Thursday, 4 October 2012

Showing Off

In most jobs, however glamorous or fun they might seem from the outside, it is 98% hard slog which no one ever notices or sees. But sometimes there is a rare opportunity to show off; to make people say "Oh, that's clever!" For doctors it might be that rare and sudden procedure that saves a life. For racing drivers all those hours of tedium on the track pay off when they win that grand prix. For visual artists one of the best ways of showing off is undoubtedly to paint glass or water (preferably both at the same time).

There is something about painting these reflective, transparent, half-there-half-not-there items which people find really impressive. After all, how do you fix something on paper if you can see through it? If it changes colour every time you move your head slightly and reflects a hundred colours.

 Both the above paintings of mine are several years old, they both depict flowers and glass and they are both hanging in my mother's house. Not the biggest art lover in the world, nevertheless, my flower paintings are her favorites, and she obviously likes glass too. I think she actually paid money for the top one. When I was starting out she went through a phase of sneaking into my exhibitions, and buying my work under a false name. She had the best and kindest intentions, but you can imagine how mortified I felt when I discovered the truth about my sales...

Apart from my self confessed wish to show off occasionally, I genuinely enjoy the challenge of glass painting, and having not done any for a while I decided to return to the subject, and combine it with another re-visit: hydrangeas. 

I painted this one a couple of years ago, and it gets very high views on my websites, but I confess I have never been entirely happy with it...

There are some things I was pleased with, but the vase was actually cream, and ended up getting darker and darker as I struggled to get it to look three dimensional. My (at the time) not quite under control addiction to prussian blue (an incredibly strong pigment) meant the leaves were somewhat too dramatic, and took the focus away from the flowers. Finally, and this cannot be seen from the photo, the paper was a creamier colour than I like. A few months later Saunders Waterford made all my dreams come true (easily pleased, me) by launching something called 'high white' paper and I never looked back.

So back to the present day, and the hydrangeas in my garden were starting to turn to autumn colours, and I saw an opportunity to try them again. This time I picked three blooms from the same plant, one still bright summer pink, one faded to pale pink, and one tinged with autumn greens and  reds. 

I put them in a big square vase and did my best to capture the rich greens in the leaves without overshadowing the flowers. It is going into the local Rotary club exhibition next week, so it will be interesting to see if people like it. My students were split, some preferred the earlier painting, but I am definitely happier with the more recent one, I think it is fresher and lighter.

I really enjoyed painting glass again, and if you like to paint I would advise you to try it too, and remember what I tell my students:

"It's transparent, not invisible." If you can see it, you can paint it. And then you can show off... just a little.