I’m familiar with having ‘bad days at the office’, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that I also have bad days at the easel. This week has been just such an example. I’ve started quite a few paintings and even some sketches to join in the World Watercolour Month celebrations and they’ve all, bar none, been atrocious.
Not the most auspicious of beginnings for my long awaited and much anticipated painting course that begins this week. By the time most of you read this, I’ll be on day two or three of this course and, based on my recent experiences, boy do I need it! The photo that heads this post was taken on a rare outdoors painting opportunity that I did in preparation for those that lie ahead this week. A beautiful balmy summer’s day but I just made a complete pig’s ear of two paintings. I suppose it’s progress that I can identify why I think it was such a disastrous day at the easel:
Poor composition (I was mainly drawn to the silhouette of the castle in the distance) but that made the focal point too small and too distant. There was also way too much green for my liking so I tried to lower the horizon and make the sky as captivating as I could… but applying a mix of quite bright purple wasn’t quite the captivating I was aiming for.
Badly drawn with insufficient consideration as to how I was going to describe elements (especially large groups of trees), not to mention getting the perspective wrong on the castle!
Poorly planned with too much reliance on winging it as I went along – which has rarely worked for me and even less so when it’s a scene that contains lots of elements that I already find challenging.
Impatience that somehow leads me to start galloping through the painting throwing paint at the paper in increasing levels of frustration and desperation.
On the plus side, it was great to be out on what felt like the first sunny day in ages and I was pleased that, instead of keep flogging a dead painting, I stopped mid-stroke, downed brushes, took this photo and packed up.
I cheered myself up with a swim in an nearby lido that I’ve never visited before which was deliciously therapeutic! If you’re ever in the vicinity of Lewes in East Sussex and like a dip, I commend you to visit Pells Pool. At over 150 years old, it’s the UKs oldest documented outdoor freshwater pool and, at 46metres x 23 metres, fed by crisp, crystal clear water – it’s an absolute joy to swim in.
A particularly unexpected surprise and pleasure of this visit was bumping into Tanya Shadrick, who I first met in a work capacity some year’s ago but who has now forged ahead with her passion for writing and community engagement and is currently Pells Pool’s first writer/artist in residence. If anyone’s interested in writing, or especically writing AND swimming, you really should check out her project and website.
So. Feeling suitably refreshed and energised – let’s talk some more about painting. As, however, as mine’s been so shoddy of late, I thought it might be better to share the work of an artist that I’ve admired for some time now: Jem Bowden. It’s particularly apposite to mention Jem as, in my opinion, he’s a natural modern day successor to Edward Wesson and, as I found out after making contact with him, some years ago he did a one day workshop with Steve Hall. The very same Steve Hall that will be my expert tutor this week – so it all ties in rather nicely.
You can learn so much from watching a great artist at work so I hope that you’ll enjoy watching Jem’s mastery of watercolour in this video as much as I have.
Hopefully, I’ll be back next week with tales of watercolour joy and wonderment from this week’s course. But no pressure of course!