Well, my much-anticipated camping trip to Wales ended up slightly different to how I imagined it! For the first time in as long as I can remember we let the weather beat us. We still went to Wales with every intention of pitching the tent but the forecast was so unremittingly bleak that we decided to cancel. We still had a great time catching up with friends, but we also took the decision to leave early and return home.
The plus side of this, rather selfishly I confess, was that I was able to try out some new brushes that I was very excited about. I recently bought 3 Alvaro Castagnet mop brushes, sizes 10, 6 and 4 on E-bay (although other auction sites are available!) but hadn’t had chance to paint with them yet. This, I figured, was my silver lining to my cloudy weekend!
The brushes look and feel great, beautifully balanced and the bristles hold a great shape, broad in the belly and longer than most of my other mop brushes. As you can see from the photo, they also come to a wonderful surgically precise point.
I think my excitement and the unexpected time at the easel got the better of me and, much like the weather, everything I tried to paint was a complete washout! I had a couple of views in mind, starting with a very weather appropriate view looking east along Brighton seafront.
I didn’t really enjoy or get on with this painting, so thought I’d try a different beach scene.
With both of these, I felt I was galloping along, much more interested in the brushes than in the subject matter or how to portray it. I was also rushing, trying to be carefree but mainly being careless. To say by the end of these two efforts that I was disappointed and disillusioned is an understatement!
I decided that it was probably best to just cut my losses and stop painting.
The weekend threw up one more chance to redeem itself on the painting front. I don’t know what possessed me to try it, but I opted for a scene from our whistle-stop visit to Wales. It was of a vineyard – something I’d never previously associated Wales with! – that we paid a brief visit to on a day of intermittent rain and sun. I took quite a few reference photos and selected one that I thought had potential, even though I wasn’t clear in my mind how to paint it!
I also painted on a half sheet – which made a lot of difference. The quarter sheets felt too small using the new brushes, (which are all substantially proportioned brushes) especially when I’m still trying to settle in with them. I did a quick sketch, just to outline the main shapes and then just started throwing the paint down and trying to enjoy it rather than fear it or become precious about it.
I was working pretty quickly so there are quite a few wet into wet passages, especially in the background hill and more distant trees. When it came to the vines, I first started with a bit of fiddling about as I wasn’t quite clear how I might capture them! Suffice to say, my fiddling didn’t produce anything remotely vine-like, or give me any pleasure in the process. More in frustration than expectation, I started to use the brush to flick paint onto the paper. This sounds very random, but I assure you that was done with a modicum of aim and intention! I varied the colour mixes frequently and worked quickly and was surprised to see the vines – or at least an interpretation of them – beginning to appear!
I probably did get a bit carried away with this and I was splattering paint all over the place. It did, however, feel bold and fun and compared to fiddling or dabbing about, it seemed to give the painting a sense of spirit and liveliness. While the vines were drying off a bit, I strengthened the mid-distance trees and darks which also helped to define the tops of the vines catching the light. Finally, once the vines had dried off, I added in some dark dry brush strokes.
Now I know that this is no masterpiece, but there’s a lot I like about it and I feel that I learnt a lot while I was painting it. If nothing else, it brought the bank holiday weekend to a close on a more positive, less washed out note, so much so that I think I’ll have another crack at this one to see if I can improve on it.