Schrödinger’s Pomegranate

Pomegranate 1608 blog

Pomegranate (15 cms square oil on board 2016)

When I started painting this pomegranate it was a fresh young thing, its skin an appealing mixture of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. I blocked out the fruit in oils on a small (15 cms square) piece of hardboard, prepared with gesso and a bright yellow undercoat.

And then I stopped.

I played around with background colours, plain, stippled, the colour partially lifted with newspaper, rubbed with my finger, and all the while the pomegranate sat on its white plate, growing older.

In the meantime I painted the acrylic Weathered Wall from last week, drew some pictures of dogs, and the little square oil dried in the sunlit conservatory, aka my ‘summer studio’. The model itself continued to age and shrink.

Last weekend I finally got around to finishing the background and the purple shadows under the fruit. The pomegranate itself had become a different beast to the one painted: it was now angular, leathery with a spreading yellow area from the stem. Was it still edible? Was it rotten inside? Having finally finished with it I cut it open…

Let’s just say that the tiger worms in the compost bin will enjoy it.


Loosening up

Take a look at this:

Stanley Bielin redranunculus625 blog

Stanley Bielen, Yellow Red Ranunculus (Oil on prepared panel, 2014) 9 5/8 x 6 5/8″

It takes a great deal of confidence, I imagine, to paint as loosely as this, giving just as much detail as is needed without overworking it. Everything is there: the texture of the flowers, the light from the left, the sense of water in the glass – yet nothing is overstated.

Likewise this little beauty from my good friend, John Button:

John Button Never a Dull Moment blog

John Button, Never a Dull Moment (acrylic on board) 40cms x 40cms

Again, John can lay down a background, play with perspective, and draw a coffee cup just as he wants it to look, not as it would be in a photograph. The results are lively, vibrant and profoundly lovely.

I’ve decided that 2016 will be my year of loosening up, when things will look as I want them to look and not simply as they are. Last week I found myself in an Oxfam bookshop in London, leafing through a book on an artist who has painted several hundred almost identical, hyper-realist pictures of a glass of water, over and over and over again*. It’s not for me to tell someone else what to paint, but after looking at about ten images of a similar glass looking rather similar with many more similar paintings to go, it felt as if the air was being sucked from the room. How different, how alive are these paintings by Stanley Bielen and John Button.

My own first tentative steps, with a long way to go:

Loose Quinces blog

Yes, more quinces (A5, ink and acrylic on Indian paper, 2016)

Here the background was painted in, keeping the final composition in mind, and the quinces drawn over the top.

Loose Pomegranate blog

Pomegranate (A5, acrylic on Indian paper, 2016)

With the pomegranate there was no pre-drawing, just acrylic onto a small sheet of Tate Gallery Indian paper.

*After seeing those, I don’t feel quite so guilty about quinces now…


#twitterartexhibit (and more quinces)

Quinces Twitter 151124 blog

English Quinces (15cm x 11cm, mixed media, 2015)

I realise that creative people are always being asked to work for nothing, either for a good cause or to ‘raise your profile’, but here is something which doesn’t take long, is great fun and contributes to a good cause.

The Twitter Art Exhibit is the sixth incarnation of an open international exhibition of postcard art which benefits a different cause each year. The 2016 exhibition will be in New York City, so if you have a few moments to create a 16cm x 12cm piece do follow the link and send something in.

It won’t surprise regular visitors to this blog that I sent them a painting of some quinces (above), my obsession of the moment. I also painted a row of the little chaps to be entered into a local exhibition here in the UK but discovered that I’d missed the submission day:

Quince Row blog

Quinces in a row (30 cm x 6 cm, watercolour and ink, 2015)

And, were that not enough, I tried to celebrate in oils (still a work in progress) a single noble example from our own tree:

Quince Oil blog

Quince (15 cm square, oil on board, 2015)

That, I promise, will be my last quince posting for this season*.


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.

‘Daily’ Painting

Limes 1 blog

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

The point about daily painting is that it’s not supposed to take two months to finish a small picture the size of a bathroom tile. Yet something about the shadows in this picture trapped me like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights and I came to a grinding halt. It sat there on the easel in our tiny conservatory (otherwise known as the ‘summer studio’), metaphorically wagging its oily finger at me, tut-tutting every time I walked past, until I could stand it no longer and finally finished it last Saturday. I quite like it now – the brushwork is nice and loose – and I might even start another one, perhaps of a nectarine. Don’t count on it appearing next week though…

Carol Marine would despair of me.