 after a visit to Australia. I’d abandoned it when I found I couldn’t capture the equally sublime sweep of hills backing onto my step-daughters endless property where she breeds horses. Now with fresh eyes I saw how I could improve this painting. It had needed the passage of time and the memory to grow in the back of my mind to get it right. Well almost right…it looks better than this in real life. It’s about 130 x 70 cm and I think it’s working.
It reminded me of something I’d read ages ago about Peter Doig….how he paints a place where he’s lived But only years after he’s moved to another place where he then doesn’t paint the new place till years after he’s moved to somewhere else. It seemed a strange idea when I first read this but it suddenly made sense. Maybe I’ve found the key. Excitedly I grabbed a book off the shelf about Doig. On reading more of this I got even more excited… Adrian Searle, writes about Doig’s painting, ‘Young Bean Planter’, that ‘the estranged figure becomes a trope for painting itself….it is a thing a painter learns and learns to use. It is part of painting’s silence, a silence of images.’ Brilliant ideas!
I think I can now see a fresh approach in two ways. Firstly I need to wait Patiently….that will be a problem….I don’t do patience !!! I’ll try. But secondly I can use the trope idea to paint myself back into a space I’ve inhabited years ago. Not just the photographic representation of the place but events or feelings about the place.I realised I’ve already done this before. A painting which I felt was quite successful in a quirky sort of way was The Birthday Present. See below.
The realisation that I was using the colours and vague images of Kate receiving a present from her great grandmother as a trope for how I felt about my mother was a revelation. I want to consciously use this idea of tropes to paint not just places but events in my life. This is, I hope, a new way of expressing more than a purely representational image. I can’t wait to try this out to see if it’s possible now with my recent and past visits to Glen Coe. It’s completely immaterial if the viewer understands my references as they will impose their own memories, experiences on the view I paint. I may have to wait for all that amazing Scottish scenery to percolate to the back of my brain before I attempt it though.
Watch this space
Really weird the way one thing leads to another. Frustrated and annoyed at how bad my paintings of daffodils had turned out, I used up the acrylic paint in my palette on this little canvas board. The resulting colour mixes were stunning. Out of the mess I had created a fire opal. So I scrawled the title, Coober Pedy, on the back and then began a series of Australian memories from my 3 month back-packing in the late 90’s. It was a time of trauma – post divorce, I just took off alone and the isolation and joy of travelling began to heal my wounds. Now in a much happier place some 30 years, on the recollection of that trip is as sharp and powerful as ever.
This large view of Uluru, or Ayres Rock, as it was known then, followed the Opal image and I was back in the heat and red dust, with the clarity of that clear Cobalt sky. Almost without realising it I began a mental journey back to the sacred water-hole at the base of the Rock.
Then onward to the magnificent grandeur of Kings Canyon. Time-travelling in paint, I felt the sheer joy of sunshine on my skin and the elation of just being in the moment with no responsibilities except to stay alive. What a magical vehicle art can be.
And finally….at least for the moment…. a long view of the outback landscape with that blistering blue sky dominating. I love Australia and know I shall return again and again. Must have made at least 6 trips back already but it gets under your skin and calls you back.
Can’t believe I haven’t blogged since January. Too much has happened since then to write about here. So am skipping the usual diary-type stuff. Suffice it to say…lots of exhibitions, submissions, painting, non-painting, blocked and unblocking has happened.
And now where am I? Taking stock I think. Made some good sales, had some disappointing exhibitions. Now trying to analyse what works; what doesn’t; does it matter; what does matter?
*painting from the heart matters
*moving forward matters
*being true to yourself matters
*dealing with difficulties
*NOT giving up
*Selling doesn’t matter.
But lets face it…its nice when it happens. And if it never happens you end up with a lot of canvases which need to be put somewhere or in my case painted over. I’m becoming much more critical. Gradually working out what it is, I want to say/achieve in my work. Just love David Hockney’s answer to that eternal question by the public,”how long did that take you?” Answer “78 years”.
So how would he answer the question “what do I want to achieve?” Every artist will have a different answer.This is mine ….
*Emotional reaction from the viewer,
*A sense of BEING within the canvas.
So I began a totally fresh painting of daffodils. Trying to feel my way back to the criteria I had set for myself.
But these quick images which were supposed to suggest Spring, new life, exuberant colour did NOTHING for me.
A second attempt adding mixed media was equally awful. I had thought that sticking to a purple background – the opposite colour to yellow, would magically bring it to life. How wrong can you be!!! Far too predictable!!!
Frustrated, I wondered where to go next. Back to basics
Now I’m getting somewhere. Letting the paint take over. Feeling, using intuition within the mark making and colour.
Confidence partially restored. Now time to move forward again.