View of Soldier Camp

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Oil on canvas, 40″ x 28″

Begun months ago, this piece is finally finished.

Based on memories of being up in the hills in April or May, when the agapanthus were in full bloom and the hills were green from plenty of rain~

Walking between Woodside and Greenwich, on a narrow meandering roadway overlooking valleys of sweeping majesty, birdsong and woodland scents filling the air. In the distance the buildings of Soldier Camp glint in spring sunshine, and along either side of the Greenwich driveway the thriving gardens blaze with color. The healthy blossoms all boisterously happy in the cool air; if flowers could sing it’d be a choirburst of sound.

Now that it’s in the heat of summer, and with the holiday weekends coming up, many will be escaping into the hills, leaving the hot plains of Town behind, but those Springtime gardens of lilies and agapanthus are over ’til next Spring. Just a memory…

Once again, so many manifestations of this painting lie beneath the final surface, and all are now lost. The process seems to demand a certain heartlessness – areas that work are sacrificed in order to get all the areas to work together, to make the whole thing relate, and in that process certain fresh strokes and color combinations die. I can’t say that the finished piece is the best of all the versions that have gone before, it’s just that it now reads as a particular scene; the composition and colors make sense. It’s a long and laborious process and one that I’ve yet to master. Once again I’m reminded of Monet throwing himself into the river in frustration… I so understand.

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Summer Heat

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oil on canvas, 30″ x 36″

Finished a piece today, finally. When I started this one, loosely brushed a structure onto the canvas, it was so soft and ethereal, all misty greys and soft yellow light, and a composition that really formed itself. It was lovely, and I thought all I had to do was a few touches here and there and it was done, and I imagined that I was at last getting the hang of doing something quickly and well. Many weeks later I think I may have managed to pull it together, but not before labouring up many wrong turns, losing the soft subtlety long ago… It seems I am unable to do a gentle piece, that the paint in my hands has to have drama going on…so I gave into it and let the rich reds squelch and writhe, and the golds shimmer and pop. It reminds me now of the icons I used to immerse myself in many years ago, and that’s not a bad thing… and maybe one of these years I will know how and when to stop while it’s still fresh and gestural.

I’ve been thinking I should really get out of the garden and try a different subject, but these forms are very fun to paint, challenging too, but lots going on… wouldn’t mind doing another and abstracting it some – we’ll see.

Medinilla Magic

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oil on canvas, 41″ x 28″

The Medinilla Magnifica is one of these magical plants that’s so exquisitely beautiful it takes your breath away. A healthy and mature plant will bear many blossoms, each a cross between chandeliers and pink grapes, and every one in varying stages of flowering. Their ergonomic leaves are a sultry green, their strong stems tinged with a pale gold. The last time I saw one in full bloom was up in Greenwich, in the Blue Mountains above Kingston, although I have one in my garden that has yet to perform its magic. It’ll soon happen, when this queen of plants is ready ~ if everyone had a garden to tend there might well be peace on earth…

Tomorrow marks the end of the first month of having all day every day to paint.  I have two more to go, God willing. It’s a summer of no distractions, no commitments, no plans and no expectations other than to paint. Every morning I get up and go to the studio where it’s just me, the brushes, the paint, the canvas, and beautiful inspiring music (from RTE Lyric FM’s The Blue of the Night. One art form influencing another, the soundscapes suggesting an otherworld where every mark is intentional and beautiful and perfectly placed…) Because of this open time, progress is finally being made, and that is cause for quiet and deep gratitude. In the words of a painter who’s work I admire, Scott Conary, I’m becoming a better painter, and that’s no small thing.

I know how lucky I am to be able to do what I want to, and I don’t take it lightly. As with anything, showing up consistently has been the key thus far, as has slowing down and thinking about what I want to paint, letting it simmer within in vagueness for a while, and when it stays and makes itself clearer, I quickly sketch a wee plan on paper, and then sketch it loosely with a wash on the canvas, using a limited palette. Then I wait. Wait and see what it wants. There’s a fine line to be found between letting the paint and marks lead the way and restraining my own heavy-handedness, and when that happens there’s hope…