Thanks for joining me again and I hope you are well.
The painting above was done on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK. Not something I would have considered attempting, if I’d known in advance this would be the case. In fact although it was hot, it wasn’t as hot here as in some parts of the country.
The sheet of paper was quite odd, which I realised as soon as the first brushstrokes went down for the sky. I don’t know if it was the heat, but it seemed as if it had an unusual sizing, and this paper (Bockingford) doesn’t have any external sizing. Anyway, considering as usual I chose a spot in full sun, I was fairly pleased with the result overall. Not all of it (of course)!
In recent times it seems I’ve naturally been posting to my blog less frequently. I may change what I do here a bit, and would like to ask my subscribers for your feedback on that – especially if you notice changes for the worse. I may post a bit more frequently but with shorter posts, but I’m not sure so we’ll see.
My feelings keep changing about everything. After years I still don’t know really what I want to say here on this blog, and I certainly don’t know if anyone wants to hear it. Life is complicated and seems to get more confusing, which I don’t think is a good thing. Google has an influence on the decisions I should make, as I’m self-employed and google is the super-power I’m supposed to bow to. But I don’t work like google, and I don’t necessarily think that ‘consistency’ (or monotony) is a good thing, for a start.
This post and and future ones may not contain so many of my latest paintings, so please keep an eye on my galleries pages for additional ones. With the new website design there is now some background information about each painting within the galleries, which opens when you click an image, though I’ve got a few still left to go through with my recollections.
You might have noticed already – my website has had a big makeover, and I think much for the better.
I’ve taken objective advice on all aspects, and been lucky to work with the talented professionals at darkHouse Multimedia (www.darkhousemultimedia.com) who have done the work.
I hope you will enjoy the functional improvements and style. Style-wise they immediately picked up on my use of Indian Red and Raw Umber. I was delighted and had been going to suggest this, but it has meant adding extra patches to my threadbare Indian Red coloured shirt – an old plein air friend, now back out of retirement.
I’d like to recommend darkHouse Multimedia if you need a website making. I’m so grateful for the enduring patience they showed this particular non-techy person throughout the collaborative process.
Perhaps the biggest functional change to the site is that you can now purchase my paintings directly – from the Galleries pages – just like any online store. However, please feel very free if you’d like to contact me to discuss paintings before purchase, or to arrange a sale by a more ‘old fashioned’ method. Please note that I continue not to sell prints, only original watercolours.
This was during a heat wave earlier in July, during a few days I spent camping in Pembrokeshire – from where I may run a future course!
I returned to this beach from where I’d previously painted on the cliffs. It is a huge beach the top half of which is very rock covered. Beautiful sand revealed at low tide. The main difficulties with this one were the heat and sun (again) and also the content of the scene. Rocks, more rocks, abstract shapes to convey somehow without too much monotony, with suggestion, and without buildings or man-made things to use by way of contrast/offsetting, or to help with scale. I did put a couple of figures in, but they’re about half a mile away so you may need to adjust your lenses to spot them.
I’m going to set my own competition again, with the ‘prize’ being one of my paintings, in case that might tempt anyone to take part (always feels quite presumptuous!) I ran a similar competition a couple of years ago and had a good number of very competitive entries. I hope you might see it as a good painting exercise – I will be setting a specific kind of challenge. More on that next time.
Again from my visit to Pembrokeshire in Wales. I was almost blown over doing this. A great view of the scene from here, but my vantage point was on a little causeway over the river and hence a bit of a wind tunnel. Quite a battle and some parts could have been much better without this struggle.
When teaching I’m often asked about my choice of easel, which is the ‘Jakar Lightweight Adjustable Watercolour Easel’. I think my easel is great, so I have often happily recommended it to others. However, I need to make something known, which I have only just realised.
The thing above all else that for me gives this easel the edge over others is the really wide spread of its legs, making it really stable in wind, despite being very lightweight. I’ve often thought I should get a spare just in case mine breaks or Jakar stops producing them. Recently I did just that, and made an unfortunate discovery.
The new easel appears precisely the same as my first one (which I think I’ve had for about 3 years) but THE LEGS DON’T SPREAD SO WIDE because the back leg doesn’t go back so far. I had seen a few other artists with the easel and wondered if it was just my eyes, and when I bought the new one I did so thinking ‘well, it’ll be good for demos on slippery floors if nothing else’ (where the leg spread is less useful).
I am hoping that I can file down the plastic at the leg join section by a millimeter or two and thereby allow the back leg to go back further. But I have to say, this slight manufacturing change was a step in the wrong direction for the easel model, in my opinion.
A bit of a reminder – you can now book onto my new Cornwall workshop, a two-dayer next May at Truro Arts Centre. Please see the Workshops page for details.
Last week I did my workshop up at The Sandpiper Studio up on the Wirral, which was really a real pleasure as always. I hope to return again next year, and perhaps to do a one-day plein air workshop there to make the most of some great saltmarsh/boaty coastal places that the Wirral offers.
There are places available still for my East Devon Art Academy workshop (in Sidmouth) this Autumn.
In 2020 I am spending my time differently and will be teaching only two residential painting courses/holidays, one at Dedham Hall and the other back at Big Sky Art. Please join me at these exceptional places for plein air painting. I’m currently looking forward to meeting the students on my fourth painting holiday of 2019, coming up at Big Sky Art (north Norfolk coast) in September.
Giving demonstrations is one of my favourite things to do.
