As some readers may have noticed, in recent week’s my metaphorical painting head has dropped a little bit as I’ve struggled to find my form. My paintings have felt more like a struggle in which I’ve been battling against paint, paper and brushes rather than me working harmoniously with them.
As the last time I was feeling really upbeat about painting was about a month or so ago, with my holiday sketches, I thought that I’d spend a little more time sketching to see if this may help to lift my spirits. Another thing that I’ve been reflecting on over the past week or two is my choice of paper.
Quite some time ago I moved from Saunders Waterford rough to Arches rough – declaring at the time I seem to recall that I’d finally ‘found my perfect paper’. I suppose it must be almost a year on now and what’s interesting as I look back, is that the paintings I like most from the past 18 months, were actually painted on Saunders Waterford, not Arches. I’m thinking that I might order myself a new pack of Saunders Waterford and try out a few paintings in which I paint the same view twice, one on Saunders and one on Arches just so I can make a more like for like comparison.
If anyone else has any thoughts or experience on these two papers, I’d love to hear them. Another part of me is also mindful that in these times of dissatisfaction with my painting, it’s sometimes easier to blame my tools than it is to blame myself!
This focus on paper has been heightened by my recent sketchbook work. Most recently, I’ve been buying my sketchbooks from the wonderful Abergavenny Art Shop (I bought a couple more when I visited Wales for the ‘washout weekend‘). The brand name is Arboreta but there’s precious little info about them on their website. I was discussing with one of the Abergavenny Art Shop team how much I like the sketchbooks and couldn’t understand why they were so much cheaper than comparable pads for Arches and Saunders etc. The explanation I was given is that the paper in the Arboreta sketchbooks I’ve been buying is made from wood pulp not cotton, as I believe Arches and Saunders is. This would explain the differences in both cost and behaviour. It also made me think that, if my memory serves me correctly, the Saunders Waterford behaves a little more like my sketchbook paper than the Arches does.
But enough talk of paper here’s how I got on in the sketchbook.
This view is in Brighton’s Wild Park, looking towards Clare’s Café. I was cycling past the entrance to the park the other day and something about the light really attracted me to have a closer look.
It’s only now as I’m writing this and getting the link to the café’s Facebook page that I see that my viewpoint for this painting is almost exactly the same as the photo in their profile shot. Anyway, this was painted quickly and freely and I was quite heartened by it.
This painting was followed by a scouring of my archives for some more subject matter. I came across this view, looking towards a small French town, in my photos from last year’s camping trip and the light catching the rooftops as the sun went down was really stunning.
Not sure I captured it entirely in this painting but again, I felt I was painting with a freedom and fluidity that’s been sorely missing. Feeling even more encouraged, next on my list was a much more challenging and detailed view looking across London’s Trafalgar Square:
I’m really pleased with this sketch. It’s far from perfect but it has a spirit about it! I managed in the main to keep it loose and to let the paint lead the way, and I managed to stop before I got too tight and picky! Considering it’s painted in an A4 sketchbook I think it conveys some of the scale and grandeur of the view and captures a particular atmosphere.
Compared to how I’ve been feeling about my efforts of late, these three sketches alone have helped to raise my spirits quite considerably. Who knows what might happen next!?
Now I’m sure that my more, erm, ‘established’ readers may have noticed by cunning play on words in the title of this post, so I hope you’ll also appreciate being reminded of the brilliance of Helen Shapiro’s version of ‘Walking back to happiness’ – and for my less ‘well established’ readers, here’s a treat from the 60s.