ISOLartION – Carol Whitehouse on a painting journey
When I was asked if I would like to write a piece for ISOLartION I was about to start working on a painting of purple tulips. I began to think of how I go about producing my art. I liken this to a journey –setting off, the overnight stay, surprises on the way and finally arriving at my destination. Of course, like all journeys there are plenty of wrong turns along the way, but this year, more than ever, art has been such an important journey in my life.
I love painting loose, bright, bold, semi abstract flowers. In my mind, I knew what I wanted my destination to be but, it was not always quite the same. My main problem was a lack of patience! It is so easy when you paint loose with lots of water to think it will be easy, and will almost paint itself, but as I found to my cost too many of my paintings ended in the pile of “bumps” – some for later repair others to be towed away! So, this year I stepped off the motorway and joined the B roads!
Planning the journey
Setting off, my destination is a vase of purple tulips. I always use the same paper for my flower paintings – Fabriano HP Extra White (20” x 14”). My paints are a mixture of Mijello, Daniel Smith and Windsor & Newton. My tools consist of brushes, rollers, and anything I can make a mark with. A favourite is the ½” rough bristle brush simply because it produces great marks and shapes due to its imperfections.
It’s useful to start a journey with a map. My map is my rough reference sketch. This is usually a large drawing in pen using quick loose marks to emphasize direction within the final painting. I use a pen so there is no rubbing out or attempting to create a perfect drawing.
I date my sketch and put down what the weather is like, how I am feeling, and write a simple aim for the painting. For me, the painting is not just about what you see, it also includes the environment and emotions of the artist.
Starting the journey
I start by making marks and lines across the page with masking fluid which may get painted over later but add interest to the painting from the beginning. How do I envisage my destination? I know I do not want to paint an exact copy of the vase of flowers, so I approach them as just shapes and colours. So often in the past I have started off loose and then “lost it” as my work got tighter and ended up with every petal and leaf painted. The biggest problem I have is the leaves. How do you get to the end without painting every leaf and figuring out all the spaces in between? To get around this, I use a roller. I make directional marks which either indicate leaves or the spaces in between in the final painting.
The overnight stay with surprises in the morning
Having completed the first stage, I drop in lots of water with a pipette, leaving puddles sitting on the paper. Time for an overnight stop and see what interesting marks and shapes I will have in the morning.
I love the surprises on the way, and not really knowing what I will have to work with the next day. When I see what I have, I use the shapes on the paper to start building up the flowers, leaves and other elements of the painting.
I like to look into a painting and find those odd little marks that I can turn into another flower head or a leaf in an unusual place.
The odd detour
No journey is without its problems and vases can be one of them. Do I paint a vase or not? I vary from painting to painting.
A recent work called Vase of Sunshine has only one half of the vase. The water had run down the page so I left it, and painted the vase around it. For Frilly White Tulips I wanted the vase to be much more a focal part of the painting.
I am now close to arriving! Do I like what I see and does it all work? I find it useful is to take a photo at this stage and look at the image. The areas that need more work seem to stand out more in a photo. With Purple Tulips, I wanted to introduce a new colour with a bit of zing so the stripes on the vase became Red Violet with some of this colour splashed around the painting.
I like my paintings to be bright and bold but most of all I want them to make me happy, and if that happiness gets passed on, then my journey is complete.