Thursday, 26 January 2012

Painting your own World…


On returning to my desk (perforce as the dust in the living room has now given me an asthma attack, so it is being “deep vacuumed” by an expert in domestic appliances” (or so he claims ….the stove is next on his list – well a girl has to have some perks when writing the To Do list? !!) ) I have found an Artists’ Water Colour tube of New Camboge very neatly filed in my To Do file of urgent  Documents – guess that shows you where my mind has been for a while…!!!


The funny thing is I can remember very clearly why I needed it and why it has come from my art bag to the desk – shame I forgot to put it back….and the piece I was writing at the time – where is that? and …..

Well the list is endless….

A blessay alert…


What Makes a Masterpiece was a programme which prompted my renaissance in my personal art this week… Very interesting and though-provoking series, unfortunately aired on More4 on a Sunday evening with no repeats on mainstream as yet planned, but have shared the link on Channel 4 which is there for a while. 

I had a bit of a moment when watching it, as I now have more insight (I think) into some of Toby’s thoughts on art.

I have always been a bit mystified as to why he is so adamant that he enjoys watercolour painting, but is so resistant to acrylics.  I had thought that it was something to do with getting messy (yep, even plain water can make someone messy it appears, but we overcame that!!).  But recently it has been a lot more behind his protestations. 

There has been an artist working at the Unit in Acrylics, and even though he enjoyed the formal class-like structure of the presentations and working within a group, he was and is still very resistant to using acrylics for enjoyment, creativity or expression.  Why? 

Toby is not usually this illogical… so prompted by the programme I have dissected what we do and how we approach the two subjects.

  • Watercolour – is us looking at the whole of the picture – a lot of planning – chatting, talking and generally sharing our points of view about the subject.  Then starting from the lightest shades/tones in our respective painting trays (again prompting lots of discussion, testing, and general planning) we apply transparent and often luminous colours onto a usually white or pale surface.  Our end pictures very often looks very different from each other and the original – but we love them and delight in our individuality.  Some of them developed into very abstract pieces of colourwork that would not be out of place in a weaving…
  • Acrylic – is looking at the whole of the picture – again with lots of planning - and starting from the lightest shades/tones (background) applying opaque bright shades (sometimes mixed with water, or straight from the tube) onto a suitable surface and building up the colour in blocks until it resembles the picture you want to replicate.  This is where the process differs, we inevitably struggle to deviate or control our own creative input.  Our end pictures very often are similar and there is a sense of …. well not quite getting it right…


The first needs planning and thinking through and delicate touch, the other still needs the same, but the process is not as permanent and mistakes/changes can be made by just overlaying with further acrylic.

Acrylic is a lot “flatter” and takes a practiced hand it apply it.  We struggle to mix the range of very “loud” colours into more subtle shades. 

A daub of watercolour in the wrong place, can send us off into all kinds of creative decisions as it suggests to our eye something unexpected. Acrylic – it becomes a bit of a problem until it is dry enough to deal with.  Toby also likes the thinner/smaller brushes and watercolour washes for their own sake, whereas he finds the acrylic ones a lot more cumbersome. 

The bonus with this daub approach to watercolour and suspension of our ideals of perfection is that our minds have to be open to creativity and adaption,  making the best of whatever mark or colour appears – or otherwise we have to scrap a picture that otherwise is perfect – as we have enjoyed the process of making it (not the actual draughtsmanship… well in our eyes yes, but in that of a critical world… nope…) we would not wish to do that.

So we adapt, adjust our expectations, look for inspiration within the picture itself and make decisions about our little world in which we have come to love in the last few minutes. 

All these decisions are made in a split second – as we are absorbed in our journey as we create our world on an A4 sheet of paper. 

Toby's Garden

Above is Toby’s flower garden.  What I see in this picture now two years on? – well I don’t actually see the contents but what I see – in my mind’s eye -  is a fabulous afternoon, dissecting the garden and discussing problems and resolving them (of the paint and colour variety) – intimate time shared with my son, as clearly replying as if it is a video on UTube..

Just gone off to find mine, and whilst I thought I was a master in my own life time that particular day, it doesn’t even warrant showing here.  With the benefit of distance and time I can see it is very poorly drafted and quite naive compared with Toby’s.  Nobody would have ever believed that I spent time training to be an artist – or perhaps they would !!! – training very nearly destroyed all the purity of enjoyment in the action/reaction to subjects.

But I remember both the paintings as being perfect, and they serve now as a record of that afternoon and a memory prompt that will last forever – not something to be hung in a gallery for outsiders to guess at the circumstances of creativity -  Now what is wrong in that? !!


Reading back on this, I think I have explained our approach and thoughts very clumsily, so will work on a more fluent eloquent submission.  The problem is the process itself, with the caveat of when we get it right is very pure and vibrant – the firing of the neurons telling you just when you have it right…

It is the neuron firing that you remember, not the dodgy lines, or slightly wrong perspective.  It is the laughter and the dropping of the brush – not how clever you think you are in the perfect replication of the subject. 

I also get that feeling when I write, when someone else does something which I have facilitated – I don’t need to “own” or be in charge… it is enough to just be present – when a painting works, or when some piece of craft blossoms into something which fits.  The unveiling of the contents of a dyepot…

I even get that feeling when a column of figures adds up – how sad is that…

My neurons obviously work at problem solving.. not too much though. 

Don’t even know why I feel I have to justify the beauty and pureness of what we do – well I do, but I am not going to share that here with you, as it says more about the environment and how the need to defend/protect arose, than it does about the way I and many others think. 

The reason I am writing about it today, is I am quite sad that others cannot share in our joy in the process for the mere sake of it and want to change ours (and other’s) approaches, rather than look at their own… God forbid that there may be two or even more ways of doing something? !!

I am so glad I don’t live in their world… even if I can’t find my gamboge in mine !!

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