I have Stuff to do and so my brain finds other things to mess with. I put a bookshelf in the studio and in the general tidy up I came across old sketchbooks. I never finish a sketchbook – I invariably put it somewhere and can’t find it so I spent a happy hour revisiting an art safari in Madikwe, a trip to Mauritius, and what looks like a sketch challenge to draw people. It’s hard to imagine the easygoing freedom to BE with people that we had before lockdown – hopefully soon it will all be in the past and hugs and handshakes will be okay again.
The wonderful thing about watercolour painting is the way the paper reflects light through the paint giving it a luminous quality. Made up of pigment and a binding medium, watercolour paint was generally used for sketches and ideas, and to tint drawings and studies for bigger ‘proper’ paintings. It really came into its own during the mid 1700s when the Romantic era came into being and there was an explosion of fine art, music, and literature. Artists were inspired to record nature, landscape, and to travel to Europe (once the Napoleonic wars were done!) and to exotic places full of antiquities and sunlight.
It is this ability to convey light that attracts me to watercolour – I am never inspired to paint grey and gloomy cityscapes for example – but sunbirds caught in a ray of sunshine, the sunset sparking the edges of clouds, and the contrast of a figure standing against the sun with a home made fishing rod; these are the things that excite, frustrate, and challenge me. It is never perfect but I am learning to give in gracefully and say ‘that’ll do.’
#art #painting #watercolour #fineart #contrejour #winsorandnewton
For an artist, finishing a picture is not the end of the story. For the painting, it is just the beginning of a life that is separate from its creator. Is it going to languish in deep piles with other not quite perfect paintings, or will it get a chance to shine, find a forever home?
The difference often lies in the framing – how the work is presented can make or break a sale. I know this first hand as a buyer and as a seller of art. I did a painting many years ago of a humble vegetable, the aubergine, and the purply colour was rich and dark and as juicy as a watercolour can be. I was pleased and had it framed in the expectation of a quick sale – who could resist?
There it hung on the Gallery Ann wall amongst less colourful and noticeable paintings for more than six months and finally I caved in, on the advice of the gallery owner and got it reframed. Voila, it was gone in a week and barely covered the cost of two frames and commission. However, it was a sale! Somebody loved it and wanted it to enhance their home and enrich their life. (I assume people buy paintings for the same reason I do – do not burst my bubble!)
Likewise, a painting of daisies I barely glanced at every day I hung out at the gallery was one day reframed, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. I don’t think I’d ever bought a painting before – not at that price! I bit the bullet and told David about this painting I had to have, trying to justify the expense and the indulgence. He wrote out a cheque and I got the painting – I love it. And I have reused the frame often for my own work and reframed it again and again.
My own tastes run to classic, german gold, deep frames for everything, and with clear glass and double mounts for watercolours – $$$$. When framing for a potential sale the cost has to be recovered so it can be a big gamble – however the painting must be presented well and the frame is to show it off, not to upstage. In the end, personal taste and pocket drive the choices we make and as long as the artwork is the star of the show, anything goes.
Better crack on and finish some more pictures!
Baobab trees are the elephants of the Plant Kingdom. They are enormous, magestic, wrinkly, and odd looking. I think of paintings of baobabs and elephants as portraits – they distinguish themselves in the landscape and I like to honour them in that way.
This year I sent a sketch to Explorers Against Extinction for their fundraising auction Sketch for Survival.
Elephant Rising, Meno a Kwena. Pastel and pencil sketch.
Sketch for Survival – with links to the auction site.
August was a great month for elephants at the pond. I bought a camera so that I could take good reference photos and clocked up a couple of thousand shots in no time – some of which might be useful – and I had well and truly caught the photo bug!
Along came a large family of elephants on their way to the river. They paused at the pond and some of them went for a swim – fantastic photo op – couldn’t believe my luck!! I dashed to get the camera and a step ladder to get high enough to clear the fence, and discovered the battery was exhausted from the thousands of shots. Unbelievable!!
I had to resort to my phone, wobbling on the ladder, and shaky with excitement….. I got some footage and then sat for a blissful hour or so to just watch.
The internet is astonishing – and like words uttered, words once published are out there for ever. Thus I was able to find a way into my dormant blog. (Although it won’t appear as such since there are only four entries since starting it in 2011…..)
The last post being 2015, much has happened, but the only relevant thing is that we now live in Kazungula. Here are some studies of elephants, and bottoms from a trip to Elephant Sands.
And a pic of me and a little orphan – massive cuteness but a sad story. Such is life in the wild.That’s all!
My husband went up to Nxai Pan in the Makgadikgadi some years ago to check out the site of a possible project. On this trip was an amateur photographer who took several shots of a lone elephant which had been dusting itself with the salty white sands of the pan. The project was an eco lodge – David was part of the team putting the tender document together and I was asked to add illustrations and tart it up a bit in the hope that it would get noticed above the others. The cover was a glorious photo of the elephant – ‘that,’ said David, ‘is the painting I want.’
And so began a long drawn out attempt at a huge wildlife painting in oils for David’s fiftieth birthday. It should be noted that I paint mainly in watercolour. I do not paint animals. I do not do big. Of course I didn’t get very far….. birthdays came and went and finally I started a watercolour for his sixtieth. The struggle with the elephant went on: how to convey the isolated majesty of that huge beast within a bleak but beautiful landscape?
I had and still have many distractions that keep me from the easel – but an invitation to be part of a group show in Gaborone sent me back to the half finished work. Incredible how a deadline sharpens the focus and clears the mind of non-essentials! Finally, in his sixty third year, David has his Elephant at Nxai Pan. I really have to pick up the pace a bit…..!
My youngest daughter graduated in July so I escaped the dry, winter cold of Botswana for what I thought would be the wet, summer cold of Wales to attend the Graduation. It was a magical day – the countryside was beautiful and the weather glorious – so we decided to go road tripping to Land’s End! The sun shone with barely a wobble for two weeks as we punted about the south-west in a hired Chevy Spark, braving heat and humidity and Cornwall’s tourists! Of course that included us – but meeting up with Ken and Dora Howard on Sennen Beach made me feel a little less like a foreigner. Artists have been painting Cornwall forever, and having seen its beaches and harbours through Ken’s eyes for many years, it was wonderful to see them in real life! I even managed a sketch or two…..
I tried numerous studies of St. Michael’s Mount and the harbour – they did not turn out well but I have lots of photo references so I shall work on it! Mousehole harbour and the beach at Sennen were just as I imagined from Ken’s paintings and as Dora invited us for supper, we got to see St. Clement’s Studio with its interior landscape of easels and paintings – if that doesn’t inspire me nothing will!!!