Saturday, 2 January 2010

Loving the Winter Artwork

I am something of a pagan. In midwinter when everybody bangs on about the Xmas thing I prefer to sit and think of nature slowed down for its winter sleep. There is, after all, the winter solstice to remind us of this. Rest and renewal. Burning the yule log as a symbol of fertility and abundance. Candlelight and log fires. And may I remind you that pagan means ‘of the country’ or ‘one who lives with nature’.

As an independent self-governed person I can mostly manage this. Shorter daylight hours means I work less in the studio (I prefer to work by natural light) and spend more time in bed or a comfy armchair. Maybe you could too. This conserves both personal and planetary energy. It’s a great relief to stay away from all that Xmas ‘do buy’, ‘do buy’ - or is it Dubai? Boy, am I glad I don’t have their debts!! Mind you I am happy when people buy my work!

work in progress 1

My main current painting is about spa herbs and their cleansing and healing properties. Its initial destination is my bathroom wall as a way of testing it out but it would look better on someone else’s wall or maybe in a reception area of a health spa or alternative medical practice. I have chosen a rich dark blue as one of its main colours and picture it in a room of pale light natural colours with perhaps some dark blue glass accessories. If you want to create a spa feel in your own bathroom the trick is to keep it spotlessly clean and tidy and only have in it what you really need. Nice towels, good soap, scented oil pervading the air. A natural medicine chest is nice too. And no pale blue paint - too cold in winter. Set it all off with one really good individual item - may I suggest a painting?

work in progress 2

This painting in progress is an acrylic on canvas 90cm x 90cm, safe in the steamy atmosphere of a bathroom and cleanable. A couple who bought one of my kitchen paintings were horrified when I suggested they could wipe it down with a cloth moistened with a weak solution of washing up liquid. I think they thought they hadn’t spent all that money on a painting only to ruin it with a damp cloth. But acrylic is tough. It can take it.

Sometimes I get quite physically involved with my painting. Lots of rubbing and scrubbing. This also helps to keep me warm in a cold winter studio. Some unlikely artists have used various rubbing, scrubbing and scraping techniques in their work. Helen Allingham, of chocolate box Victorian garden image fame, did so much of it that her work was unreproducible by the then current printing methods. Much to her delight I am told. Turner used many techniques in both his oils and watercolours but the brush loving society he moved in condemned his ‘too much use of the handkerchief’. The modern day artist Kurt Jackson not only rubs and scrubs but splashes and throws paint and even walks on his paintings, using every paint mix under the sun. Customers worrying about wiping a dried acrylic painting with a damp cloth seems a bit wimpy by comparison. But they were not to know.

Sketchbook pages

The work on the ‘spa herbs’ has come to a bit of a standstill but I get out my preparatory sketches and composition studies from time to time. it will all come together when the time is right.

sketch 'tea pot'

More time in the armchair has meant more sketchbook work and toying with some new ideas for the coming year. As usual it will revolve around images of plants but perhaps with a different twist. I am very into tea rooms at the moment - if you know of any interesting ones I would love to hear about them. Flowers in tea cups, their decoration or displays in the tea rooms spring to mind. Cup cakes are great too. Sitting in a warm cafe drawing a teapot is a lovely winter activity.

embroidery in progress

I am also doing a bit of embroidery based on memories of my summer garden and historic textiles I have seen. Again visiting museums is a great winter activity. I work on some white cloth drawing in part of the design with a soft pencil. Then I embroider in a few of the coloured threads and then draw a bit more. It is all done instinctively. I love the way a few simple materials can yield such beauty and am also reminded of those nomadic Indian tribes who managed to embroider anywhere they went.

So, I am enjoying my winter artwork and other activities too. Collecting kindling wood, digging up parsnips and sitting by candlelight enjoying the log fire. A slower shorter day. Oh, and cinnamon spice tea too.

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