“Wild Oxlips”, oil on panel 5 x 7 inches
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Every morning, I pile the kids into the car and we head off to school.
Despite the chaos, I treasure this part of my day.
I get to spend some time with my boys. They’re hilarious and they make me laugh, without fail, every morning.
I also get to drive through the breathtakingly beautiful countryside that we live in the heart of.
Familiarity is supposed to breed contempt, apparently. Not for me, not here.
True, I am becoming more familiar with our surroundings now. I’m not as thrown by the beauty of it as I was when we first came here just over a year ago.
But it still moves me. I think that’s partly because I make a mental effort to notice it, every morning.
I don’t want to get too used to it, I don’t want to get complacent about it.
I want always to remember how special it is, the sacrifices we made to get here, the uncertainty we faced – still face, every day.
I watch the seasons change here and I’m learning the rhythm.
Spring brings the early wild flowers; snowdrops, oxlips and cherry blossom. Summer bings heather and roses. Autumn brings long shadows, that special light and Gloucestershire apples and pears. Winter brings frost and snow-days at home with the kids when we can’t get the car out.
For me, it’s enough.
It’s more than enough. It fills me up completely. Just what’s in front of me. It’s really all I need.
Paint what you feel
Once, a long time ago, I was walking through the impressionists room in the National Gallery in London.
A teacher was there with her class of young kids. As I passed her she gestured at the paintings in the room and said loudly (I suspect so that the whole room could hear):
It’s much harder to paint what you feel than what you see!
My immediate reaction was sadness for those kids.
Quite apart from the fact that it was a room of impressionist paintings (by painters who were avowedly trying to get closer to what they saw) I don’t believe there’s any such dichotomy.
Seeing does not preclude feeling.
I think that teacher was perpetuating a myth about painting, a script that we’ve been lead to follow so often that it’s become like wallpaper. It’s so familiar that we don’t notice it, even though it’s right in front of us.
The script says that the way to paint what you feel is to disregard what you see. As if our perception is a kind of tyranny that we must escape if we’re to create anything meaningful, anything truly felt.
But when I look around at nature, at what I’m surrounded with, when I bring some small part of it into my studio to paint, when I study it in its finest detail, how the light falls on it, how its colours change, when I try to recreate that, to find a way to give it life on the flat surface of my little panel, when I struggle to create something that lives – I am feeling, and deeply.
I feel love for this place, love for the things I choose to paint that I find here. Love for the wonderful people I’ve met and new friends I’m making here. It all moves me profoundly.
I am painting what I feel.
I am painting what’s meaningful to me, just by painting what’s in front of me.
And it’s enough.
Best wishes and thanks for reading,
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