Saturday, 22 September 2012

Painting Winkworth Arboretum

I've finished another painting.  I'm quite pleased with it.  I hesitate to call myself an 'artist' but, I suppose, I am although I'm not comfortable with that.  It's a label I don't yet feel entitled to, like it's deeply pretentious to say 'I'm an artist'.  I admit I'm trying it on for size but it's still...embarrassing, shall we say?  Like admiring some really beautiful Louboutin shoes and daring to try them on but finding that they don't quite fit, and they're just too gorgeous and expensive to belong to the likes of me, who normally slobs about in Birkenstocks or trainers.  I'm not worthy of those Louboutins, and I'm not worthy to call myself - or be called - an artist.  I personally don't like my own paintings enough to be very comfortable in showing them, yet I still frame them and hang them on my walls, and post photographs of them on my Facebook page and, yes, blog about them.

It's a peculiar relationship.

I admit I like people saying nice things about them.  I like it a lot.  But it feels needy on my part.  I'm not very good at taking criticism - never have been.  I'm one of those people who if they start doing something have to be quite good at it almost immediately or else I'll never do it again.  I need praise and encouragement.  If I get told, 'well, it's quite nice but it's not one of your best, is it?' or 'never mind, it can always be painted over, can't it?' then I crumple internally like a small child and will cry about it later.  This is a huge failing on my part and I know it.  I'm sure there are reasons for it and if I were American I've no doubt I'd pursue some kind of therapy but I'm not, I pretend to have a stiff upper lip and soldier on through it.  I'm getting better at thinking, 'Thanks for that but sod you, I do actually like it and am going to carry on...' while just smiling at the critic and changing the subject.

I have no idea why I'm telling you all this.  Occasionally my blog turns into my accidental shrink where I say things I need to get off my chest - you might have noticed this! But enough of that for now.  Let's turn to what I was going to write about in the first place.

I have a friend on Facebook who is venturing into the world of painting with acrylics and one of my most recent posts on my FB profile was to put up a photo of the very beginning of my current painting.  It's of Fennigook Beach, Portwrinkle in Cornwall, based on a photo my brother took there in the summer.  It has a very strong composition so I've just sketched out the basic lines of the composition and blocked in the shapes with solid colour, basically just to cover the white canvas board.  The thing is that I really quite like it just like that, without any more detail. 

Here, I'll show you.  This is the photo my brother took on his phone, hence the muted colours:

And this is the start of my painting (don't forget you can click on all these pictures to embiggen them):

You see?  I really quite like that such as it is.  And now, of course, I'm worried that if I carry on I'll bugger it up and wish I'd not gone any further!*

Anyway, I posted the bottom photo and my friend commented that it was interesting to see the process, and I remembered that, like my previous paintings, I'd taken lots of photos of the previous work in progress, which was of Winkworth Arboretum, and that I'd been meaning to do a blog post about it so, in a very longwinded and roundabout way, this is that post!

So, almost exactly three years ago, I visited Winkworth Arboretum and took many photographs.  One particular photograph has stuck in my memory.  I was climbing the steps up from the grassy area on my way back to the car when I turned round and saw this almost perfectly framed gorgeous vista:

It was a gloriously sunny, late afternoon in early autumn and some of the leaves were starting to turn.  I decided I wanted to have a go at painting this.

About 10 or so - probably more - years ago I started watching a programme on the telly about how to paint watercolours, hosted by a very affable, silver-haired Irish chappy by the name of Frank Clarke.  I'd had a go at doing some of his 'paint-alongs' and the experience was very interesting, not least because it taught me that I didn't actually like using watercolours very much!  But he did have a few tips that I'd filed away in the back of my brain and one of them was an acronym/mnemonic that he recited to people when they asked in what order a painting should be done.  Have Some More Fun.  Or, translated - Horizon Sky Midground Foreground.  In other words, decide where your horizon is going to be, then do the sky first, then the midground and, last, the foreground.

Another thing Frank taught me was about how to use masking fluid.  Masking fluid is a thick rubbery liquid that you paint thickly onto an area of your painting that you want to keep paint off for the time being.  It dries and then you paint over it, and when the paint's dry, you peel off the masking fluid - which, incidentally, is as satisfying as peeling off strips of dead skin post-sunburn - to leave behind virgin canvas that you can then paint.

So following Frank's wise words, I decided to Have Some More Fun and do the sky first and I thought I'd experiment by using masking fluid where the tree trunks and main branches go across it.

I sketched in my horizon and then the two main trees on the left and right, and painted them in with the pale yellow masking fluid (it's pale yellow so you can see where you've put it.  You can also get it in pale blue).  I then painted in the sky.  I then realised I had a problem with using the masking fluid in relation to the way I use acrylic paints.  See, I tend to scrub the colours into the board and this, of course, means that I started to peel off the masking fluid with the brush.  Arse.  A useful lesson, though.

This mean I had to be a bit more careful and lighter with my touch where the trunks and branches were concerned.  Next I 'blocked in' the rest of the painting using various shades of green.  This, basically, just covers the white canvas board and gives you a base to start from:

In the next picture I've started adding more detail by basically stippling in more colours.  The leaves of the tree on the right are much darker than the one on the left.  I've also peeled off the masking tape so you can see how white the tree trunks are:

I next painted in the tree trunks and main branches solid black.  My art tutor said that one doesn't use black in paintings but, to me, in the photo I took they're black so black they will be! (I'm such a rebel!):

Next I started paying more attention to the midground, the more yellowy grassy section.  I also added more colour to the leaves to show where the sunlight was hitting them on the left hand tree, and also lightened and darkened the trees and hills in the distance:

Finally I sorted out the foreground, added the bushes and undergrowth, painted in the trees that were turning orange and put in the railway sleeper pathway, and it's done:

I think it's worked pretty well and took me about a week, I think, from start to finish, painting for about 2-3 hours a day.  I got a dark green frame for it and it's now hanging on the wall.  I think it bears a passing resemblance to the photograph so I'm pleased with it.  Plus I'm getting more confident in using colour and how acrylic paints work so it's all good practice!

*I've, more or less, decided to carry on with the more detailed painting as originally intended but if I do bugger it up, I'll just paint another one, like this one, instead since I know it already works!!


scotch said...

Thanks for this, Mrs Jones. X s

Susan said...

It is interesting seeing how you go about it. I can't draw to save my life: my artistic talents are limited to sewing/knitting/crochet and I wouldn't have a clue about doing a painting. Like you I really like the first stage in the beach painting, it's so simple and yet really visually effective.