Fiddling and Floundering About

Now here’s a funny thing. When I play and fiddle about with a painting it seems there is more interest than when I’m trying to orchestrate things. Interest from both others and myself!

Early this year these two small paintings, painted freely and mostly unselfconsciously, were highly commended at a local exhibition. They’re from of a series of 10 small paintings I made as part of a challenge another artist and myself set for ourselves – to paint every day during January. The others are on my website.

“Confluence” 20cm wide x 20cm high
“Convergent” 20cm wide x 20cm high

It was a very pleasant surprise as I stood outside in the covid line to pick them up and a friend said congratulations! Making this small success even more pleasant was the fact that they were the first abstract paintings I have exhibited. These pleasures are short lived however and it was on to the next project.

During June I repeated an online taster course for Louise Fletcher’s “Find Your Joy” course. I participated last year and got a lot out of it. It’s about following your likes, playing and not focussing on results. This is good for someone like me who used to plan her art to the nth degree! Here is one of the exercises we completed. We were limited in tools, media and the number of marks we could make with each.

Paradoxically, limitation is a good way to expand possibilities and generate ideas.

Recently, I’ve been wondering where things are headed for me artwise. It’s both difficult and exciting. I know I want to head down the abstract road but I seem to be floundering about. I guess that’s what you do when you’re finding your way.

I tried to reconcile my art aims with what is actually happening. Remember, we’re a little out of control here! However, my aim so far has been to show people what I love about our landscape, mood atmosphere etc but the style of my recent work doesn’t seem to match this at all! I think my updated modus operandi might be to create fun, playful images based on landscape – my feelings, shapes, textures, gestures or anything else landscapey that takes my fancy?

These small play images were started recently as I explored that idea.

I don’t know where they point to yet but there are a few ideas in there.

This week our plein air group, POGO, painted at Richmond. Although cool, it was a beautiful clear, sunny day. I made six sketches to use for collage, finding compositions or generating inspiration. There’s no pressure to be exacting about these sketches. It’s an exercise in being there and taking things in.

I found a couple of crops I might be able to use as a starting point for something new in the future.

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Playing back in the Studio

You have a plein air sketch you’d like to work with! Now what?

The first thing to do is check what you like or don’t like about it.

What do you feel comfortable with? What feels like the place and what doesn’t? Does it rekindle the feelings and emotions of the day? How can you translate those into studio works? Can you crop it to create new compositions? Is there something, anything, you can improve on, that, with the benefit of hindsight, will better create the mood? Or, does it in fact lead you in another direction?

I chose these two crops from the sketch to work with. They reminded me of landforms near where I made the sketch. I also like the composition and the marks within them.

Sometimes, sketches lead to work that’s not related to the original work. It might be that you’ve seen something that sparks an idea and it leads me in a different direction.

When I start to work on these I need to be careful because, if I try to copy the sketch or the crops, things probably won’t go well. It’s very difficult to reproduce a sketch as a studio piece.

What I want to do is use the elements I like within the crops and begin to create new paintings. I began two pieces with collage and two with acrylic paint as the basis for their first layer.

Collage version

Stage 1 – A collage layer (well, three pieces of collage at least) with some graphite line work, a bit of spatter and a few splashes of water for good measure. It feels ok at the moment. I like those diagonal lines.

Stage 2 – Adding colour and scratching out. I’m not sure about this? It feels disjointed. I still like the diagonals!

Stage 3 – I’ve added blue paint to remove two white areas and it feels much better. Wondering about that dark piece of collage now?

Stage 4 – I adjusted that left hand side patch of light blue, making it white again and then adding some marks. It looks a little better but I’ll wait a while then see what I think. Still wondering about the black piece of collage.

Acrylic Paint version

Stage 1 – Started with playful application of paint and line. It feels free. I don’t mind it so far.

Stage 2 – Something told me to add some paint pen lines and spray with water! Oh dear, what have I done? It’s too busy now and it’s lost the freshness. Looks a bit grubby too. I also turned it upside down.

Stage 3 – Okay, lets wipe off a whole lot of stuff. In an attempt to tame the image down I had rolled white paint over the parts I’ve now wiped away. It didn’t help! (I forgot to take a photo.) Perhaps there are too many drip lines as well? I’ve painted over those already so they might be hard to cover?

Stage 4 – I’ve applied some paint to the sky with a rag and felt better about it so I played around in the foreground. It feels better now but I’m not sure if it’s done yet.

I’m not calling any of the four paintings finished at this stage. One is a no show! I’ll review the other three sometime later.

As you can see, one thing grows from another and the result may or may not be something I like. If it ends poorly I’ll console myself with the fact that I’ve enjoyed the process, explored the idea and increased my stockpile of experience. The work and or memories of the experience may surface again at any time to help my art along.

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Click here to find out about EXHIBITIONS I currently have work in.