This time of year is one of my favourites because of how the trees are revealed without foliage. The painting above is a recent one, and a bit experimental with its use of black in the mix. Inspired partly by the crows too, which are often a distinct feature of walks in the fields through winter. I do love ‘greys’ above most colour… (sigh).
I found myself in France this winter for an extended period in extremely sad circumstances following a family bereavement. Unable to sleep I got up in the night one time and began some fairly desperate painting, in such poor lighting I couldn’t detect colour. I should have gone purely tonal, but the point is, in a way I was reassured to find the extent to which painting is an essential part of me now, and how I cannot go for a long period without being reminded of my dependence. In this case I had needed to pack and leave the country in a hurry with just a small travel bag, and no painting equipment came with me. It was a very difficult time of course but after many days non-painting I found myself at some shops and bought a mop brush, and four tubes of paint. Walks in nature were a help as always for me, in dealing with the situation, to put the puzzles of life into some perspective, and even in the saddest of times Beauty was having an impact in providing some sustenance.
Of course I couldn’t paint well in the dark and without my trusty Black Sheep, but it helped a bit just to paint. Being in a rustic area with a wood burner for warmth and little else at times meant I worked a bit on my (potential) book; a longer-term project. This is intended to give an insight into what painting is to me, though I have my doubts about how sensible an idea this is! Not ‘instructional’ on the whole, rather I hope that the book will be a kind of companion for those who know how watercolour (and the landscape) can become a lifelong focus, obsession, challenge, support, and everything else. The text includes excerpts from a ‘plein air journal’ I kept a few years back, along with absolute honesty on all related aspects of being a landscape-inspired painter. Driven by a compulsion to make at least some use of ‘ideas’ and thoughts that have woken me too early of a morning on many occasions, I’m fairly sure some people would recommend against publishing it, so we’ll see about that.
An upcoming book of a different kind, and with a refreshing ‘perspective’ is one by Karen Thomas. (https://www.karenthomaswatercolour.com/). Lovers of wildlife painting especially might like to check this out, as that is Karen’s main field. Having not been painting for many years, Karen writes modestly from the angle of remembering well how watercolour is for a beginner, though she is a fast-developing talent now producing beautiful paintings, as you can see if you follow the link above. I was fortunate to read a draft, which contained insights sure to inspire beginners in particular, but also longstanding stalwarts of this medium.
Have many of you read the books authored by Edward Seago? My local public library has a huge fine art Reference section, and I was lucky to find some of these there (Tip: always search the old catalogues!). I then bought a couple of others from www.abebooks.com and I would recommend his writing to others. Seago was as eloquent with words as with his paint brush, and each of his books is semi-autobiographical, providing fascinating insights into his life as a painter through different periods of the 20th century.
Did you know that Seago would often allow people visiting his home to watch him painting? He would apparently regularly do ‘demos’ in this way for friends and associates but only ever in oil. Never would he allow someone to watch him paint in watercolour. Well, very sensible too! He knew just how he might come unstuck and be made to look a fool, so avoided any chance of it.
I’ve only ever seen one Seago watercolour in the flesh, and it wasn’t one of his better ones. In fact I’m surprised it made it out of his studio. In the home of an experienced collector though, it was surely by the man himself and remains with me internally as a source of hope! It’s reassuring to know that this medium can and does bring any mortal person, even of Seago’s talent, down to ground level at times. Another insight from these books was that Seago would re-paint his watercolours several times before arriving at the ones we got to see. It takes discipline for a painter to do this, but again it’s something to learn from, as well as take heart from.
I thank Leisure Painter (http://www.painters-online.co.uk/magazines/leisure-painter.htm)
for continuing to feature articles by me this coming year. There will be several over the next 12 months, beginning with another 2-part painting project in spring, but then the rest being of a different kind, each focussing on a particular aspect of painting. I hope these are of practical benefit to readers of the magazine.
Another thing that wakes me up too early sometime are ideas for upcoming tuition; workshops, demos, courses, and so on. I have many this year, including visits to art groups around the country, so please see my Welcome/Tuition page for details if I might tempt you to join me. I’m also still available for one-to-one tuition at my home studio, though this is getting a bit booked up.
One thing it all has in common is that I do my level best to openly pass on everything I’ve learned that is most relevant for good watercolour painting.
All the best for a great year of painting to you. May they all ‘come off’ well! (well, let’s be realistic, some of them…)