The Painting Garden

October 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

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The garden in June is best expressed in watercolour. It reminds me of Monet’s paintings – particularly his much maligned, semi-abstract works crafted towards the end of his life when he was nearly blind.

I sit with half closed eyes. The shapes become indistinct, the colours overlap and fuse. The flowers are fragile yet eloquent – they know their life is brief.

This garden is not for vigorous digging now, but for gentle pruning, dead-heading and musing. Nor is it for the bright prime colours that will grow later in the year. I will use graded washes and modified hues: thin, raw umber and zinc white, with a dash of dioxazine purple for an old blousy rose, diluted cadmium red and white with a hint of black for a graceful hollyhock.

            I paint horizontally on wet, stretched paper, with sponge, a rag, and a voluptuous sable brush dripping with wash. The paint spreads and granulates, and I allow the wash freedom to express itself, occasionally directing by mopping or tilting the painting from side to side to help the paint flow. There is no detail in this painting: just a trace, a promise, an intimation of what is.

           Time slows, and I see the garden through an ephemeral mist. I try and evoke a sense of spiritual place and emotional peace; a reminder that my inner life can be like this, too.

 

        But my garden in August demands to be painted in oils.Time is speeding up now, and the plants that flourish in these dry conditions own the colours of the North African and Mediterranean garden. The sun does not compromise: it’s sharp, bright light mirrors the flamboyant blooms. The flowers are vibrant, provocative, vivacious – I think of Rousseau or Pollock – the shapes grandiose and architectural. The plants shoot aggressively out of the ground overnight: their vigour and hurried growth expressing the final push before the plants die down and rest.

            The colours are primary and bold. Pure undiluted cadmiums now: red for the spikes of gladioli, deep yellow for the canna lilies that hold water in their leaf hearts, and then ultramarine for the deadly yet handsome aconite. I mix a vibrant palette beforehand for I will need to paint quickly and vigorously in one sitting – the plant energy demands it. I use thick oils with palette knives: vigorously spreading, smoothing, cutting and flicking the paint to capture the bold energy of the August garden.

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