Read about ... The Fantastic Flowers (2)
The stories of How I got to the place I'm in now and The Heartland Watercolours tell of my need in the past few years to find a new creative place that would make me really happy, and where I ended up. But there was another important strand running through those stories that I haven't mentioned yet. At the same time, one of the things I was looking for was something that would satisfy an urge in me to create really big works of art. I've always worked small in the past, often almost tiny, and whenever I was thinking in these recent times about what I wanted to do, I'd get a real physical sense of making seriously big strokes with maybe a brush four inches wide! And when I was describing this feeling to others I wouldn't be able to help myself making those big strokes in the air while saying 'I really want to do THIS!' There I'd go, flailing my arms around painting a giant invisible picture.
In a way, my task was the same one throughout. At times, I thought the problem I was trying to solve was 'what to draw' and would find myself wondering what my subject matter would, or should, or could, be if I was really going to pursue art again in any serious way. I sometimes even, rather embarrassingly, resorted to asking my husband, 'What shall I draw?' I thought my problem was that I didn't know what to draw, I thought I didn't have any imagination, and felt like a kid again (sound familiar? If not, have a look at The Heartland Watercolours (2)). I sometimes pondered despairingly, 'I can't just do flowers all the time …' which was the only subject I could squeeze out of me when feeling that way. But I know now that the reality was that I hadn't found my medium yet. I was still looking. Now I know from experience that once you've found your medium, the subjects just flow - like paint (clever eh!). Or at least, that's how it worked for me.
So, I really had a physical need to paint big. It took a lot of thinking, just like the rest of the stuff I was dealing with. But what helped was that I'd already got the Heartland Watercolours style under my belt. I felt happy drawing with freedom, and sloshing washes around. I was excited by making a mess, and by making that mess into something beautiful! So I put my mind to how to translate that into 'big'!
1: I needed something that would allow me to work quickly, just like the masking fluid I was using in the watercolours. And somehow I knew I didn't want to just do the same thing on a large scale (at least at that time - I've got ideas about that for the future now though).
2: I've always liked the idea of using stretched canvases because you don't have to frame them - they just go straight up on the wall - and I already had a little collection of those in various small sizes - unused.
3: Watercolours weren't the usual thing to put on canvas, so I had to work out what would replace them.
When you've got a practical problem, it can be a simple matter of perseverance, practice and thinking ... so that's what I did. Those little canvases got all the treatments I could think of. I searched out a load of acrylic paints in squirty bottles to use them to draw directly on the canvas, no good. I bought a load of squirty bottles to put diluted paint in, no good. Lots of other ideas, no good. Eventually, I started to look at acrylic inks. They're fluid, they're bright, they can have the transparency of watercolours, they're permanent when dry, they come in bottles with a dropper, they're exciting! Well, who'd have thought it, I had my drawing tool!
The next thing was to get some big canvases and have a go! Exactly like with the first of the Heartland Watercolours, I did a truly wonderful (yes, I say so myself!) drawing the first time. I just looked at the canvas and drew what came out of me. It was lovely. And exactly like with that first watercolour painting, I ruined it!! The trouble with drawing with a dropper filled with liquid ink is that the flow, the line, is not completely controllable. And though a great part of the pleasure of doing what I do is its unpredictability, it's also one of its dangers, and a good picture can be ruined if too much ink gets to dry in the wrong place. I think one of my natural skills is in knowing how to balance a line or a design, but then, I just failed. You can't get everything right first time, can you? Although, since working in the way I do, I've realised that one of my main artistic aims is to do just that. I want to 'do' as little as possible with these paintings. I'm not lazy, or unconscientious. I'm striving to make the least effort to create beauty in my art, minimum marks for utmost effect. And I think it shows when I come close. Flowers Can Dance has the least marks and the least ink applied, but I think it's one of my most successful so far.
Now the 'failed' picture has at least become a new version of itself in a different style, so all is not lost. And the good thing about mistakes is that, if you're lucky, or clever, you don't make them again.
And actually ... I've realised that, if I wanted to, I could just do flowers all the time. As long as they're exciting to me when I do them, and they make me pleased when they're finished, it doesn't matter. But, like I said, now I've found my medium for the big ones, the subjects are endless, if I want them to be.