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)
I am often asked where I get the inspiration for my paintings. The simple answer is that I go out for a wander. I always go armed with my camera. Sometimes, I am caught unawares and will take photos on my phone, if something catches my eye when out and about. I love the response I heard once to the query "what's the best camera to use for taking photos?" - "the one you have with you!" Makes perfect sense to me.
I mainly paint from my own photographs; when I get home I transfer all the photos I've taken onto my laptop, and then print out ones that appeal to me onto A4 paper. I then use those as a reference. I never set out to produce an exact replica of the photo; there will always be omissions or additions, depending on the subject matter, my mood or level of patience on the day! A favourite haunt is Footdee, or Fittie, in Aberdeen; I love the buildings and sheds, and their brightly coloured doors. It's a great source of inspiration. The shed above appealed to me - the photo was taken just a few days ago, with the painting done several years ago. It's had a lick of paint recently!
I based "Fittie Deckchair" on the photo above; missing out the people and using a certain amount of "artistic licence" with colours, composition and construction. Sometimes, I will take photos which I feel work best staying as photos; I'll write about this another time.
Wishing everyone a joyous and peaceful Christmas and health and happiness in 2018! Thank you very much for all your interest and support over the past year.
My November newsletter has just been sent out, by email. You can read it here.
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Many thanks to everyone who came to visit us at Newton Dee during North East Open Studios in September. It was lovely to meet all who visited and I really enjoyed the company of my fellow artists. One of these artists was Lucy Brydon, who was showing visitors the delights of gelli printing. Last year I had a go at this and recently I acquired some gelli printing equipment (basically just a small gelli plate and a roller for rolling out paint or ink onto it. I already had acrylic paint in the studio). Over recent days I've been having a go at printing some designs for this year's Christmas cards. It has been an interesting experience; I am learning as I go along. I am finding it harder than I expected to figure out what order to do the different steps in. Doing things in reverse does not seem to come naturally to me. It's fun, though, laying down layers of different colours, using stencils and found objects (leaves, ferns, fabric, wool, paper doilies) to make patterns. the whole process will be easier once I have another roller or two for inking up the gelli plate! (they have been ordered, hope they come soon!). I am realising it would almost certainly be better and easier to using printing inks for this method, as the acrylic paint I am using dries very quickly. This can also be seen as an advantage, not having to wait for prints to dry before adding another layer. Using up materials I already have, however, is what needs to be done for now, so I will persevere with the acrylic paint.
The next step is to take photographs of the prints, maybe tweak the colours a little, or crop the images, and decide which ones to use for my cards this year! Onwards and upwards.
Once again, it's time for North East Open Studios. This will be my seventh year taking part! For a change, I will not be exhibiting in the cabin in my back garden (apologies to fans!), instead joining forces with five lovely creatives at the Phoenix Community Centre at Newton Dee in Bieldside in Aberdeen. We are calling ourselves "Art at the Phoenix" and have our own Facebook page. I will have more space to show my work and it will be great to have company during the event. Four of us are artists, with a fused glass maker and a potter adding to the mix. The venue will be open daily from 9th - 17th September, 10am - 4pm. Look forward to seeing you there! I am number 263 in the book; directions to the venue are in my listing.
Art at the Phoenix is part of the Lower Deeside Trail (which I was part of in past years). It lays out 11 venues, featuring 19 artists and makers, within 6 miles of each other. See map below (also available from my Pebbles on the Beach FB page, and the NEOS website).
I finally broke into the 5' wide roll of Fabriano watercolour paper which I bought in a flurry of enthusiasm nearly two years ago. Yes, sometimes it takes a while to get around to doing things. This was verging on the ridiculous, so when I knew we were to be painting landscapes at art class yesterday morning, it was time. The paper is deliciously thick (300g for those of you who are interested), more like card than paper. I did have to cut it, sadly, as I don't have a board large enough to put it on to paint. It stayed rolled after cutting, so I wet it, stretched it and taped it onto the widest board I own (a great £2 offcut from a well known DIY store). There is something very satisfying about this process of preparing the paper. Almost like a meditation.
And then, finally, to painting. My favourite brush was nowhere to be found (a 1 1/2 inch wide woodwork brush), so I picked up a wide brush with a long wooden handle. It has a proper name, which I can't recall now. It may come to me. I love using a big brush and lots of water. I may even see if I can acquire something bigger. The only limitation is the size of the watercolour pans of paint. There is always a way. Some of the day's efforts are shown above; they will be on show from next weekend at my North East Open Studios event with Art at the Phoenix at the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee (I am number 263 in the book this year).
MBC Art Exhibition
I hope this finds you well and that you have had a good summer. It's hard to believe that it's mid-August already - so next weekend is when the Milltimber, Bieldside & Cults (MBC) art exhibition takes place at the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee in Bieldside. I will have a few paintings on show, both framed work and mounted and also some of my cards. There is always a great selection of work by local artists.You are very welcome to come along when it's open (see the opening times above). The Milltimber Playgroup mums will be providing teas, coffees and homebakes at the weekend! Hope to see you there.
