year one part six: juggling with freestyle

This summer has apparently been a record one for wild flowers. Lots of rain, followed by sunshine, then more rain, has produced wonderful hedgerows.The fennel and common mallow along the shore are a tempting mix of lime green and mauve. After my initial studies, I struggled for days trying to do a freestyle watercolour, without much success. I was defeated by the speed with which you have to work for wet in wet. Getting spontaneous work to look even half convincing is so difficult. I suspect it involves years of practice and a high pile of rejects.

I’m still enjoying Carole’s course on Thursdays and gradually building up some new skills. I drew a hollyhock flower (upside down just because I could) and used a spray method for spreading the pigment. Every tutor has favourite pigments and Carole likes Aureolin – a versatile transparent yellow with a hint of green which is a good mixer. She recommended a good range of dark foliage mixes using Aureolin, Phthalo Blue, Permanent Rose and Alizarin Crimson. I was quite pleased with the result but could see that I was veering away from freestyle and back into my finicky comfort zone.


hollyhock (watercolour)

The weather this week has been strange and has thrown up some exciting skies all along the coast. I went along the shoreline just as a storm was brewing and did some watercolour and pen sketches. I had the usual problem of not being able to do things quickly enough and feeling clumsy. I am clumsy and painting en plein air feels horribly like juggling. I had to go for an impression, or even just a feeling. The sketches are boring compositionally but the mood of the place has somehow crept in. My stretch of coastland presents itself in beautiful layers of sky, sea, stones and plants but finding an interesting angle takes time because it is all horizontal. Perfect for the sort of etching that is split into 3 differently textured plates....but no going back there. Making a painting composition that works is much more difficult. Of course, I’m lazy and don’t relish tramping through the fields with my paints on my back getting wet and cold in search of the perfect spot. It may come with time but I’m not holding my breath. I suspect I'm very much a studio person.


summer storm (ink and watercolour)

next month: all about flowers