Yesterday, I experienced a situation in the studio .
But first, let me set the scene: sunday morning, helpful husband has taken fractious teen and tween out mountain biking with the express purpose of leaving me free to paint. I am alone and ready to paint. I'm in my happy place. If allowed, I would have squealed. I know I was humming.Life was good.
Before I start, I decided to loosen up by priming some panels that need their last coat of gesso. Gesso, for those gesso-virgins amongst you, is a paint -like material that is binder, chalk, gypsum and pigment and is used to prime canvas and /or boards before painting them.It dries fast and is opaque. This stuff covers well. If I gessoed them, they would be ready for paint in a few days time.Perfect timing.
I picked up the pot of gesso by the screw lid, turned towards the panels .......and in doing so, the lid came off and the pot of paint sailed through the air, angling to the left like an cliff diver attempting a dangerous twist before plunging into the sea, hit the concrete floor and distributed half the contents of the pot in an arc of destruction. The angle of distribution was directly towards the large cabinet that holds all my completed, framed works. It also houses the corner where I lean large canvasses against the wall to dry. The area was crowded with works like a train station at thanksgiving or Durban beach on boxing day. Standing room only.
People. It was chaos. My world went very dark, very quickly. I had to prioritise. I grabbed the phone and took a few photos in case I needed to claim on insurance, then I dashed off to fill buckets with water and grabbed rags. I came back and triaged the room. Carnage.
completed works and framed works
works in progress
equipment hit in line of fire
floors and walls
It felt like it took forever. It felt like the paint multiplied in volume the longer it lay arounds. The splatter range made me wonder if the tub of gesso had had a pulse. Have you any idea how far paint can splatter?! It beggars belief, but let me just say, FUCKING FAR!!!
It did hit a lot of paintings and I did have to scrub it off. I hope I saved them all. The varnished ones were easy, but the ones in progress were not as lucky. Funnily enough, one splatter pattern on a landscape did give me an idea. I was too annoyed at the time to be grateful, but I did file it away in my pissed off little brain for later.
And yes, dear ones, it was my own fault for not having screwed the lid on the gesso pot the previous day. Lesson learned.
My hair still has gesso in it. At least it blends with the grey .
The moral of the story is: put the lid back on the tub and be grateful for lessons learned when the lid comes off. Silver linings and all that.
I went painting plein air at the old Matangi Dairy Factory on a sunny sunday afternoon . It's an historical site because it is no longer used for it's original purpose and the buildings are from 1800's. In New Zealand, with earthquakes etc, any building older than 100 years is a miraculous find!
I have been here before and it intrigues me because it's unusual and I have access to it. Most unusual building are behind fences with notices telling me to disappear and not to try and sneak in .(The railway yard is notorious). I had previously asked the owner if I may return and paint and he agreed( rather bemusedly) and I took him at his word.
Anyway, I went, painted and took photos and scouted for my next painting. Frankly, I could paint 100 paintings here. I do, however, have to close the gap between my incompetence in rendering architectural and engineering shapes and my competence with the idea. That gap is both
the fun and frustrating part. It may well take me in excess of 100 paintings before I feel I have it dialled. It does, however, require me to do some serious drawing and think about design a bit more, so that's the challenge.
I was going to sneak away in the night, not say goodbye and just start a new blog. Just like that. After 9 or so years of writing this blog, I was not sure I WAS a distracted painter anymore . I felt a shift in my thinking about the blog, my work etc etc. I was slightly embarrassed that I had been as bad as some of my earlier works and that there is evidence thereof. And then I had another shift in thinking . What the hell kind of message does that send when you are embarrassed by your work and not celebrating in your improvement?! I am aware that one day (when hell freezes over ) my kids might read this blog and take that on board. I would never want them to think that way, so how could I act that way.
The shift is still there. I feel different about my work, it definitely consumes me ( I should start a blog called "The Distracted Mother" !Ha!) and I am no longer distracted, instead incredibly focussed. I have never been more focussed on anything in my life before. So, instead of a break, I consider the last few months a hiatus.
Sorry I almost left without saying goodbye or leaving a forwarding address. I'm back now.
I took a trip to Stellenbosch , South Africa, to attend my 30th school reunion. I shall not bore you with the details but I had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed my nostalgic weekend. But my trip was not only to connect, it was to include painting and some workshop planning.
