Monday, 30 March 2009

My arms, and tulips

trying to paint every day -- well not so much trying, as allowing myself the gorgeous treat of painting every day.

The two paintings that I've called My Arms were inspired by a photograph of an Australian ballet dancer. First I did the small painting on a black background, using just cobalt blue and white. I quite liked the x-ray effect, and being delicate, which is not how I see myself but with all these miniatures turns out perhaps to be part of me or part of how I paint. Then I did a large painting on a yellow ochre background which took several days and was very frustrating to work with. I used a blue watercolour pencil over the top of the first, annoying, image, and the frustration produced sweeping strokes that I quite liked. By this point, the paper was buckling. I tried to keep the pleasing strokes by painting more yellow ochre over the top, before stretching the watercolour paper, which should have been done first but wasn't. Then inside the pencil strokes I put glazes of rose and white to get the muscle shapes. Then I wanted a dark background on the left-hand side. Now it sits like this, still taped to my board because I know it's not finished but I'm not sure what happens next. I suppose I have to wait and see..

When I photographed the pictures and saw them on my screen, I realised that my body had painted my body, at least my arms. To avoid tingling and numb fingers in the night, I have to sleep with my arms straight or stretched out; when I'm half asleep, it feels as if my arms are miles long, stretching out into the distance.

The tulips were painted yesterday and seem to be moving in the same way. Again, I don't think this picture is finished but there are bits of it I like so much, but I'm scared to do more in case I lose them. Perhaps somewhere in here is the solution... draw boxes around the bits I like and keep them while painting the rest? if it was on paper I could cut them out and collage.. how to take a risk?

Friday, 13 March 2009

A set of miniature pictures

Last Sunday I went for a walk around the wood to see what was happening spring-wise. The bluebell leaves are pushing up through the dead oak leaves. Honeysuckle has the first new leaves at the top of its climbing stems. On the trees, buds are thickening, colouring, preparing. Birds are busy and pursuing conversations across hedgerows. No primroses yet, although in the city the verges are already full of them.

I had an idea to paint the trees that I've been scrutinising and drawing for the last weeks, determined to capture their winter shapes. Around here the trees stand against the skyline, often growing out of hedges, and when they are bare, the different shapes are very clear. The stag-headed oaks have branches that die off and remain amongst the living tree, sharp and spiky. On the road to town, there is a copper beech whose branches curve around and go back the way they came, creating the most beautiful fluid shape.

To make the miniatures, I take small sheets watercolour paper -- about 8" x 4" -- and draw a rectangle inside them. I use the acrylics very wet on the moistened rectangle to make country skies and rolling fields. When they are dry, I use my pen or paint to whisper a hedge, to grow a tree. Some of the trees grow out of their rectangular screen. The stag-headed oaks spike against their skies. Mostly the trees insist on remaining alone.

I want to add writing but can't yet work out how to do it. Scared of spoiling what I have done.