Thursday, 30 April 2009

Flowers Of The Field

I'm in the studio working on another floral still-life, of flowers gathered from the fields around my house.

Here is a detail of the work in progress.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Narcissi, Blossom, Primrose (in progress)

I'm painting these flowers, and the ones in the previous post, for a particular exhibition which is coming up in late summer.

The flowers came from my garden, and the nearby lanes. Bringing them the short distance to my studio I want more than anything to capture their freshness, life and vitality. Time is of the essence.

Not only do the flowers lose some of their initial bloom, but the colours of the painting can become heavy and saturated.

The battle is to convey and retain their freshness on the canvas, even as the flowers begin to imperceptibly droop.

So much of the success of work like this is in the subtlety of the execution. And here I don't mean producing 'prissy flower paintings'.

I'd liken the process to a hard-fought game of chess against a skilled opponent. Every move made has consequences later in the game - and the skill is to anticipate these. Just as a seemingly insignificant move of a pawn can shift the whole balance of the game - a small mark can affect the painting hugely. And it may not be apparent when you make it.

The challenge is that unless I take risks I won't be able to achieve the results I want.

In a sense, I'm taking a risk in spending time painting a subject from life, when there's a chance that the painting won't 'work'. It might be any number of things. I could get called away from the studio, get into a conversation with a visitor - anything - and the delay could mean that on my return the flowers have changed enough to warrant moving all my marks. Basically starting again.

In doing so the freshness that I first set out to capture would be gone.

I know that some artists attempt to solve this difficulty by working from photographs. On the face of it, what could be simpler than seeing a lovely still-life set up, taking a snap, and working from that?

For me such an exercise would be pointless.

When I choose the flowers, pick them, arrange them, smell them - look at them - my painting will hopefully convey something of all of that process. And I hope it will breath some of that life back out of the canvas in the years to come.

If I were to work from a photograph I would be painting nothing but artificial colours on a 2D image. That isn't what I'm about.

Here is a painting by the French artist Odilon Redon, which I feel captures the living essence of his subject over a century later.

Friday, 3 April 2009


I brought these beautiful flowers back from my recent trip to Tresco, and started painting them in the studio earlier this week.

The painting was very close to being finished, but I ran out of time towards the end - and had to return the following day.

This was a great pity as I really wanted to keep the painting close to what it was, as I was pleased with the freshness and light - as well as the character of the flowers.

However, this is a painting from life. Flowers open!

When I returned to the studio I found that the bright yellow daffodils had open out - partially obsuring the pale white flowers which had dominated the previous day.

I then re-worked and changed the painting accordingly.

I'm happy with the finished result - but it is very different from the painting I'd left the previous day.

[The photographs above show, from the top downwards: the finished painting, my palette, a detail of the painting, the setup and painting during the first day I worked on it]