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’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.
Seem to have lost the will to paint. Help !!!! Lots of this going on
After my friend, Sarah got us a date to show at The Garage Gallery in Aldeburgh,plus I was accepted at a local Gallery, am preparing for an exhibition at The Minories, Colchester and I have submitted to the RA again I then felt blocked. Maybe my motivation is all wrong. Must stop thinking about selling/exhibiting and get back to painting from the heart and soul.
Packing canvases and dealing with the ephemera of Art is quite soothing but not very creative. Think I need to get out despite this awful grey dark weather and just look and draw. Maybe something will start to happen….
I guess this was a highlight of 2018…. being shortlisted for the RA Summer Show with this little watercolour. Not at all typical of my work??? How do they select? But I’ll have another attempt this year.
Looking back on 2018 I see it was full of swimming. There was my own two hour swim in the River Stour, Mill to Mill Challenge finishing with a picnic in front of Constable’s famous Mill at Dedham. It only took granddaughter Sophie and my son Chris, half an hour. I shan’t repeat the experience in a hurry. You can see by my face in this photo that I could hardly believe I’d survived it.
Then of course Sophie’s Channel Swim in a team of 6 completely overshadowed my achievement. They even turned out to be the fastest girls team of 2018 and won a shield. I celebrated her swim with a painting as a Christmas present which she seemed to like.
And now I’m busy painting again with renewed confidence after two fairly successful Exhibitions in Wivenhoe and Art Fair East, Norwich. I’m still painting water, but branched out a little with this view of a path leading down to the sea in Cornwall from one of the sketches I made during my residency in Cornwall – a great week at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall.
I’ve also repeated a slightly larger painting of Warraba, NSW Australia. The first one sold very quickly in Norwich and as it’s a lovely place which I enjoyed painting, thought I’d do it again. An artist friend said you should always paint from the heart not try to paint commercially. She says if you love the subject someone else will too. I think she’s right. So here’s Warraba mark 2.
So there are lots of nice things to come in 2019. I’d like to do a painting/sketching trip to Scotland and Northern England for further inspiration. It’s so good to work in new territory. I’m already so enjoying my larger studio space too. Life is good.