Orchid in Oils, Study #2

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oil on canvas, 10″ x 12″

This one’s a bit more free than the last one, and the one I’ve just started is freer still. They always start well. It’s keeping the freshness of stroke that’s the challenge…

It’s not the orchid that inspires me, not at all; a bright evening sky or a flowering pouie tree is a more inspiring sight to behold. But, an orchid fits in my studio, right beside my easel and paint set-up, and I can paint in quiet. And then there’s the pressing necessity of improving on my handling of brush and paint – that’s the real motivation. In painting them I’m becoming smitten, however, so impressed am I by their exquisite beauty, their shapes and colors and perfect structure. In many ways they make the ideal subject for a still life study, although you have to be quick, as the flowers are slowly moving all the time, unfurling their petals, buds becoming flowers overnight. And then there’s the shifting light that changes a petal from a dull muted plum tone to an illuminated glowing  hot-pink beacon, demanding an entirely different rendering, or not, depending on your level of patience and dedication… or commitment to the first fresh strokes, which I’m still trying to honour. My biggest failing is my tendency to overwork.

Notes to self as I journey and journal along…

 

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study #3 underway, painted quickly as the evening light was failing…

Orchid in Oils #1

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10″ x 12″, Oil on canvas

So, small it is for now, and on with the trying game, and from a wee orchid that’s blooming nicely. Sitting outside with it in the morning light is a lovely way to start the day….but more importantly, this first try has plenty of challenges that are testing me. Small doesn’t diminish the difficulty, or improve my skills for that matter, but the challenge is beginning to coax my brain into imagining how to approach this thing when I’m away from the work, and that’s a good start. Things like seeing creative and gestural marks, and how to suggest light and tone and dimension, and where to emphasize and where to ignore. If that process, that understanding  were to be more integrated when I have a brush in my hand then I’d be away on a hack, but alas, the struggle continues once I pick them up…

I was listening to the radio when painting the other day, and a classicly-trained Japanese pianist who only improvises played some beautiful pieces, but when asked by the radio host about her process, she said she’s never ever happy with her work. It seems to be part and parcel of this creativity game, always striving for something more, something better. I suppose it’s what keeps us obsessively at it…

Ruminations on Ruination

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Oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″ if I remember rightly

Back in the summer months when the heat had these heliconias thriving in the steamy garden, I started painting them in the early morning – or was it in the evening? – and continued in the studio as the canvas was too big and the weather too hot to complete in situ…

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en sweltering plein air…

I finished the piece at the end of the summer, and since January have been painting fairly consistently, and although there’ve been some pieces that I really liked AS I was doing them, I have ruined every single one of them, and have absolutely nothing to show for all the time and materials I’ve wasted. Luckily I was reading a book about Monet during this time and I learnt that he too struggled with the process, and burned, slashed and destroyed many of his paintings, indeed was notorious for it, and he often went through dry, barren and frustrating periods that lasted months. He once threw his paintbox in a river he was painting, and on another occasion threw himself into the same river, and often booked into a hotel rather than go home as his rotten mood would cause too much conflict, and he knew he had to  spare his family and deal with his demons alone. Of course I can’t compare myself to the likes of him when it comes to the level of painting he achieved, but I do relate to the dire despair,  and it’s very heartening to know that this frustration and hating your own dreadful work is part of the deal. In an attempt to end the impasse I’ve gone on to really small pieces, hoping to minimize the problem areas. God willing it works…

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My daughter Amber before I ruined it…

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My daughter Saoirse before I ruined this one too…