My last painting of 2012 and the first of 2013 has been a long time in the making. That might be an understatement to my very patient father who commissioned it 6 years ago. It’s not that I neglected to work on it, but there was a certain pressure to make it worthy of the recipient and the experience we shared discovering the subject!
Dad and I found this tiny,15th Century, stone church one day several years ago whilst walking in Suffolk, England. It was a delight to stumble upon it, hidden amongst the trees, knowing it had stood for over 500 years and was still a functioning place of worship. I felt a wonderful mystery and beauty around it. Although the church was locked, there was a sign on the door Inviting visitors to collect the key from the nearby rectory.
We followed directions and were greeted by a very friendly verger who gave us the key – it must have been 8 inches long and made of solid brass! The interior of the church was just as beautiful, lovingly maintained with stained glass, wooden pews and hand embroidered kneeling cushions. Here are some great photos taken in 2009 by Simon_K:
When Dad later said he wanted to commission a painting, I knew exactly what I wanted to paint for him.
I had taken lots of photos and chosen one viewpoint to paint from. I started in oil, then a watercolour, then another oil – but none of them had the jewel like quality of the scene and the mystery I had felt. The project went back on the shelf and faced the wall for another 6 months.
Recently, a student made a comment which really made me think (one of the joys of teaching). She said “I’ve heard that all artists really only paint one composition, they just repeat the same one over and over again”.
I went back to the drawing board and thought I’d try this subject again using different compositions. As it turns out it was the composition I had been struggling with all along. I was copying a photo and it just wasn’t working. I made 3 new sketches using 3 different motifs; the S curve, the L shape and the Cross+ shape.
If there is one motif I am aware of using over and over again it’s the S curve. I find it very lyrical, full of movement and leads the eye around the painting. I use this motif on purpose most of the time. Robert Genn has a great description of this in his Twice weekly letter:
But after experimenting a bit, I liked the Cross + shape in one of my thumbnails and it seemed to add symbolism to the subject.
I made a colour sketch in watercolour, drew a deep breath and made a start on the canvas with fluid acrylics. I generally know after the first sitting whether the painting is going to work or not and this time I saw the end in sight! I would finish the painting and hand deliver it to my Dad in honour of his 75th birthday 2012. I missed his birthday which falls on Christmas day, but I did make a surprise visit to London for New Year and gave it to him then.
It now hangs in Dad’s study above his desk.