Sometimes it is the things you see every day which inspire you. A colour or texture catches your eye, and you're hooked. The itch starts, and you find you have to paint it. Whatever it might be. This happened for me a couple of years ago, when I was working with the lovely Vital Veg at Midmar. Every week I packed beautiful, colourful veg into veg bags for customers. Some of the veg came home with me. And some of that came with me to the weekly art class I was attending.
I wasn't aiming for still life. Nor was I trying to make an exact, photographic image. I was aiming, I think, for a celebration of deliciousness. I laid the veg (the larger the better, some soil was often present too) on a sheet of white paper on the table I was working at, with a large piece of (usually cartridge) paper beside it. I had seen that this was how the wonderful Elizabeth Blackadder paints her gorgeous flowers. I am a great admirer of her work, so off I went...
Another influence fed into this process. A few years ago, I attended a workshop with Sofia Perina-Miller, whose work I also greatly admire. She paints fabulous striking flowers, as well as many other subjects. She showed us how to paint directly onto paper, without doing any initial drawing. This was an entirely new experience for me - and I found that I loved the freedom of it! Instead of feeling constrained by the pencil lines, I was "free" to paint directly, loosely, using vibrant colours, which resulted in more lively work. Sofia usually adds meticulous pen and ink details to her work. I left mine as they were; as I may have mentioned before I have rather limited patience!
There is always a certain amount of fear involved in painting this way. I had to learn to be brave, to trust that the colours I was choosing and the marks I was making were strong and true and confident. This was no time for fiddling around with details and tentative marks. Before I started, I would look carefully at the veg, get a feel for the overall shape and size and proportions, the main colours, the shadows on the paper. Really look, and get a feel for it. It helped to stand up, to have everything I needed to hand and to just do it, quickly. I love this way of working; writing this makes me want to do some more of this kind of work.
Some of my veg paintings are available as digital downloads from my Etsy shop.
Various items (prints, mugs, phone covers, tote bags etc.) sporting my veg paintings can also be found on Redbubble.
All the paintings can be viewed in my gallery (most originals are available)
It was time for a break. A week off on the west coast. We looked at the weather forecast, but didn't pay much attention to it. We had decided to go, whatever the weather. The trick is just to get out in it. If it's fine in the morning, don't delay a walk on the beach until the afternoon. It could well be raining by then. It could be raining in an hour, or in half an hour. That's the beauty of the west coast, in many ways. The constantly changing light, the endless shades of the sea and sky and how they sometimes seem to merge into one. Skye disappears behind thick banks of raincloud, only to reappear with bright shafts of sunlight illuminating its eastern slopes and shores.
One day we had a wonderful trip to Applecross. The day started grey and damp, but we headed there, undaunted, stopping at Torridon on the way. The General Stores there have lovely home baking and good coffee, so a stop there was a must. The Gallery is worth a visit too - it's in the community centre there and has a wide range of work by local artists (including yours truly). I dropped off some cards there too. Delighted to have another outlet.
Applecross was looking picture-postcard perfect. Blue sky, blue sea and throngs of holidaymakers enjoying what the Inn had to offer. We availed ourselves of the food and drink and very good it was too. The return journey was made via the Bealach na Ba (pass of the cattle), which I was more familiar with approaching from the other direction. We spent many family holidays in Lochcarron, including New Year and Easter. If the weather was cold enough, we would make the trip to the top of the Bealach and skate on one of the little lochans there. After my father had tested the ice, of course. A hard frost for 3 nights or so was all that was required - and no snow to spoil the ice, of course!
The view down to Kishorn from the Bealach brought back memories too. There was no sandy beach in Lochcarron, so in the summer if the weather was fine and warm, we would drive over the hill to swim at the sandy beach at Kishorn. One memorable summer, the mackerel came in to the shore, after sprats, which they drove boiling to the surface. I have vague recollections of my brother and father running along the shore with buckets, scooping fish out of the water. Or maybe that was the story that was told. Somewhere, there is a set of family diaries which were kept during those holidays. This year, history moved on and it was my son who brought back a great catch of mackerel from a successful fishing trip.
The older I get, the more I believe in fate. In things happening for a reason. Those apparently coincidental meetings which result in all manner of happenings. Sometimes we have to engineer fate a little, but that's not a bad thing. Everything and everyone needs a little nudge in the right direction every so often. And so it was that I ventured out into Royal Deeside a few weekends ago, to see what opportunities might be there, for exhibiting my paintings. I had in mind a visit to Larks Gallery in Ballater. That is where we went. I got into conversation with the gallery owner, and the next thing I knew, I'd been invited to be "Artist of the Month" for March. I floated home on a little cloud, while feverishly working out if I had enough framed work to fulfill my promise. I didn't, but I had enough time to remedy the situation. I always work better to deadlines, so this helped me get myself organised. Over the past few years, realisation has dawned that no-one will see my work, or have the chance to buy it, if it is sitting in my studio. Simple really, isn't it? Occasionally, of course, someone will see my work here on my website, but that is less common. So, I am delighted to have some of my work currently on show at Larks Gallery (including the three paintings shown above) and hope it will be the start of an ongoing relationship. They are now stocking some of my greetings cards too.