Wicker Barn

Lately I’ve been enjoying using dabs of paint for reflections in water, or cobblestones, and suddenly felt like trying to make a painting as if it were woven. It was always fun at school when we wove paper strips together and I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to paint that way. I decided to do a rural scene, and simply started at the top. I did a checkerboard painting, then had fun filling in the remaining white squares trying to make a ploughed field, pond, cloud, hillside, house and barn. It was challenging and satisfying choosing the colour for each square so it added to the picture and played against the other squares. To me it is weaving, but it seemed familiar in a way which I couldn’t quite place...then realised: any kid today would say it’s pixillated!


Painting Paris

This painting was inspired by the view from the escalator in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. I intended originally to paint a very simplified picture.

I started with a full palette then reduced it to yellow, violet and blue to pull the painting together better. I darkened the sky, then added detail to it, then made it quite a bit more dramatic.

I had light spilling onto the pavement from two windows but today realised I’d used a cartoon technique and had represented the light by a yellow glow. If you think about it, you can’t actually see light like that. Where it falls you can see the objects it falls on in their full colours, and where it doesn’t fall you see shadows with less or no colour. By knocking the glow back the emphasis is now more on the sky and chimneys, and on the faces of the buildings which delighted me so much. Now there are two theatres of interest- one up on the rooftops, the other way below in the street.


It looks better in the flesh (and at 102 cm x 102 cm the detail is easier to see)...here are a couple of photos of detail to show you what I mean.

I think I’d like to try the view again with a really really simplified version, almost geometric. Hmmm...isn’t that where I started last time?

Painting and paintings!

I’m busy making paintings for my upcoming exhibition in September. There are already quite a few which you can find in the gallery, but I’ll let you in on some of my recent discoveries!

I did a little one which didn’t work (which was painted over another one which didn’t work), turned it on its side and thought it looked like rush hour, worked on it but realised that it still wasn’t working because when I sat it beside another painting, I had no desire to look at it! It began to feel pretentious in that it depended on its title...so I decided to run white brushstrokes down to be trees, leaving bits of pattern showing through the white to be the bark. I discovered, though, that I preferred to leave strips of pattern as the trees themselves. I painted blue and white between to be blue snow and white sky (It was white snow and blue sky but I preferred it upside down). I loved it! I loved how the patterns on the trees are reminiscent of First Nations art in Canada. I’ve called it “Birch trees” because birches have such wonderful bark. I was really excited to paint a much bigger version....

I covered the next canvas (102 cm x 102 cm) with colourful patterns, just wallowing in colour. It seemed too bright, so I softened it with blue mixed with white. Still too bright so used a small roller to make greenish grey strips.

Turned on its side, it was then ready for me to apply white paint leaving strips of colour for the trees.

Some of the colour bled through from behind, so I went over the white again to make it cleaner.

At this stage I decided I preferred it with the colour bleeding through, so added touches of blue and green and yellow between the trees. Also, a friend thought the white was the trees, so I added one small branch to give a clue. At the same time, I’m learning to embrace ambiguity...it is nice if you imagine you’re looking at a colourful landscape from between white trees.

Incidentally, the tree in the middle has been felled by a beaver.

Next I wanted to do a second painting in the same way but where there would be white trees against a tapestry background, the way my friend saw the first painting.

I didn’t get a photo when I had turned it on its side and painted white strips for trees- they just didn’t work. I also found TRYING to do the same kind of painting as the one before really exhausting- the first one had been so fun - I discovered that painting is all about invention as I had to think up what to do next at each stage. I LOVE inventing. So I decided to take a whole different tack and added a few things...

The slender trees in the foreground give it a lot more interest and personality, and the highly patterned background becomes almost an afterthought, and so quite tantalising. I played with twilight sky between the branches, interlacing twigs, foreground grasses, bringing the white down to the bottom of the painting, adding little details to the bark...really learned a lot.

What I learned:

If you don’t want to look at a painting it is probably not working for you!

If it needs its title to be something it is probably not working.

Paint over stuff you don’t think is working.

Try things. Change things. Turn things upside down and sideways.

Let some things be ambiguous! This is hard for me because in my usual work as a cartoonist and illustrator, being ambiguous is failure.

Wipe the paint off your hands before using light switches.