In the last few weeks, I have been sharing the back story and artistic process behind the paintings that I am exhibiting at the Portsmouth and Hampshire Art Society's summer exhibition in Portsmouth Cathedral, which starts at the end of this week.
Today's painting is called "Seasons" and was inspired by gardening. This is one of the few of my paintings you can only hang one way - you may disagree of course.
In the summer of 2020, I was exploring a long-neglected corner of our back garden. I wanted to create a new flower bed and decided to dig until I would hit concrete, but the hole seemed bottomless.
I was struck by all the different colours, layers and textures just below the surface. Natural materials intermingled with man-made materials. I dug up leaves in various stages of decay, seeds and small bulbs. It felt as if all the different seasons could be found in a single patch of soil.
I wanted to capture the experience of journeying down into the earth. In the initial layers, I collaged some of the items I had found in the garden onto a wooden board, including fresh and decaying leaves, Honesty seeds, and a piece of orange paint that had peeled off a cement mixer. I also decided to "compost" an old collage paper.
I spent many weeks experimenting and rearranging items, adding, subtracting and layering.
I decided to add a horizon line to add a bit of breathing space. I then let paint drip down the wooden board to represent water. (It always amazes me how much water the soil holds, helping trees and other plants to cope even in a drought.)
Whilst I liked the textures and the variety of marks I was making, the work felt incomplete. Overall, the painting had a wintery feel and was a little melancholy. I put the painting aside, unsure how to inject a sense of hope and renewal into the work whilst still acknowledging darker seasons.
The painting finally got finished in recent weeks after I decided to enter it in the Portsmouth exhibition - deadlines can do wonders for creative blocks...
I added a moon, which to me speaks of stability and continuity throughout all seasons. Further layers helped to integrate the different elements and increased the "earthy" feel of the image. The orange and green at the bottom represent (future) springs and summers.
One of the hardest acrylics to replace in natural paints was a neon green, which added a bit of sparkle and mystery to past paintings, so I was pleased to discover a bright green called "Pizzazz" amongst the eco household paints produced by Lakelands. I added it to both the painting and to the frame because I wanted the overall feel of the "Seasons" painting to be hopeful, reminding us that winters do not last forever.
No camera can replace the human eye, and I have struggled to capture the nuances and subtle shifts of colours and textures of the work. I hope you have a chance to see the painting in person at Portsmouth Cathedral.
The preview evening is this Friday, 29th July from 7-9pm, and the official exhibition runs from Saturday, 30th July at 10am until Wednesday, 10th August at 3pm. Entry is free.
I will be at the cathedral during the preview evening and also of Friday, 5th July - please say hi if you decide to come along on either of those days.