At this time of year almost everyone you meet has a comment to make on the grey skies of January. It’s not that we don’t get bright days, blue sky and crispy white frost, it’s just that they don’t come often enough. Recently I was talking with a friend who made a point of saying that he had adopted the philosophy of trying to look for the good in life. Later, a link to a song popped in to my inbox which made the point even clearer.
I began to think round the idea from the point of view of an artist. All too often when painting from a photograph we forget that this is only the starting point, there is much more that is good to be found by seeking a little harder. I recently began a simple watercolour of the distant Humber Bridge seen across fields, a subject which I have painted many times and usually find enjoyable. This time, however, inspiration was missing, the weather was poor, the light dull and my photographic reference material didn’t inspire.
Here in East Yorkshire, we have the most amazing skies, seemingly on a grander scale than I have been used to in other parts of the country. I wondered why wasn’t I enthused by their grandeur today. A low tree to the right leant in to the painting and as a bonus had a very acceptable shape without the need for artistic license, what could possibly be holding me back? Why could I not see the “good in life” in this case?
After musing for a while I looked down at the paint box and brush ready and waiting beside me and on the spur of the moment mixed up Brown Madder and Prussian Blue, two of my favourite colours. Immediately inspired, and needing only the addition of a little Winsor Yellow and Alizarin Crimson to energise the sky my painting was completed quickly, the whole process being both enjoyable and energising. The end result was very far from the naturalistic landscape colours I often use but the painting had a freshness and energy that emphasised the pleasing composition of tree, sky and Bridge.
So thanks, Colin, for sharing your philosophy with me, I am going to try to apply it to all my landscape paintings through the next few months until the dull winter weather clears and bright spring days return. Oh, and the added bonus is that if I apply it to life as well I shall hopefully be a much cheerier person to know.
This is what reminded me that though the artist may wake up to a grey start, there is the whole day to paint it a different colour.