I’ve just moved in to a new studio which is much bigger and also combines a space for a ‘work’ desk.
As I moved in I knew that the space would have an impact on my work but I didn’t know how. Part of me was also slightly nervous- What if I can’t paint here? Was it just some magic of my first studio? But I can.
A shift has taken place, the work is flowing more easily and I have no idea how or why. It’s just happening- expansion, flow…This has prompted me to think about what my work is about which I thought I would record and share here. It will also serve as reference point for me as I work.
My work is about: creating a feeling on canvas, a chance to get lost, expansion, freedom, beauty, light, complexity, simplicity. I love to sit in front of the bigger pieces and take in the energy that comes from them. I would love to have an exhibition of 5-6 big works, in a room with cushions in the centre so people could sit and experience this feeling too. Soft music would playing and the room would be gently scented. The light may also be dimmed at some points.
I’m currently painting an image again and discovering new ways to paint it. Some images are so beautiful it’s easy to do this. (A few months ago I painted a scene from Carmarthen 4 times it was so captivating!)
This new space is curious. I wonder what else will happen here.
Back in the studio after a few days away. I am excited to find that the painting I was working on is now complete and looks great. You only really know this on the return to the studio not at the end of a painting session.
I now have 3 paintings, complete, inspired by recent visit to the West Wales village of Llansteffan. It is a beautiful place and obviously moved something in me, even though I had visited previously.
But now my studio is even more full. I need to start letting go of my paintings. I read a passage yesterday about having a dialogue with images, of seeing them as entities in their own right rather than an an expression of the artist. The writer, Shaun McNiff, posed the question- if the painting was to speak to you what would it say?
If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know that I often have a conversation with my pictures- particularly portraits. But this question is presenting the concept at a slightly different angle. Maybe now is good time to go through my paintings and ask them- Where do you want to go? Are you to stay with me or do you wish to fly and land in someone else’s environment? Or perhaps I will just to open them up from their wrapping and listen to them- with no question being asked. Looking at things this way- the decision isn’t down to me- it’s up to them. I like this release of responsibility.
I shall let you know how I get on.
(Apologies for quality of image- used my phone- and just wanted to write)
This painting was about capturing the spirit of my little sister. She passed a way almost 20 years ago. I have painted her portrait twice, wanted to paint her again but then thought…what if I painted her as she is now- her spirit. This is what came out. Painted quite quickly…a large canvas, perhaps in one session or two…
As a a painting I don’t know what its is like- quality wise. I can not judge it. It could perhaps do with more paint added in certain areas…but to me it says enough. As I unwrapped it yesterday and saw it a fresh after a few months- it spoke/ shone/ of her spirit- so it is complete. I am also scared I will lose what I have- so I must leave it rather strive for perfection.
Painting is indeed a magical thing. It can evoke so much emotion- just from a few dabs of paint. Painting is so much about spirit- the spirit of a person, the spirit of a place…how comforting it can be to be surrounded by so much beauty, energy, light….
Over the past few weeks I have been painting a female painter that has been my artistic inspiration for many years. Seeing the film biography, Frida, made me realise how much I wanted to be ‘an artist’ and have an exhibition of my own one day.
The thing with painting Frida Kahlo is- firstly lots of other people have already painted her as she is so colourful and iconic. But more significantly, the great painter herself painted many self portraits. Part of me questioned- have I the right to paint her after she already depicted herself in a away that she chose?
For me painting someone is almost like having a conversation with them. As you study their face and the expression in their eyes you do come to know them in a special way. What complicated the painting was that the actress Salma Hayek who played her in the film, looked so much like her- and many images of Frida on the internet are interspersed with the actress!
But I so wanted to paint her- so I did. I chose an image of Frida that spoke to me. There was also an element in the image that resembled my own mother when she was younger. They shared the way they combed their hair at the sides. (Apparently Indians were once in Mexico).
As I painted and got to know Frida, I also referred to her diary which is translated beautifully, and found a documentary charting her affair with Deigo her husband. For a while I was in her world.
What could I bring to the world of portraits of her? Rather than emphasise the elaborate way she adorned her body I tried to concentrate on her. At one point I tried to leave out the necklace but decided maybe it was disrespectful as she loved her jewellery so much. Could I show the pain? The resilience? The love? Her frustration with the cards she had been dealt in this life?
From her diary I found a phrase which I added to the painting. I painted it in Spanish, copying her own handwriting as best I could. Translated it means ‘Why do I need feet when I have wings to fly.’ (This was when, after her many operations on her back, she now had to have her foot amputated due to gangrene). Adding this seemed to be that something different.
I may have over worked the painting- perhaps I just wanted to continue the conversation…but as I now look at the finished piece- did I capture her? At one level yes- but at the level I wanted- not so sure. I am now starting a second portrait, a grittier one, let’s see how that one goes…
P.S. I forgot to mention: I finished at the time that Britain decided to leave the EU. Interestingly I found myself becoming more outspoken and wanting to take part in politics at a grass root level. There was a voice inside of me that said ‘you have to step and say your piece’- Frida had obviously sparked the revolutionary in me!
