I have been remiss. It is over two months since I last wrote a blog post and in that time things have gone up, down and then in an entirely new directions… During the ups, I have been able to do the paintings I’ll share below. But May also saw some serious downs: physical but leading also to psychological. During this time I decided to come off treatment for a trial period and, along with my husband, to get a puppy…. As such this post will necessarily be brief! With an adorable, cheeky and willful 14 week-old puppy to look after, periods of peace and quiet are at a premium! Though my health has actually improved since our lives were turned upside-down by this tiny terror, I have yet to work out how to combine painting with a puppy. I suspect reliable potty training is the first step, though this is eluding us at present….
Usually I have a number of painting projects in the air, waiting for their moment. The moment for this canine portrait came, sadly, when this 15-year-old golden retriever died at the end of April. Had health allowed I would have put paintbrush to canvas-paper straight away. That was my response when our golden retriever passed away nearly a decade ago, and I still felt the urge to bring a lost personality to life in paint, perhaps as a way of keeping memories alive in the face of absence. In the second layer I’ll need to work on getting more contrast in the shadows, which are trickier because old Hamish’s fur was white with his venerable age! However, I was pleased with the goofy retriever smile and enjoyed capturing the wet of his long tongue.
At the end of May I enjoyed a whole week of painting, where I was able to pursue some of my own interests, rather than focusing only on commissions. Last year, I met a professional artist who told me it was crucial to keep this side of my art going, and I did feel refreshed after of week of my own projects. I started with a magnolia flower, which I had originally intended to be a tiny treasure, but as I worked on it I felt the bloom had a statuesque presence which made me feel more like I was working on a portrait than a still life. The petals have a pink flush and porous, dimpled texture that did feel like skin to paint. So I decided the original should stand on its own, not as a tiny treasure, and to intensify the focus I painted the background a dramatic black. This was a very tense 20 minutes, as I knew any slip with the black paint could ruin hours of hard work! However, here she is: “A Portrait of a Lady”.
Next, I spent a morning finishing a tiny treasure of two mussel shells – inside and out. I could happily return to this subject. The interior iridescence and the outer patina are mesmerizing, if baffling, to paint. Sometimes my paintings are driven by ideas, but here it was the pure form that got me.
Lastly, I was chuffed to finish this painting of pink garlic in a black bowl. This painting could easily also be purely about form and colour, but in fact it is part of a developing series where I paint everyday objects which have changed their significance for me as a result of having Lyme Disease. In the past I looked a garlic purely as a culinary ingredient, but it is also a powerful antimicrobial agent, which I now often take in the form of allicin and part of my medicinal armoury against Lyme. I have called it ‘Active Ingredient’.
The challenge now is to get back to the easel for some post-puppy painting, while not neglecting my tiny terror! If and when I manage this feat, I have a vintage wedding portrait to do, pet portraits to continue and tiny treasures inspired by the fruits of the season. In the meantime, here’s to the sunshine!