I know that the more common expression is ‘life imitating art’, or is it ‘art imitating life’? but either way, this is purely a crude device on my part to draw a decidedly tenuous analogy.

In the same way that the medical profession seems unable to diagnose the cause of my current physical malaise that continues to lay me low, I am also unable to diagnose the cause nor cure for my own artistic malaise.

I was enthusiastic about undertaking some smaller studies on some sheets of Arches rough paper that I’d cut down in size to the equivalent of 1/8th size. After a couple of rather half-hearted attempts, however, I gave up, favouring instead to go an opposite route and take on a half sheet landscape.

In what continues to feel like an artistic comfort blanket, I continue to find both inspiration and solace in Rowland Hilder’s work, in particular, his looser sketches. Here’s one of the 10 x 7 Rowland Hilder inspired studies that I did on holiday for the Heart Research UK anonymous art auction that didn’t make the cut, but which I like nonetheless:

For my half sheet bit of comfort painting, I opted for a more sweeping landscape:

Another Rowland Hilder inspired landscape

Now I usually find that seeing my paintings on a screen can often flatter them, as I think the backlighting of a screen can enhance the sense of luminosity. On this occasion, however, the photo doesn’t quite do the painting the justice that it perhaps deserves. The actual painting is much more nuanced in colour and tone than it appears in this image, which I’m afraid you may just have to take my word for! I apologise that despite taking a few different photos, I wasn’t able to capture a better representation than this.

The sky, in particular, features a much more subtlety and colour and was built up with multiple thin glazes of wash. When I have the time and patience, I really enjoy seeing these paintings evolve through layer upon layer of thinly applied washes – though I also can’t deny that I used a hairdryer to help speed things along a little!

I know that at some point, I’ll need to shake myself out of this ‘comfort zone’ but, at the moment, it really does feel like I either take this approach, or I stop painting altogether for a while. My fear about this option is that in my current frame of mind, I can’t guarantee that I’ll pick up my brushes again – which is something I’m just not willing to contemplate!

P.S. Wow – What a depressing read! I wrote this last night, and then re-read it this morning ahead of my usual Wednesday posting. While it’s all accurate, I do apologise that it all sounds quite so ‘down in the dumps’. If it helps to add a little light to all of this shade, I did have some painting ideas as I was cycling to work this morning that have certainly helped to lift my spirits. I shall be striving for a much more cheerful post all round next week!

15 thoughts on “Art imitating medicine…

    1. Thanks so much for this, I really appreciate it. I get torn between loving the richness, subtlety and depth of colour you can achieve with glazing, versus the wonderful immediacy of painting really directly! I suppose you don’t have to limit yourself to one or other but just choose which one best suits what you want to achieve. France was great thanks, but sadly, as I as feeling a bit under the weather, it took the edge off it a bit. I had hoped to return with lots of ideas and new reference material but in reality, I came home with very little. I suppose I’ll just have to go back again next year!

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  1. A couple of things . . . first, keep painting. Even if you don’t like what you do, or you drift into your comfort zone, I think it is important to paint every day. Times are when comfort is the best place. You continue to learn. Have faith that what you do may seem like crap or easy or nothing at all, but your subconscious, your muscle memory, everything within you that is the artist will learn and develop with each experience. You are an artist and to stop painting is really a form of defeat. Don’t let the medical get to you, don’t let whatever that ails you tear you down.

    Next, I think that a general fatigue from unknown causes can make for depression – what the hell is going on?!? Personally, if I give into such things – whether it is physiological and medical and has a real cause – I know that my mental health is best served by staying active, being in action, choosing to do something (even if it is to take a nap to shut off my brain), keeps me in touch with the fact I am alive, short or long as I may have lived and have left.

    Each day is a gift, each horrid painting is an expression of my life, each wonderful painting is a delight at my own skill (makes me think of Peter Pan!). Your artwork is a source of inspiration and your blog brings delight. Don’t throw in the towel on painting or even writing about your less than cheery thoughts. You make my day a lot brighter when you post, and when you paint!

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    1. Hi Naomi and thanks so much for these wonderful words of advice, encouragement and support. I’m like you in believing that everything (even from within the comfort zone if necessary!) is all grist to the mill of our experience, knowledge and abilities. As a result of your comments, I feel doubly encouraged and motivated to continue with my painting come what may – and to endeavour to embrace the downs (almost!) as much as the ups whenever possible! Thanks so much Naomi – I feel quite uplifted and wish you well with your painting too!

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      1. Hey John – glad to be of help. I’m retired now and ever since I was a kid, the goal of being an artist was mine. However, for years I struggled with the question of “what is the value of my art?” How stupid! It kept me from painting and being what I wanted to be. Practicalities of life so often intervened, and those became the excuses for not taking the risks of failure, making the time to paint, and so on. Now, there is no excuse for me, and I am enjoying and valuing every minute. We are finite. Let’s make use of the time we have! That doesn’t mean I don’t get depressed or frustrated, but it does mean it motivates me to keep moving forward. I can see where I have improved and gained in skill, dexterity, whatever. Much of what I do is trite and formulaic, and while there are times that works, I know I need to push myself to express a vision or something. I have a terrible time with perspective and people are even more scary. However! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so onward!

