Thursday, September 27, 2007

End of summer lotuses

Lotuses, oil on taped linen, 21 x 26.5cm

After returning to Tokyo from my travels I was still able to catch the tail end of the lotus season, to my great joy. This was painted over 2 sessions at Shinobazu-ike, the lotus pond down the bottom of Ueno Park, though the photo is from the end of the first session. The changes are pretty subtle from this version.

I notice that a lot of outdoor painters tend to spend one session on their paintings. I find that - for me, anyway, some paintings need more than one session to complete them. Weather and location permitting, I really enjoy returning to the 'scene of the crime' more than once to work on a painting. In those times, since most of the painting is already down on the canvas, I find I tend to work a lot slower and more meditative. I find myself 'listening' quietly, allowing the painting and scene speak to me, telling me what needs to be done (or what needs to be left alone). Sometimes this may only require a few subtle dabs of paint. Sometimes it's more.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is to know when to stop. It's probably a lifelong process that one gradually gets better and better at. But I find the more deeply receptive I am to what the painting's trying to say to me, the better I am at knowing that moment.

In that way it's like writing music or improvising - if you're writing you have to constantly listen inside to what's trying to come through, or if you're improvising, you need to be constantly listening to the music and the other musicians around you. Once you stop listening, you kill the music by enforcing your own. Or (with improvising) you kill the beautiful communication and energy between the musicians. Every musician knows what it's like to jam with others where there's at least one person who isn't listening but is off on their own tangent. It really kills it for the rest.

Lately I find I'm starting see more and more similarities between music and painting. They tend to complement each other well and often cross over into the other, even blurring the boundaries at times. Having spent a lifetime working with one craft, I'm now finding there are skills I've learned musically that are really helping me with my journey into painting and seeing. It's quite fascinating, and also interesting to note that many artists are also musicians and vice versa.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Two Argenton landscapes

Balcony View, oil on taped linen, 35 x 16cm

This was the view from our back balcony of the place we stayed in France while doing the portrait figure course with Rita Natarova. Every morning I'd wake up to those lovely white cows when I looked out my window, so one morning I decided to try and paint it. It's my first attempt at painting buildings and animals. It took around 2 hours, the painting seemed to paint itself.

The studio was situated in the gorgeous rural medieval village, Argenton-Chateau, about 45 mins drive south-ish from Angers. Maybe 2 hours from the west coast, and toward the south of France.

I had also been eyeing a couple of fields of haybales on my walks in the nearby countryside, so a few days before it was time for us to leave I snuck out of my class for a couple of hours to attempt painting them. Here's the outcome:

Haybales, oil on taped linen , 32.5 x 19cm

It was quite a challenge due to constantly shifting light. The still, clear sunny morning which seemed like it would go on that way all day long decided to call in the clouds. I had begun at a leisurely pace in the sunshine, blocking in a basic underpainting and basic composition and then, as I was beginning to work the light on the haybales, the clouds turned up and began playing dancing games with the sun. This went on back and forth for awhile until eventually the sun disappeared altogether, and at one point there were even a couple of spots of rain, with the sky remaining overcast for the rest of the day.

I may still crop this a weeny bit. I still have a lot of canvas mileage to clock up before I feel able to take full command of (or complete surrender to) a situation of such changeability to its success! But.... I also need to add that producing high quality work when painting outdoors is really only icing on the cake. The process of just being out there, becoming one with the land and the day is really where it's at for me. Painting is an excuse for me to justify spending some quality time hanging out with nature. There's something so special about this process, something there are no words to describe, perhaps it's a secret that outdoor painters share.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A touch of England

English Roses, oil on linen

I'm back from my adventures in France and England, still catching up on posting here, there's a lot more to come, so stay tuned. I was away doing a one month painting class in France at Studio Escalier with guest teacher, Rita Natarova, (more on that in a future post). Afterwards I passed thru England on my way home, and spent a week in the beautiful scenic Box area, where I went for long walks in the countryside, did a bit of painting, hung out with some friends and sorted out some music publishing at Realworld Publishing.

Singer/songwriter Carole Rowley, who I'd only met once years ago, happened to be in town and generously invited me to stay a few nights with her in nearby Corsham. The roses were in the back garden, begging to be painted.

Here's the setup:

While in Box I also decided to test out my new portrait-painting skills and did a quick oil sketch of Realworld publisher and friend, Rob Bozas as he relaxed reading on his verandah one lazy Sunday afternoon.

Reading the Muse, oil on linen

Although not quite as bold as I had originally envisaged, we were both quite pleased with the likeness and I actually don't mind the quiet vibe.

I'll be uploading more paintings in the next few days so watch this space!