For those who have been reading my blog for some time, the term Running With Brushes may be familiar. The ambitious project was to paint 1000 watercolours, all of which sell for £15 plus p&p – all for Care for Casualties.
I had two goals:
To raise at least £10,000 for the charity.
To get some serious brush miles under my belt.
Win-win. I have been touched by the number of other artists who have joined in, and the people from all over the world who have ordered paintings from the Running With Brushes website.
Clearly, 1000 watercolours were not going to be painted quickly. If I had thought about the scale of it, I might not have started. But we’re still going and we have made good progress. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far.
I thought it was time for an update. I’ve posted about some of the paintings from time to time, but I haven’t blogged much for the past couple of years so the posts are probably a bit dated.
1000 watercolours – the numbers so far:
We have created 693 paintings so far. I am coming up on my personal 250th pretty soon – I think that may be cause for a little celebration. Of those 693, over half have sold. 362, to be precise. And that has meant a total of £6437 has been donated to Care for Casualties. With just over 300 paintings to go, I am making a push to get the project done – it may still take some time, but expect to see more small watercolours on my Facebook and Instagram feeds.
And a huge Thank You to all the artists who have joined me on this ride and to Marc who has matted and packaged every painting so far. And of course, a massive shout out to everyone who has bought a Running With Brushes painting. Please keep on supporting this project – your support has kept it going.
African Wild Dogs, otherwise known as Painted Wolves are endangered. They are small sociable canines, native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Their habitat is being destroyed and there are now fewer than 6000 Painted Wolves living in the wild.
Jeremy Borg, CEO of South African wine brand, Painted Wolf Wines is on a mission. Today he started an epic journey on two wheels from Cornwall to Scotland. Along the way there will be wine tasting events and an art auction. Jeremy’s progress can be followed on the Painted Wolf Facebook page.
Jeremy’s Top Dog Trek will raise finds for the conservation charity, Tusk in three ways: Donations, Jeremy’s ride sponsorship, and an amazing online Art Auction which opened at noon today and will continue for the duration of Jeremy’s ride. Bidding will close on 30th June. I’m very proud to be one of a group of artists who have donated works to this Art Auction.
The two artworks I have donated were painted this year in the Drakensberg. Each one is a hand-detailed giclée print. The original painting in watercolour is reproduced as a limited edition of 25 prints. Then each one has additional watercolour and ink detail, making it a unique piece of art.
How the Painted Wolves Art Auction Works
Bidding for a piece of artwork is easy. A simple online form must be completed to register. Thereafter, simply place your bid in a comment on the artwork page. Come back from time to time and check the current bid because the highest bidder on 30th June will be the owner of the piece of art.
The Painted Wolves auction art works include original watercolours, acrylics, hand detailed giclee prints, photographs and sculptures. The first 3 bids were received within 5 minutes of the auction opening and artworks will be on display at a number of events along the route.
If you’d like to have a look at all the artwork, you could look at the auction website (where bids can be made), or download the full catalogue pdf.
Following the discipline of practicing active observation in a form of listening with my eyes, my attention kept coming back to a basket of autumn apples in the garden. They were originally put there waiting to be eaten, but to my mind that were really waiting for me to start painting autumn apples.
The rich reds and crisp yellows were a dream colour combination and I set myself the challenge of capturing the diverse range of reds (in particular) that I could see in the fruit.
Painting Autumn apples
This painting is as much about tonal values as it is about colour. Given the dominance of reds in the subject, its critical to get the tonal values right. Without that, the painting is flat and lifeless. My initial focus was on the bright yellow of the apple furthest to the back of the basket.
By luck (although I would love to say that I had the foresight to arrange them that way) the darkest piece of fruit was in right next to it which gave me a natural focal point. But, the yellow apple is too close to the centre of the page for my liking. Lightening the green around the stalk of the darker piece of fruit in the process of painting autumn apples shifted that point of interest enough to the left to give me comfort in the composition.
