Sometimes I have an idea that just can’t be sidetracked, one that keeps popping up again and again. No matter what I do, it keeps coming back, forcing itself to the top of the list. This painting started in just that way, and as these things often do, it was born in a sketchbook.
The scribbly sketches I do at life class feel so ‘me’, and I’ve had the idea to paint in the same style for ages. I kept thinking: what if I could make a painting that resembled those sketches in feeling and form? What if I could scribble on a painting? Well, that’s not unusual. I wrote a shopping list on the back of a painting once. If you bought that one, I hope you’ve got the washing powder/eggs/coffee in by now. No, what I mean is arty scribbling! Energetic scribbling. Visual scribbling. The sort of automatic drawing of shapes and patterns where you forget what your name is, and how long you’ve been sat in the same position (ouch).
So when I turned up at life class last week to find the beautiful Tessa, with her braided hair, that was it. I knew it was time. I kept getting a brilliant view of her hair, which suited me perfectly, and I spent a happy three hours drawing braids with thread round them, braids with beads on the end, braids holding the other braids in place, blonde braids shining under the lights. She is so interesting and gorgeous, and a fab model to boot.
I raced home, eager to start. A few other things had to be done first, but that’s OK, as I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to use some muted colours with little pops of brighter paint, and I’ve been eyeing up those attractive little tester pots of house paints for a while now, itching to use them. Perhaps I miss decorating the house! For some reason, I became a little bit daunted. Maybe I loved the idea too much. Maybe it would go ‘wrong’.
Now there’s a place to start – fearful of failure! Slaying that dragon spurs me on every time. So off I set, brave and courageous, and barefoot (as usual).
I started by making a nice base with gesso on watercolour paper. This means that the watercolour you plan to apply doesn’t soak in as normal, but sits on top and is more workable. Also gesso is lovely to draw on! I did the frame and the pattern first. I didn’t draw out a design first, I just got on with it. Using smudgy pencils and watercolour, acrylic and house paint, mixing on the palette and also on the paper (another reason a sturdy gesso background is useful!) I started to work into the shapes with colour. What a mess I got into – it was delicious.
Now to add the model. I traced out the faintest, vaguest outline for the shape and scale, but at this point I really did get scared, and went out to hang up the washing. There’s such a strong feeling in me sometimes of ‘getting it wrong’ that I often have to give myself a talking to. There is no wrong. Children do not play ‘wrong’. They just play! And so must we all too, so I picked up a pencil and drew and drew, and scribbled and scribbled, and painted and painted…
I’m quite pleased with the results, I think. A measure of this is do I want to sell it? I most certainly do NOT. I couldn’t bear to part with it, at least not right now. But I will, in a while, if you want it.
Watch this space for a link to the details… (sob).