It has been an odd start to the year for me. In many ways I have struggled to build a momentum as one by one, coughs, colds and flu bugs descended to render me without energy or inspiration.
Days and weeks have drifted past, where small things were accomplished, but many things were not. I had a fear that these winter viruses were going to be an ever present feature in my life, and that feeling tired and run down were now the norm. However, as I am a student of the Glass Half Full school of living, I decided that enough was enough; runny nose or not, it was time to pull myself up by my bootstraps, invest in my health and take a good hard look at getting back into the swing of things. One cannot simply let it all go, especially when you are a creative soul. It only leads to disaster, as well as terrible moods.
So, I started a painting. I worked from my memories of my Grandad's greenhouse, my Mum's garden, our shed full of bits and bobs, favourite china bowls and things from around my home, and my own furtive attempts at growing things. For the first time in a long time, I decided to start the painting with a dark wash using paynes grey acrylic, and I painted this onto Hahnemuhle 'Cornwall' paper (my most favourite for acrylic and watercolour alike). I like painting on a dark background, it means lots and lots of layers of subtle washes to build the picture up, and they almost disappear into the one below until there is a shimmering wealth of colour to be had. It takes time, but it is splendidly therapeutic and relaxing. It is easy to forget to have lunch, and to pick up the child from school, so immersed am I in the pleasure of mixing all these colours, and creating a cornucopia of Spring beauty in what was to be titled 'The Potting Shed.
Here you see a glimpse of the very dark beginnings of the painting. And then, I drew on it with a watercolour crayon. It doesn't matter much what colour you use as the water on your paintbrush will melt the lines away. Once the drawing is complete, it is time to start adding colour. Sometimes it is watery, to the point of being a watercolour consistency, and others it is thicker, worked into the darkness with a sturdy dryish brush.
And now, we can see the details emerging - little plant pot labels, ditsy flowers on the china bowls, a mid afternoon snack for the gardener of tea and a fine cherry bakewell! I also decided to add more elements to the piece as I went along, ones that were not originally drawn in. This way of painting is very free flowing in a way, I am not rigid about sticking to my first drawing, and as I work my eye sees a space that needs a teacup with a few narcissi in it, or a cat asleep on the rug.
Do you see how the picture has moved from being very dark, to light and bright? Don't be afraid to add different colours to a space, that you may initially think 'oh dear me no!' - for example, when painting in the glass of the windows, I used yellow, green and turquoise amongst the layers. It will make your colours shimmer somehow, most magical!
If you like, you could have a go at some of these techniques yourself. It doesn't matter if you dont have the same paper as I used, any good watercolour paper will do. If you're new to acrylic and wanting to have a try for the first time, you can often get some decent sets online for a good price. It's a very wonderful medium, and one that I constantly come back to. Have a play around with the layers, try adding more water to your paint, or a little less - see what it feels and looks like.
Most of all, have fun. Art works best when you are enjoying it, and just being yourself.
PS - fine art prints, a limited edition run (50) of The Potting Shed will be available from my website this week.