        Take care, John, and keep on painting and posting. There is much to be said for blogging. I do it for myself and no one else, but it is great when people respond. Now, go get that brush and paper out!

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      2. Thanks again Naomi – and hats off to you for pursuing your childhood dream. Obviously I’m already converted but I think the pleasure, the constant learning and developing, the looking and observing the world around you that all comes from your art is in itself priceless! I ordered a new supply of paper yesterday (not that I’m anywhere close to running out!) and I’ve gradually feeling better by the day so will hopefully have something new to share in my next post!

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  2. I wish these medics would get on and find out that you’re not about to peg out so that I can get back to taking swipes at your paintings. Until then, I’d better wish you all the best.

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    1. haha, I do believe you’re showing your mercyful side on not picking on someone when they’re down! While I can make no guarantees, there’s nothing at the moment to suggest I’m death’s door. I am beginning to feel as if there may be some light at the end of the tunnel – I sincerely hope so because I’m not sure how much of your benovolence I can take! Hopefullly we’ll both be able to return to normal service soon! – in the meantime, thanks for the good wishes – I really appreciate it!

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  3. GOOD MORNING JOHN! If it makes you happier, I look forward to each Wed morning when I know your latest words will be awaiting me! First I scan my emails and when I see your post I open it first! My comments are not always the kindest because just saying ‘lovely’ is not helpful! But for 2+weeks now we’vee Both been ill and gotten depressed and ‘down’ so I can really sympathize and understand! I don’t know wether I had an allergy of a bad cold but it seems to be ‘going around’ whatever it is and hard to comeback from. I did just 1 series of landscapes in 2 1/2 weeks! I did 3 landscapes from a photo of the field next to my son’s They alternate wheat and corn ind it was fall when I took the photo soo it’s a bright golden cheerful color. No overcast scenes from Wales for me right now and believe me it makes a big difference! SO I was sorry to see in this post that you are still COPYING someone else’s work in dreary blacks, greys and hardly any color! No wonder you’re feeling gloomy!
    Please go back to Pinterest/Utube and look at work by jean Haines, a Welshman/woman with fiery red hair, who is maybe my favorite WCist. She’s a wonderful example of ‘painting with soul’ as she really gets her point across, flowers, portraits, landscapes, animals, very simply. Her portraits really are expressive! She usually just paints a part of a face,fading the rest away but it is such a strong image! She rarely uses dreary hues and there’s always a glow about her work, never dreary for a second! She really get to the essence of Water Color, no tedious over working proving her capability with ‘technique’.
    Then recently I followed the ‘rules’ and divided a piece of WC paper into 4 small areas with tape. In each space I randomly dropped in just two favorite colors and let them do whatever they wanted. I ended up adding a 3rd for accents. I used my favorite Opera Pink added Quin magenta then drew in some lines of indigo. Painted in circular strokes. Next came cad orange and some blue? Then added quin orange and a few lines of Indigo. The 3rd one was Aur Yel anda green gold and a bit of veridian plus a line ofLunar black. The 4th one was a lavender? Then Cobalt teal and some yellow green with again indigo lines disappearing in places for depth. Then I did 4 more and just looking at them give me energy! I lOVE color and have a lot of wonderful colors to work with. It’s FUN just doing abstract small things like this to learn how different colors afffect eachother when allowed to blend on paper. Try this on the back of an old painting. Be utterly FREE, no thought of anything and see how freeing it can be! Use a minimum of 2,3, colors or add another if it feels right. Choose colors that are ‘happy’! Avoid painting a ‘scene’ at all costs, paint just small tests if you will and COPY NO-ONE! Make it pure FUN and stop trying to create something for ‘sale’ or ‘show’. Good Luck! Cheer up with color only!
    The best to you for a faster recovery…I know, it ‘ain’t fun being down”!

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    1. Hi Margery and thanks so much for this, your kind words about the blog mean a great deal! I’m also sorry to hear that you’re also still under the weather. As you say, it’s no fun being down! I’m afraid however that your prescription of Jean Haines and a more colourful approach isn’t for me! In the same way that I wouldn’t expect you to follow any advice of mine to paint with a darker more monotone palette, perhaps of urban scenes, I wouldn’t expect you to follow it. It’s just not ‘you’ – just as Jean Haines and an overtly colourful palette isn’t for me. I do understand the joy and freedom that you describe from a more playful and experimental approach – and I do get a fix or two of this with the paintings that I do with my daughter – which are full of joy and abandonment! I did read Nancy Hillis book that you recommended and I can appreciate the relationship between the approaches she recommends and your admiration for Jean Haines. Again, my aspirations lie in a much more figurative and representational route – (although I appreciate there may be room for a little more colour!) I wish you well with your free and colourful approaches – and a speedy return to full health! All the best Margery

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