I started this with water soluble pencils to mark out the basket and the basic positions of the apples. A few of the marks are still visible from the pencils. I find it less easy to get the intensity of colour with them, so I went on to painting autumn apples with pure watercolour once I had got my basic positions right.
Here’s a photograph of the actual basket of apples where you can see the colours that inspired this little exercise in painting autumn apples.
From time to time I find it a struggle to get into the flow of painting – that’s when I know I’m going through a painting style transition.
At the moment I have 4 paintings on easels around the studio – and they’re all frustratingly stuck. One is just not exciting – it needs something to bring it to life. One was too dull – it’s been washed back and will be redone in different media. One is experimental – I’m learning a new technique and its not quite working yet. And the the fourth one wasn’t working tonally, but it’s beginning to get there now. They will come together – I just have to remember to exercise patience.
Another knotty little question I’ve been wrestling with recently is whether to keep on blogging. If you add the writing time to the time it takes to maintain an online portfolio or two, and the Running With Brushes website – it adds up to quite a few evenings of laptop use. The sacrifice is painting time.
It’s actually the process of my painting style transition that has made me recognise that one of the benefits of blogging is recording those changes. My blog is a journal of my painting. It’s a great way of capturing my thoughts and the progress I make as I go through my experiments and develop new ideas.
My current painting style transition
I’ve no idea what will come out of the other side, but the little painting of my almost empty tubes of paints – some of my favourite colours – is the first sign of new elements of bold colour and semi abstract style that’s emerging.
I’ve always been a bit of a colour junkie. Now it’s just getting bolder and looser. It will be interesting to see where it takes me.
I decided to run another of my little comparison experiments with these triad tree paintings. Only there turned out to be two lessons it in.
I’ve been in the studio more than usual this week – which is a bonus. I had a small operation to remove a benign growth in my neck last Wednesday. Having to be at home, and resting, has meant I’ve had a bit more time to go and potter quietly in my own special den. (I do love being in the studio. It smells of paint, and is filled with colour and books and all sorts of wonderful food for the senses)
Using the same paper, and the same three primaries (Perylene maroon, Aureolin yellow and Winsor blue), I just changed my technique slightly when working on these two triad tree paintings.
For the Autumn Triad Tree, I sprayed the paper before laying on the paint. Not very much. Just enough to give the pigment some movement to when it hit the paper.
For the Summer Triad Tree, I left the paper completely dry. The colours stayed broadly where they had been placed, just mixing gently with those directly adjacent to them.
So, just changing that one small variable gave each of these paintings a very different feel. The Summer tree is more alive and vibrant, and the autumn tree is fading softly into dormancy.
The Triad Tree Paintings
Here’s where you can see the paintings on the Running With Brushes website:
I mentioned two different lessons. The second one came when my husband looked at the paintings. Aside from the outlines of the trees, he could not see the difference. I may have mentioned it before – he’s red/green colour blind. Basically, the changes in the way the colours mingled were not apparently to him. He can see the tonal differences, and the outline, but the colours don’t stand out for him, so the difference in technique is completely wasted on him.
I’ve never been a massive fan of purple asparagus – or any asparagus for that matter. There’s something in the pungence of it’s flavour that doesn’t appeal to me.
Yesterday I changed my opinion of this vegetable – but not about it’s taste. Asparagus season has begun and at the entrance to the fruit and vegetable department in the supermarket, a high pile of purple asparagus entices customers to buy. Unlike me, Marc is extremely partial to this glorious grass. It’s one of his favourite treats. He succumbed to the enticements and popped a bunch of purple asparagus in the basket. That’s when I noticed the wonderful colours on the stems and decided they had to be painted. The fabulous combination of green and purple tones, added to the delicate shapes of the tips and the markings up each stem were just a dream for a watercolour.
Stealing the Purple Asparagus
Before Marc could cook his supper this evening – I stole it. I whipped it out of the fridge and into the studio while the afternoon light was still strong enough and had a fabulously interesting subject to paint.