Whilst there, I scouted a venue and locations for a plein air workshop that I intend to offer 19-22 November 2016. The location is the rather gorgeous town of Riebeeck-Kasteel in the Swartland, the grain fields and vineyards an hour or so north of Cape Town. Details will follow, but I intend to teach the basics of plein air painting, how to edit scenes, work with limited palettes, composition and even paint a nocturne!!! I have a program that will cover 4 days( and nights!) of painting and perhaps some morning yoga too, if I can convince my local yogi to join us! (Yoga is totally optional but recommended!!) The final day will see local artist and plein air painter, Jenny Parsons, hold a masterclass. She will impart her wisdom, shortcuts and insights into the immensely rewarding and pleasurable art of plein air painting.
Anyway, I painted as much as I could and came home with several studies and a sketchbook full of notes and scribbles, thumbnails and a camera full of photos. My studio in south africa is very much a compact one but I seem to add equipment to it each time I return...brushes, paint, canvas, squeegees, varnish....next time I will leave an easel there!
Although I am not teaching plein air regularly on a tuesday this term( it's just too wet to guarantee much painting....I seem to be the only keen person to stand in the rain, painting!) , I will hold a weekend workshop at a location that has some indoor/ shelter available. It can't all be a sufferfest!!! I will let you know when I have the date and venue squared up on that one too.
This is very much a WATCH THIS SPACE post, I realise. I think you could call me a paint-tease.
Small study of the N2 to Cape Town
I delivered this to it's new owner!
The Plein air work of Jenny Parsons in the gorgeous Riebeeck Kasteel Gallery
The front verandah of the hotel! Gin and tonic, anyone?
.. some freaky stuff I saw in a backyard on a walk.....
interacting with some public sculpture...
..finding some commonality....
more painting...The Occupation: Story of an African Farm
A package arrived. It wasn't a surprise because I had ordered the package myself, but it WAS a surprise to the postman who delivered it. He knocked on my front door, and forgoing any of the conventional niceties of polite conversation that would include enquiring after after my health, perhaps some brief discussion of the weather, he came straight out with " What the hell have you ordered now?/!!". His candour is refreshing. " Cut to the chase, Flash" I said.
"I almost needed a bigger van" he spluttered. There was almost no room for anything else in the back of the red NZ Post rural delivery van.
Canvasses have arrived. Monsters. Wall encompassing, would -not-be-out-of-place-in-a-hotel sized canvasses. They arrive, swathed in cardboard, rustling with bubblewrap innards and eye-blindingly white. Pristine.
It's a bit like receiving a new baby. Totally perfect and only you can really fuck it up from here on in.
Same thing, totally. Been there, done that. They still talk to me.
So, pop canvas no.1 onto the easel, splash paint around liberally and marvel how much it actually requires to give it a bit of a going over...just once. Hop online and order more paint. Hop offline and keep painting. Marvel at how small your biggest brush feels at this stage. Hop in car and rush off and buy house painting brushes. Buy coffee whilst out there. Back to studio. Get fright at how big canvas is (again) . Procrastinate and pretend to "research" online. End up looking at pictures of dogs with beestung faces.Take dogs for walk. Walking is always good for settling things down, especially babies and canvasses.
Come back to studio. Headphone on. Paint.
A visitor to my studio expressed her dismay that my landscape painting were abstract. She was expecting beautifully rendered , representational( i.e. realistic) landscapes of bucolic country scenes. You know, like real landscape painters.
I could not have been more delighted.
I work really hard to find that sweet spot where I feel my paintings need to be. That spot is some place on the line between reprepresentaion and abstraction....and that line is long and has many sweet spots, just not always MY one. Its a tensionbetween the two elements that I try to achieve. The Twang of Perfect Place and Feel ( to me).
The work is hard because I have to give up some things in order to achieve others. I destroy a lot of good, observational passages to get to the "twang" that I feel.
I know this all reads as artists mumbo-jumbo, but I cannot tell you how delighted I was with my visitor's comments .It means I am doing something right. Never before have a I reacted so well to criticism!! Might be the last time, also, so please don't feel free to bombard me observations about my flaws or flaws in my work!
It gave me the courage I needed this morning to destroy work I had spent weeks on and repaint in the fashion that I felt better suited the painting.
Not a masterpiece, just a small victory and a move towards that sweet spot.