Here are a couple of photos, one of a recent painting I did at Clevedon Art Society (50 minute painting from the second half of the evening), the other of the scene post-demo, at Wallop Artists Group.
Please contact me if you might be interested in having me visit your art group to give a demo in 2020 or beyond.
Thoughts on motivation – my own painting
It feels like a very important time for life on this planet, and this has been occupying my mind a great deal this year. I hope I don’t too often presume my more personal thoughts will be of interest in my blog, but high emotion can make you re-inspect the reasons you have for doing things, and I hope there can be some value to others in sharing the following. Keeping to painting, though, here’s a bit about my own ongoing experience as an ‘artist’. I would be very interested to hear about your experience on similar matters, if you’d like to leave a comment.
Painting, or ‘art’ – I have learned, with regard to my own practice – has more to do with attitude, psychology, philosophy and our frail human aspects than it is to do with techniques and materials. Motivation and inspiration are 100% vital, once you’ve come a certain distance with the basics of handling a chosen medium, and realise that there is no right or wrong in how you paint. Yet, perhaps not for everyone. I would not paint these days, nor try to without those things. I won’t paint unless I know I’ve got the right attitude for it. Some people can force themselves into the studio and for quite noble reasons (‘keep practising’, ‘keep a routine – it is work, after all’, or they simply love the process of using the medium, applying paint to paper, and so on – which really isn’t something I feel very often). I don’t do this, and find it a better, more productive use of my time and indeed ‘work’ time to do apparently unrelated things instead, if there isn’t that right attitude.
Painting for me is, in a way, a form of self-expression, though I don’t really like to admit it because my paintings are not intended to be in any way ‘reflecting’ the artist, nor really ‘about’ the medium. The artist is relevant in terms of how the work will not look exactly like someone else’s, but that’s about it. Before I focussed on painting I was involved with music for a long time. I wasn’t technically a good ‘musician’ but I never felt that mattered. It was all about the creative or adventurous aspect and I rarely miss it now, as this was replaced entirely by painting.
To me, my paintings are 100% ‘about’ the subject, being generally a ‘place’. I’ve always thought of them as kind of my own small, personal tribute to a place in time, or ideally an experience of being at that place. Being at new places gives me pleasure, because Nature creates awe, providing ‘perspective’ on life, and when struck for the first time especially (i.e. new places), the feeling is vivid and can even seem graspable in painting. I tend to talk about these things of nature as ‘landscape’, but it includes the weather, the sky, the shapes of natural forms, the history contained within them, and greatly it is about the life – the movement and also much to do with the wildlife (the unknown and more interesting life than our own!) and also the wind or breeze within grass or trees. It’s even partly about people, though they don’t usually play a big role in my paintings. It is I suppose sometimes about the light, too, so often mentioned, in so far as that affects atmosphere and how all these other things are perceived or not noticed. It is about the connected nature of all these things and being part of that connection. When outdoors I feel closer to the whole world and feel our inherent nature of being just a tiny but interconnected part of it. Maybe we are closer to a better part of ourselves for that.
Plein air painting can bring about a full experience and pleasure of consciousness, removing the unhelpful sense of self for a precious while, yet all senses make their experience felt somehow in every painting. To the right viewer, as much as the artist.
I feel compelled to paint when there seems to be a reason to want to ‘share’ the experience of being somewhere, and less often to record it sometimes just for myself. Painting is enjoyable for me when it is uninhibited, carefree, a process from beginning to end of what can feel like ‘risk-taking’ (with a mistaken view, after all, there is no actual risk involved!). It has then to be spontaneously motivated, and intuitively painted. It isn’t then very much lingered over in terms of the tech-nique-al side, or planning, but instead it flows relatively naturally in a way that seems almost a part of the place, or certainly ‘being’ at the place. In fact, for this to actually happen is quite a rare thing overall in my experience, but I think it is the thing that makes me keep doing it.
The resulting outcome, especially if I feel I’ve done a reasonable job when I stand back and look at it later, can seem to mean a lot, and provide a lasting additional feeling of connection and importance to the experience. And whether or not it will be viewed well by others matters little. When painting happens like this, I feel like I’m doing something, and which might somehow be worthwhile, if only to myself.
Additionally, I think purpose comes from the act of painting for me when it’s an emotional experience. The painting arrives spontaneously and mostly intuitively, driven entirely by the inspiration of the moment. I do value the immediate translation of inspiration into a result. Value it above a necessarily successful result, any day of the week. This means I’m happy (or accepting, at least) for my ‘losses’ and to walk away until the next time inspiration strikes. It all keeps me in the here and now, which is where I want to be.
As I’ve said, it doesn’t all come together in the ideal way very often. Additionally, all of this being an ‘artist’ always seems very self-indulgent, as is writing down thoughts on the basis that someone might actually wish to read them. Luckily, I have been finding in recent years that teaching watercolour – helping others with something essentially harmless and generally beneficial for themselves – provides more of a sense of purpose. Teaching is not always easy, but the thing that makes it most difficult from my perspective is when people become despondent too quickly, because they assumed that watercolour painting was easier than in fact it is. Being a teacher of watercolour painting therefore is sadly not always about spreading immediate happiness, but I wish it could be!
I think considering our motivations is helpful in deciding how to make the best use of the future. From 2021 onwards I’m hoping to teach more than ever before. But there could be some big changes before then.
That’s probably more than enough from me.
Until next time, friends, whatever your reason for painting, don’t be afraid of messing up a bit of white paper!
– A few more of my recent plein air adventures below: