Painting and Gardening
Recently I’ve been thinking about what I feel are parallels between painting and gardening. I have a reasonably sized garden and like to leave it a little ragged around the edges. I’m not one for manicured lawns, or formal, regimented flower beds. I prefer to leave some of it uncultivated and allow nature to do its own thing. We are told that this is a good thing for insects and wild life. For instance, it is fashionable to grow wild flower meadows to attract bees and other insects rather than mowing grass to within an inch of its life. But it is also the aesthetic that appeals to me. I like to see how nature goes about reclaiming its own.
What is this to do with painting? Well, I would like to adopt the same philosophy when I paint. I must admit this is a challenge for me. I find it difficult to let go and allow paint to do its own thing, to accept ‘happy accidents’ and let them be. To simply enjoy oil paint for its own intrinsic qualities. It doesn’t come naturally to me to relinquish control in my painting as I am more than happy do in my garden.
The above are recent underpaintings – that is to say, the first monochrome stage in the development of a painting, where I work out the composition, the main blocks of dark and light and intermediate tonal values. There’s a rawness about them that I like. I like that the artifice is visible – you can see the brush strokes, the unmodulated lines and edges, and the lack of fine detail. My natural tendency is towards ‘higher resolution’, as it were, to go in with a small brush and add detail ad nauseam, and tidy up lines and smooth out areas of colour. In doing this, the initial energy of the painting slowly but surely drains away.
The challenge for me is to retain this initial freshness into the final image…
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