Finding a Way

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Oil on canvas, 30″ x 36″

So I’m still trying to find my way, my one particular style of painting. I’ve spent the summer responding to this and that: painting orchids from a flower right in front of me, the ‘plein air’ approach, and as close as I got to painting outside as it’s so damn hot; starting something from life and then continuing in the studio with the help of a photo; starting from a photo and then trying to allow the paint to take over so the image is not too literal, but the paint is what’s important; experimenting with a collage-and-glazes technique I gave a workshop in, and going big with it…  All have had their challenges, and I can’t say that I know which approach resonates the most with me, so I guess I’m still exploring.

This one I started months ago, inspired by a photograph I saw on Facebook of someone entering a river’s pool somewhere in the interior of Jamaica, and I really liked the feel of the place, and rather than pack up the car with equipment and go and find this magical river, I started from the shot and took it from there. The other day I found the painting amongst a stack of unfinished canvases, so I put a few touches to it and titled it to reflect the fact that I don’t know one definite way, but am pretty open to the exploration. Maybe ‘Finding’ is presumptive; it’s searching really….It would be easier if I knew my ‘style’, but that will either become clear in time or it won’t. And I’ve always liked a variety and find it hard to stay with one approach. One thing I know is this type of narrative painting, the one with a ‘story’, a depiction of something happening as such, is easier to conclude than the type of painting that is an exploration in paint alone… I have many of those unfinished…

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Agapanthus pathway

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‘Agapanthus Pathway’, Oil on canvas, 24” x 54″

 

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Another agapanthus piece. So many good memories associated with these flowers must be what keeps me painting them, that and their beauty. And the variety in their shapes, from the form of the buds, to the opening stages, to the full spherical glory of them – they seem to offer an ongoing exploration. Then there’s the light that shines through them, making them a whimsical and dreamy subject…

I remember when my oldest daughter was four, five, six years of age and I had birthday parties  for her in the garden in Mandeville, in the cool central hills of Jamaica, where the agapanthus thrive. They usually begin to bloom in late April, which is when her birthday is. Rather than be too involved with the party and the other kids, she’d slowly walk through the beds of agapanthus, distracted by something more important and interesting to her I suppose. Being the same height as the blossoms, she was at eye-level with them, and she’d be lost in their magic, her little fingers touching the petals, her focus on watching the bees as they went in and out of the flowers, her little feet steeping carefully between plants. She was a slight little thing, with near white hair, and I’d see her head glinting between the big blue and purple blossoms, the rest of her lost in the mass of them. Now she’s all grown up and a corporate lawyer in the City of London…how times change : )

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Again, this one was started months ago and has gone through so many changes, but I think finally I can leave it and move on.

Note to self: In trying to be more abstract with the work, more about the paint and the surface and the sense evoked, many areas and colors emerge that I really like, but then it becomes too confusing and indecisive, and so I keep working, day after day and week after week, and if I’m lucky I’ll end up with a piece that emits a feel of the subject, but it’s no longer and abstraction. How to solve this?

Zika-free zone (immune anyway…)

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oil on canvas, 40″ x 54″

Summer coming to an end, and so many almost-finished paintings around the house that don’t need a huge amount to pull together, and I was about to cap the summer of painting with the finishing touches, but then zika struck… Not too bad really, not after chick-v and dengue, but it still took a full 10 days to begin functioning again.

This one also went through quite a few changes, but I am seeing that a flow is beginning, now that I’ve spent so many months steadily painting, and the next pieces are not having to change direction so many times. There is hope.

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detail

Under the Petrea Tree, beside the Pool

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oil on canvas, 20″ x 28″

It’s been such a perfect summer, with plenty of rain and breeze, and anytime it has become unbearably hot it hasn’t lasted long, with more rain blowing in and cooling down the place, seeping into the garden and allowing the plants to thrive. No burning hills, no year-long drought and furnace skies blasting the island and killing life, which is what we had last summer and what I was dreading. Rather it’s been cool mornings, beautiful blossoming trees and greenery wherever you go, and here in my garden things have never been better. And then the delight of sharing it with my dear daughter, who having to recover from a tonsillectomy had to lie around languidly, creating gorgeous cameos wherever she went, so as she lay and relaxed I ran for my oil paints ( and table and solvents and easel and brushes) and tried to do her and the dappling light justice….

