Thursday, 3 December 2015

Never the same again

Last fortnight I was trapped in a maze. I sometimes refer to it as 'the maze' or 'a shadow', but most call it 'black dog'. Leaving Facebook for a while was a challenge set by said maze... It was pretty bad and I did a lot of soul searching and thankfully I managed to navigate myself out of it, the storm passed and this new week brought with it a fresh start. 
Monday/Tuesday - laying out in the studio...
 I have begun a new piece of work and so far it’s been a fascinating journey and one which I wanted to share with you. This Monday morning one could say I probably felt a little over confident after battling my way through an emotional thorny bush. As a consequence, I brazenly ventured into the spare bedroom and carefully peeled the first sheet of my new supersize paper away from the others and carried it clumsily down the marble stairs. On the drawing board it looked even bigger and over hung Drew (the drawing board) by about a foot on three sides. However, it is such heavy paper I think we can cope as it doesn't flop like the 420gsm. Still feeling self-assured I then draw out two compositions of three, as the plan was to do a triptych. Of course now I have got started I am not entirely sure if I have the time to successfully do a triptych, but we live in hope. 

Wednesday - drawn out on Drew
Yesterday… Wednesday, I telephoned St.Cuthberts Mill as I couldn't spot a watermark on my Saunders Waterford paper*, which made distinguishing the correct side to paint on a bit tricky. Added to this confusion was the fact that it wasn't hot press paper, so to my untrained eye both sides looked as rough as each other. Anyway, after a lovely conversation with an English lass I managed to work out the felt side and transferred the graphite image onto the paper (yes this took almost an entire day). 

My wonderful Series 44, size 12 Rosemary and Co. brush
which was kindly gifted to me from my Biology teacher
This morning, Thursday, I crept into the studio with a hang over... Not ideal but I didn't get much in the way of carbohydrates with my tapas the night before which was not only a little disappointing but negligent on my part. However, a pot of tea, two ibuprofen, two ginger nuts and some breakfast slowly sorted the issue out, thank goodness. So yes, back to the studio… In the daylight I was able to see that the graphite had transferred so I began to paint, but I found I couldn't straight away… 

Firstly I had to rearrange my studio - the lights, the stools where I keep my paints - pretty much everything. My 'clippy' angle poise no longer could ‘clip’ onto Drew, so I am now a daylight bulb down which is a bit of a nuisance but easily solved - just something else to keep me on my toes. I then found myself thinking about other botanical artists who have painted such big works, such as Rosie Sanders, Coral Guest and Heidi Willis. This is something I tend to do a lot at the start of a painting - it is almost like saying a prayer where I ask for their guidance in spirit (hi guys if you are reading!).

Finally, paint hit paper. The texture of the paper is completely different to what I am used to, but I actually rather like it. Like a butterfly trying to find a nice hot branch on which to settle, I danced around a bit to begin with. I seem to do this every time - it’s the same old routine - paint the scaffolding first, so in goes the far edges, the darkest bits and the main veins. This is done with big brushes. I then try to do the lightest area and eventually, such as at 1pm this afternoon, I manage to settle on an area that appeals. I feel I have to say though, that with this piece I was beginning to worry that firstly - I wouldn't settle down as I was ALL OVER THE PLACE and secondly - I was beginning to get concerned that every time I moved around I would have to move everything with me to that extremity on the paper. So all in all I can conclude that big paper = a work out.

So here are some images of the bare bones. I am showing you the bare bones because I think it is funny how my paintings often look this diabolically bad to begin with. It's something I don't like to reveal at the best of times, but there you have it, I have decided to reveal all. I am also working on this one very differently to my previous pieces - because it is big I find I have become incredibly free with the brush. I am painting like an impressionist. I don't want the end product to be impressionist in style, but I can tell at this early stage that it might have a completely different feel to it. Maybe it will be more abstract - who knows?! I certainly don't. I don't have a clue - I just found something I wanted to paint big and am doing it. Hopefully, when I am finished, leaves will never be the same again and neither will I.

*St. Cuthberts Mill apparently don’t watermark their bigger paper.


  1. it's looking good, keep going!

  2. Fascinating to hear about, and get glimpes of your process...Also glad your 'black dog' has headed off for other places. So many of us struggle at times with these melancholic mutts. Looking forward to seeing how this piece progresses...Love your work : )

    1. Thanks Jo - super pleased that you have found the post insightful. Yes, I am glad the hound has gone too. For a minute then I was starting to get a bit worried. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    2. Thanks Jo - super pleased that you have found the post insightful. Yes, I am glad the hound has gone too. For a minute then I was starting to get a bit worried. Many thanks for your kind comments.