North East Open Studios (NEOS)
(Saturday 9th - Sunday 17th September).
Just a wee reminder about NEOS. This time, for a change, I will bepart of a lovely group of artists and makers at the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee in Bieldside. I will have a bit more space than in the cabin, to show my work. The venue will be open 10am - 4pm every day. I am number 263 in the NEOS directory this year. Look forward to seeing you there!
Last but not least ...
I am delighted to be supporting Cornerstone's first ever Art Fair, which will take place on Friday 29th September - Saturday 30th September at the Sir Ian Wood Building at RGU in Aberdeen. They have an Instagram account where you can have a wee preview of the art which will be available to purchase.
Thank you very much for your continued interest and support.
I visited the RSPB nature reserve at Troup Head the other day. I had not planned to visit, but was in Portsoy and spied the cliffs to the east, from my vantage point above the harbour. I recalled a friend telling me it was the place to go to see the gannets. I saw many gannets on the Bass Rock while in North Berwick a couple of months ago, and more recently a few solitary ones, diving for fish off the coast at Gairloch in Wester Ross.
Following my trusty Google maps, I drove along the tiny road to the headland, hesitating slightly when it came to driving through a farmyard (by that time there were reassuring RSPB signs) and finally reached the tiny car park. Avoiding puddles, I had a look at the map indicating the path(s) to the cliffs. I regretted not putting my walking shoes or boots in the car. Luckily I was wearing reasonably sensible footwear, but would advise on non-slip soles at a minimum.
After a false start (my memory of the map was not great), I followed the straight path through a goldening field of barley towards the headland. It is a while since I walked that distance in a straight line. Two parallel tracks through the crop. I met one couple and a woman; they traversed to the other furrow. Coming to the edge of the field, the path turned to the left, leading upwards across grassland. Ahead lay a gorse covered mound, through which another path (the red one) travelled. I chose the blue (shorter) path, mindful of my less than ideal footwear.
Through the barley field, the sound had been the swishing of heads and beards. As I approached the crest of the slope, the sounds of bird cries began to reach me in the wind. On the ground, on the trodden grass, were occasional wisps of downy white. Some small, some larger. As I started going downhill, the frequency of downy wisps became greater. There were occasional small white feathers. And the unmistakeable smell of fish. The bird calls became louder. Through the kissing gate, I passed a couple of photographers with tripods and huge lenses, eyeing my small bridge camera with what seemed like amusement. Turning left, past the sign which indicated the way back to the car park (should my nerve fail me) or onward to the viewpoint.
I walked along the path. Slowly, not wanting to miss anything. A few birds could be seen on the grassy cliff tops. Further on, I could see down to the turquoise depths below; the waves crashing on the rocks. Birds perched on the cliffs; on turf beds with their babies. I did not see the young ones at the time; my eyes were glued to the swooping and soaring display taking place in the sky right in front of me. I have always thought that gannets were graceful birds. My mind has been changed. Laughter spilled out of me - their movements were comical, ungainly, yet amazing. A gannet would storm up from the left of me (with the wind) - up - up - up and then turn to fly back, swooping down with great speed. Or come in to land on the cliff, big black webbed feet akimbo and wobbling like a novice on a high wire. I watched and watched; tried to take some photographs which captured their fantastic flying feats. And then I watched some more. It really was an thrilling and enchanting experience. Magical.
I started writing this poem seven years ago. Today I finished it. This was prompted by a conversation last night about "mental load" and being directed to a cartoon illustrating this concept. It is an interesting concept and I realised its close connection with my thoughts while writing this poem. The pie chart above was constructed in 1999; that was not just about "mental load", but "physical load" as well. I am half-hoping that the legend is illegible!
NB: The poem was written at a time when we had a dog, a guinea pig and probably a budgie as well.
This is the path
That leads to the shed
That Jennifer wants to write in.
This is the poo
That lies on the lawn
That blocks the path
That leads to the shed
That Jennifer wants to write in
This is the guinea pig
Nice and warm
Out in his hutch,
ignoring the storm
that needed fed
and straw for his bed
on the path to the shed
that Jennifer wants to write in
these are the garments
washed and wet
that need some drying
and ironing yet
here is the post
on the mat
There is the telephone
Waiting to ring
Daring to call
To see if she’s in
Here are the dishes
In the sink
Here is the dog
Who needs a drink
Here is the clock
As it slips away
There is the rain
Falling out of the sky
Rescue the washing
-It’s nearly dry!
These were the obstacles
All in her head
Things to be done
And some to be said
Now she sees clearly
What she must do
-leave all the small stuff
And find a way through
To go on the path
That leads to the shed
That Jennifer's going to write in.