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sketch #1

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sketch #2

Lovely though it has been, this painting business is not easy. With every stage some spontaneous gestural marks that I really like have emerged, and trying to keep them and still be true to the pose and the light has been a problem, and time after time I fail. Motivation to keep at it alright, but it’s too bad that I lose so much as I progress. I rarely am satisfied with the finished piece as I grieve the loss of all those strokes that lie beneath…

AmberDia Reading

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oil on canvas, 24″ x 32″

My daughter AmberDia and I had a wonderful month together this summer, both of us spending as much time as we could drawing and painting at home. We modeled for each other, discussed approaches and finishes, and altogether delighted in the shared passion of painting. A mother-and-daughter bond is a very special thing, and to be cherished : )

Trying to finish up a few of them now…

An Abundance

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EDIT: Made changes to this one – wasn’t happy with the bright expanse of yellows and greens and felt it needed someplace for the eye to rest, a break from the sunshine, a contrast to allow the light to be significant. The third distant flower, added towards the end of the painting’s emergence, was too obviously placed, too defined and too green, so I moved it, neutralized and cooled the background light, and softened it’s edges. Much happier with it now. I hope the home it’s going to will also be happy with it, and see it as restful – I know it’s also dynamic, hence all the more reason for an area of rest…go well and emit peace my dear painting : )

 

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Oil on canvas, 36″ x 40″

 

Having my morning coffee in front of a resplendent dozen of these gorgeous pink pendulums, all glinting in the early light, hanging from their stems and creating arches with their weight. There are so many of them, and each one grows to over 3′ long, with up to 20 slender bracts that look like the smooth silk stocking-clad thighs of a bank of burlesque dancers, all stretching out their extended legs, pointing a tiny ballet slipper into the light…

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So many shapes and tones and curves and planes, and illuminated membranes and shaded spears, and then the stalks and leaves, and the gradual recession of the grove has my work cut out, and I know I’ll never do them justice, but their beauty and magnificence keeps me paying homage…20160612_071415

Easter Sunday

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Oil on canvas, 20″ x 30″

Good friends invited us up the hills for the Easter weekend, to a very special home nestled on a grassy ridge between steep slopes of coffee bushes and pine trees, with nothing around but birds and breeze, and nothing to distract from the stunning views other than the good friends themselves, but sure we were all entranced. Even when playing the traditional game of malicious croquet on the lawn, we would pause our cheating ways to watch in awe as mist tumbled over a nearby hill. We were surrounded by beauty, non-stop.

Sunday morning I practiced yoga with this view in front of me. Lupins glistened and glowed with morning light and dew upon them, and pink roses grew wildly in every direction. The hummingbirds and butterflies were out on their morning rounds, and in the distance I could see the soldiers at Soldier Camp running up and down the very steep hills, keeping fit. I was happy to be doing slow quiet stretches, no running…and breathing in the beauty. I knew I would have to try and paint it…

Of course the Camp is a leftover from the days of British Imperialism, and an interesting parallel it was to be looking at it across the valley, as back home in Ireland the centennial of the Easter Rising was being commemorated (the Irish Rebellion against British rule), with lots of discussion and debate, plays, performances and articles, some of which I accessed online and learnt a lot in the process. There are many similarities between the Irish and the Jamaicans, and being colonized by the British is one of them. It’s a history that has created much of what we are today, in both Ireland and Jamaica, a rather mixed bag of inheritance, packed with stories and tales of courage, aspiration, sorrow, failure and success, disappointment and loss, and of course love. So layered, so human, so full of  the lives of so many people living their one life in the best way they can, or not. And so it continues.