This painting is of a beach in the area of Lyme Regis which we visited about a month or so ago. I’m experimenting with thin layers of paint to get a translucent effect in the sky and the water.
I’m also painting in bare feet- almost wish I had some sand to put down on my studio floor.
In this painting the tiniest brush strokes matter. Although every mark has an effect on a painting.
It’s very relaxing- the process and the painting. I’m doing this one slowly and carefully. There is no struggle but still a desire to get an effect that works- which requires time.
This painting encapsulates such a beautiful moment when the sun came to us after a cold day.It was around 7pm in the evening. mid April, on a quiet beach and the water was turquoise- we could have been in the Algarve. The camera couldn’t capture the colour so I’m adding from my memory.
I love the fact that a painting can transport you back to such moments.
Back to it …
After posting this I realised that the moment wasn’t just about the view however beautiful- but the specific moment in time- who I shared it with and the delicate place we all were as a family. My son, 17, is due to leave home in September. Here he is happy hanging out with his younger cousins – all playing together- enjoying the simple things- innocence- carefree. The time before adulthood kicks in….
It’s a great feeling to see your work after a couple of days away. As I look back at this one it gives such a sense of relief to gaze at it. I think maybe it is a reflection of what goes on in my head sometimes- the jumble, the complexity- but on this painting when you put it together it is calm.
You can pick a colour and follow its journey across the canvas- then switch to another. You segment parts of it and just concentrate on these. You can pick up patterns of deep pink and meditate on them.
When the world gets a bit crazy outside I love to come here to the safety and comfort of my studio and my art.
Earlier this week there was a slight hiccup in ‘work’ and I admitted some responsibility saying ‘I’m not great at detail.’ I’ve said this phrase often as I see myself more as a ‘big picture’ type person.
At the end of the week I’m in my studio working meticulously on a painting- examining every line so that it flows. I even turn the canvas around so I can check the flow from different perspectives. I have spent more time on the detail of this painting than on the original concept. Now isn’t that interesting.
So why do I do this here in my studio. Firstly because I hope that whoever buys this piece will keep it for a long time and look at it often- stare at it, get lost in it, follow the lines, and enjoy it. If a line doesn’t flow their experience will be disrupted. I want flow, the feeling of getting lost and found with this piece. A piece of art is not just something that you may have a for a few months and then discard, hopefully it will have a long life, and be viewed and loved by many. What’s also staring me in the face is that in this ‘work’, my art, I can do detail- this isn’t a weakness as I thought it was.
This big beautiful painting is called ‘Indecision’- above is just an extract- perhaps a third of the whole thing. I started it a few weeks ago when I was at a bit of junction in my life, big decisions to make, and I wasn’t sure if I was making the right ones. This blank canvas started back at me and I just allowed whatever wanted to come out come out. This wasn’t my original intention. I was going to do a second painting in the same vein as my previous one, Blue Oracle, but the universe had other plans and out came this abstract.
Through painting this my indecision cleared to clarity. Perhaps that is why now the lines and flow are so important. Although the lines are interlinked and confused there is also a clarity about it. They aren’t fuzzy lines but clean and crisp. So now I sit here, stare at it, follow each line, to make sure it is perfect- when I’m not a perfectionist either! Hopefully it will be finished soon.
This painting, like many others, helped me work things through. The gift of artistic expression is a great thing for which I am grateful. It gives me balance, keeps me sane, reminds who I really am.
I felt called to write today about this piece which I hope is nearing completion. It photographs well, unlike most of my work, and shows something of what I’m trying to create- a warm glow- someone basking in the sunlight/ moon light. This is just an extract of the work- the right hand side. There are more flowers either side of the figure.
This painting has ended up being the place that is so comfortable, you just let everything go and relax. A place to recharge, be yourself, and feel good.
At the moment I like it a lot- fingers crossed it will come out well.
Number 14 1951 Jackson Pollock 1912-1956 Purchased with assistance from the American Fellows of the Tate Gallery Foundation 1988 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03978
Last weekend I found myself visiting Liverpool where Jackson Pollock was showing at the Tate. I bought the audio guide and walked around the exhibition.
Much of the work was dark and the few that included colour stood out.
From the audio I learned a few things about Pollock: he used a syringe to paint with, he often used unprimed canvas, he painted in silence by natural light only, he knew Diego Rivera (Freda Khalo’s husband- Freda is another inspiration of mine), he painted large scale, he was supported by a gallery to paint, he drank a lot, he died in 1954 in a car accident. The process is what particularly interested me.
He also numbered his work rather than title it to allow the viewer their own interpretation of the work.
A couple of days after the show I watered down my paint, cleared some space in the studio, kept the radio off and set myself free.
Yesterday I painted my second Pollock inspired piece- on a 180cm length of canvas. I didn’t where it was going to go or if it would take the oil paint- but I wanted to give it a try anyway. I used up a lot of paint, had a slippery floor and felt exhilarated. A different feeling from when I paint in other styles. I shall visit the the studio later today and see how it looks after its had time to soak into the fabric and dry a little.
I’m using this as a method and may go back to my previous subject matters and paint again using this new method. Enjoying the experimentation and the freedom- isn’t that the point of art too?
Post update: August 2016 You can see my works here