I was particularly fascinated by the variability in the tips – every one slightly different. Some had a little tilt at the end, some were almost rounded: fun to paint but also, quite intricate. Getting the balance of softness and detail right was a challenge.
As I write this post, Marc is just about to sit down with a plate of juicy, steaming hot asparagus. The theft of his purple asparagus was only temporary. He got it back in time for supper and he even quite likes the painting. Good thing, given that he’ll be packaging it for Running With Brushes this week. (I suspect, he secretly quite liked the idea that he’s about to eat a bunch of asparagus that’s been immortalised in paint.)
For the second year, I’ll be taking part in Saffron Walden Open Studios 2014.
I will be opening my studio at 19 Church Close, Whittlesford CB22 4NY for the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May. And there will be cake in the garden in aid of Care for Casualties. It’s a bit early for our garden to be in full bloom and I’d love you to visit us if you are around that weekend. (If you’re a garden fan and would prefer to visit later in the summer, I will be taking part in the first and last weekends of Cambridge Open Studios in July as well.)
Saffron Walden Open Studios 2014
The studio and garden will be open from 11am to 6pm on both weekends. I will be exhibiting a range of watercolour paintings, both framed and unframed. In addition to my full size works, my Running With Brushes paintings will be available to view. And for those who are interested in limited edition fine art prints, there will be an opportunity to view some of the range, and order prints for delivery within a week.
The Saffron Walden Arts Trust is a charitable organisation which coordinates, encourages and promotes artistic enterprises of all kinds in the Saffron Walden area. The trust provides practical support to local artists and performers to help them display their talents, with initiatives such as music festivals and craft fairs as well as open studio events.
The open studio events provide visitors with the opportunity to see the work of local artists by visiting their studios. Visitors can talk to the artists about their methods, influences and approaches to their art. I was only open for one of the two Open Studios weekends last year. Even so, I met some wonderful art lovers and had some great conversations. I am looking forward to the Saffron Walden Open Studios 2014 weekends this summer.
Another small watercolour for Running With Brushes (I will post some larger pictures soon, I promise. I’m just heading for a milestone and then I’ll take a break from these for a while).
In this painting, I wanted to capture the feeling of being high up on a clifftop next to a copse of trees, looking down on a deserted beach. In my first draft of this painting, there were trees on both sides framing the beach below, creating a window the viewer was looking through. But that composition just didn’t really work – it was too symmetrical (and a little boring). For me this version evokes a sense of warmth with the red and yellow flowers in the foreground meadow and peace contributed by the deserted beach below.
The challenges of painting a small watercolour:
– There’s a tendency to try and cram too much information into a painting – one key message is enough.
– I sometimes have to remind myself that ‘simple is good’ so that I don’t overcomplicate a painting
– Detail isn’t always required. The eye interprets innuendo very well.
The final in the series of my watercolour flowers challenge from one original clematis painting is here. I wanted a darker and more dramatic image on this one, showing the petals moving from sunshine on the left of the painting, into the shadows of approaching night progressing across to the right hand side of the painting.
A review of the whole series of watercolour flowers:
I’ve made it to the end of another painting challenge and here’s the collection of works. Now for the big question – Why do we do it to ourselves?
Every time I take on one of these I reach a point somewhere along the way where I ask myself that question. It doesn’t seem particularly sane. But I do know the answer: I do it because it makes me paint more. It’s very easy at the end of a working day to just sit passively in front of the TV – that’s always a temptation. But if I’m working towards a goal, I will get into the studio for an hour or two before I slow down for the evening. It’s as simple as that.
A painting challenge just like any other training, is an opportunity to practice and improve. It’s really no different to the marathon runner who puts their running shoes on every evening and gets on the road for a training session, or a cyclist who pedals along tarmac for an hour a day. It’s just exercising a different set of muscles – the creative ones in this case. (I’m sure we do have creative muscles – if not literally, then at least figuratively.)
Here’s a brief breakdown of the painting challenge works: