I am about to write a post about something I don’t really do. Is it really possible to plot your creative future in advance? When I was at college the Systems painters had their painting futures almost mapped out to the grave, and they were only twenty. I thought at the time how dreary the process of producing their work was. 50 years of painting eye wrenching Bridgit Riley patterns would drive me mad… I could never plan series of works in the way that they do. I was tempted recently to try and do a multiple of a particular scene in different lights, but then thought whatever is the point in making one painting contingent on another? I know Monet did this but I don’t think it is for me. The arrangement and sequence become as, if not more important than the individual painting or the paint on the surface, which I don’t want.
Having goals is a different matter. I have always had targets I aim for, learning to paint pictures for framing and to become familiar with working in oils are recent ones. I have had many other goals from mastering 3d computer graphics to learning how to make celtic manuscripts. Each has broadened my view of art and opened unsuspected doors to interesting possibilities. If blessed, (or cursed) with immortality then I think I would have wandered on in much the same manner. Impending extinction does have a way of focussing the mind. It slowly becomes obvious, even with the most optimistic guess at the active span of time I have before me, that I was not going to get all the different things I fancied learning to do done. In a way that simplifies things, many projects I would like to pursue are not possible as they could never be completed. So that novel, the autobiography, the learning to wood carve and knit jumpers have to be ditched. I am left with only a few really, paint and draw landscapes until I have learnt as much as I can and move from drawing people clad or unclad to painting them. Music as well I have to carry on with that though I didn’t start early enough in life to be able to inhabit the medium as I see those fortunate souls who learnt from childhood do.
If I was to summarise, perhaps for my younger self dreaming of conquering the comic book world, it would be don’t hang on to your ambitions after they have passed their sell by date. I continued with book illustration far longer than I should have for example, long after it was quite plain that I was not enjoying it. Sometimes once you achieve an ambition it is only to find that it is not for you. Also don’t fear giving up a paying proposition that has lost its shine to follow a glittery new dream. I have taken a fair few leaps of faith in my life and regretted none of them, nor did any of the changes of course result in penury. The years you might lend to servicing what you imagine at the time to be grim necessity will never come back and you really will run out of life and days to do anything worthwhile. If you do anything really well people will be prepared to give you money to do it, not untold wealth but at least enough to scrape by.
I often see people with unrealistic artistic ambitions, in the same way as I have them myself in the area of music. Though I might dream of playing the flute to a soloists standard I know that this is unlikely to occur. But I find that this doesn’t in any way damage the pleasure in trying anyhow. There is no shame in doing something casually for pleasure and to reach for the stars with no expectation of success. There is after all pleasure to be gained and sights to be seen from climbing a hill as well as the more painful prospect of ascending Everest. With art as well there is the lottery effect, you might just get lucky and paint a world beater! I am myself also having to come to terms with the fact that at a certain stage I might stop making any improvement. This is a hard and uncomfortable thought as is the one that my abilities will inevitably decline.
On a more cheerful note here are my efforts with the splishy splashy stuff in France.
We start in Dorset, this is Shaftesbury, I decided that I needed to do a larger watercolour to ring the changes. It is always hard to balance the two requirements of being reasonably accurate and the other of not killing the whole thing by being too finicky. As with all things different subjects need different approaches, so with a townscape you might well manage to leap in and get all the washes free and expressive, but if the underlying drawing is poor then the painting will be too. I very often see artists inspired by Alvaro Castagnet and others hurling paint at the paper in what they hope is a free and emotive way only to get some basic thing such as perspective or scale of figures so incorrect that the final work is fatally compromised. Here I have painted everything pretty freely with a large mop. My drawing out was pretty accurate, but I did not slavishly stick to the lines only using them as a guide as to where paint strokes should lie. Some like to have dribbles and splashes on show but I dislike that as it is a meaningless gesture trying to tell the viewer how energetically the painter worked. As such for me a style quirk and to be avoided. 1/2 sheet Watercolour.
Every year I have a go at those scary greens that look so lovely in real life but not so great in a painting. This is Hambledon Hill and a bit ho hum. Nothing fearfully wrong just a bit dull. I am going to have to up my game with the landscape watercolours. Days when the light is dramatic or the weather doing exciting things are easy enough, but it is the glorious sunny summer days that give me problems. 1/4 sheet Watercolour.
France at last! This is Le Croisic, I was faced immediately with the dazzling light you get from being that little bit further south. Not the greatest of compositions as the locals have replaced what was once I suspect a paintable bridge with an ugly one. I was pleased to get the feel of the light though. 7in by 5in Watercolour.
Here is one that went wrong. I was trying to get the contrasts right but should have picked a less widescreen view. I ended up throwing the kitchen sink at it in the end with pen and body colour. No matter though I learnt a lot doing it and whenever I look at this little sketch I will remember! 7in by 5in Watercolour.
I set out to Le Croisic early on this day with intent. As is often the case I couldn’t find anything to get my teeth into. I settled in the end for doing a small sketch of this very ordinary street. I liked the contrasts and it was areal pleasure to paint. 5in by 7in Watercolour.
Next I moved on to do a larger one of the church, lots I like about this and I might do a studio version. The foreground needs simplifying and the car is a little too dominant, just the lighter one behind would have been better. I don’t like to leave the cars out as many do because they are such an integral part of our times. The light was very milky which was great fun to try and catch. 10in by 8in Watercolour.
This is Guerande across the salt marshes from Le Croisic. The town retains it’s walls and is very paintable. I enjoyed sitting and doing this though the paint was drying furiously fast. Later I saw a group of figures lingering on the right of the tree which would have worked better compositionally, but I shan’t mess with this one. 10in by 7in Watercolour.
After sitting and drawing in the full sun I needed some shade. When I saw a vacant bench under a tree I occupied it pronto. I did this just to amuse myself and got nearly everything wrong. Just goes to show you can never scrimp on the initial drawing! 7in by 5in. Watercolour.
This is St Nazaire, blindingly hot so the washes dried instantly. I was in full sun and found even the paint in the palette would need constant rewetting. One for the cupboard rather than the frame I fear! 10in by 8in Watercolour.
This is Honfleur, I couldn’t resist the perspective over the rooftops, once again I was in blistering sun so painted it in patches rather than full washes. Pleased with the result and will attempt a studio one from it. 10in by 7in Watercolour.
Last one from Honfleur, I couldn’t resist this scene as it was so typical. I liked the way it broke into a big diagonal with one of the resultant triangles full of stuff and the other almost empty. Also I was in the shade so I could get big wet washes in place which so helps with unity in the final result. I drew the motor bike to very, very carefully as it was so key to the whole picture. Best one of the trip. 10in by 8in Watercolour.
That’s it from France, I enjoyed the trip hugely. Next I am going to try and get the landscape watercolours going in Dorset, I need to find an idiom that catches the grandeur without becoming too picturesque.