Muddled Buddleia

Butterfly Bush blog

Buddleia (A5, watercolour and ink on Hahnemuehle paper, 2016)

I’m not a fan of painting flowers. Even the most skilled watercolourists end up with something that looks like a botanical illustration, I find – often losing that elusive beauty of the flower in nature. I always want to paint them like Stanley Bielen or Lisa Breslow but lack the courage to be that loose. Reducing something as complex as a flower to broad brush strokes must be immensely satisfying, and very effective as we see from Bielen’s pictures. Push it further still and you can end up with a painting that is more or less abstract, as in Debora Stewart’s work.

Alas I wasn’t feeling that brave, or that innovative, on Sunday and ended up with something that was neither realistic nor abstract. However, my ever-supportive partner liked the result – without my prompting her! – so here is my somewhat muddled Buddleia.

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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…