A Quince’s Tale

Quinces 2015 1 blog

Quinces (31 cms x 22 cms mixed media 2015)

We’ve harvested the first quinces from the tree we planted when we moved house a couple of years ago. They’re beautiful, like fairy-tale pears: great golden Maurice Sendak fruits that look like they might make the woodcutter’s daughter fall asleep for half a century after one bite. But too perfect to draw.

So when my beloved told me that she’d seen a boxful outside a cottage for passers-by to help themselves, it was worth the drive of some miles into the countryside to investigate.

They were splendid: misshapen, bruised, speckled, downy, knotty things, like angry little fists. I’m sure they’ll make wonderful quince jelly later this week, but in the meantime they’ve been willing models for a series of drawings.

Quinces 2015 2 blog

Quinces on a hand-made plate (32 cms x 24 cms pastel on Hahnemuehle Velour paper 2015)

The sheet of twelve started off as a sort of morning pages exercise, but I decided to ink over the original pencil sketches and paint them with watercolour and watercolour pencils. The plate of three on Hahnemuehle Velour (above) was more challenging for me, being unused to the intriguingly soft texture of this paper.

Quinces 2015 3 blog

Quinces on a hand-made plate 2 (30 cms x 23 cms pastel on watercolour paper 2015)

So I did a third on watercolour paper. This is probably enough quince drawings for one day, but I would just like to try one more after supper…

PS I was thinking of calling this post ‘An artist formally knows his quince’ but happily for all concerned decided against it.

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Morning Pages

Morning Page

My partner, Sarah, and others speak highly of morning pages, a concept invented some years ago by creativity guru Julia Cameron. It involves producing a prescribed number of pages of stream-of-consciousness writing first thing every day. I’d often wondered if the same concept could be applied to drawing.

Last weekend I had a couple of clear hours to paint, and I was determined to finish another troublesome little oil painting that had been sitting on the easel for a couple of weeks. I decided to start by filling an A4 sheet of paper with morning pages style sketches (above). This differs from the usual loosening-up exercises in a number of ways: the drawings must come from the imagination (even if I did fall back on chilli peppers more than once!); the pen should keep moving – no over-refining or fine detail; there should be no attempt to produce ‘showable’ results (I wasn’t intending to include them here at that stage).

I found the exercise supremely liberating. It didn’t matter what I drew or how well I drew it: the only goal was to fill the page. At the end of it I felt in a creative frame of mind and my hand had been moving in a drawing way rather than, say, a making coffee way or tidying the weekend newspapers way. After a short piece of displacement activity (slapping gesso on a couple of panels in the garage) I was able to confront the nectarine painting without the usual period of self-doubt and indeed managed to finish it (apart from some minor adjustments, when it dries, to the shadow on the tablecloth):

Nectarine blog

Nectarine (15cms x 15cms oil on board 2015)

I’m sure it’s only a variation on practices that full-time artists use constantly, but I’m eager to try it again and also see if it works for those times when nothing goes right.