Seeing, Painting and Pain

Previously when working with acrylics I have painted big gradients of colour across geometric shapes and waves. Here are some examples…

I don’t have any larger resolution photos of these because I was painting for a job at the time so they all got sold.   😦

But now I want to experiment with acrylics again and see if I could get back into them. To do this, last week, I had a go at finding out what the paint can do.

This week I wanted to plan a painting which follows a different style.  I wanted it to have the style of the paintings above but be about real objects and landscapes.  Painting like this involves simplifying the subject and making some changes to improve the aesthetic of the overall piece. I have previously found this difficult because it feels like I’m metaphorically “short-changing” reality. But I have been assured by people who have actually gone to art school 🙂 that this is OK and not “a lie” as I used to define it!



So, I began by simulating a painting in my computer to see if I can see the shapes I want to paint in a given landscape.For instance, I had a look at this lovely photo of Betws-y-Coed from North Wales – I place I have visited many times and know and love. (This is not my photograph but came from a Wales tourist site.)

Then I painted directly into the computer using my drawing pad to make this…



It was my first try (and I admit I did get enthralled in playing around with textures so it’s a bit odd in places!) But it gave me a feeling for how I want to try to paint in acrylics now. I got to practice the “seeing” of the painting which is more than half the job – the rest is the more technical side of painting. It’s very similar to improvising in jazz. When I first started trying to learn jazz, in my teenage years, I really had no idea how to do it. But now when I hear jazz I hear the music itself, and then as I get into it, I begin to hear the way my own heart sings inside the song. It’s that which I play when I improvise nowadays and it’s the same with this kind of impressionistic painting. It’s not the landscape itself I’m painting but the echo of it inside my heart.

Then I had another go with this famous picture of Kinder Scout in the Peak District (again not my photo)…

This is another beloved place for me from years ago.

This is how the second simulation turned out (with no playing with the textures allowed!)

These were not finished pictures but sketches done in about 20 minutes each to see how things might work. I love doing sketches of things on the computer because I can do it much faster than with real paints and change things faster if I don’t like where I’m going.



Of the two I liked the Betws-y-Coed one best but felt that the Kinder Scout one would be better for a first try back into acrylics.  So I had a go.  This is the best picture I can get of what I’ve done so far. ( I kept getting lots of shine from my lighting reflecting in the picture of he painting.)


I decided to put a little sleeping fox into the picture but he counts as detail and I’ve not added any detail to the painting yet.  I’m still working on the shapes, tones and colours.



I had a very difficult time working with acrylics again. While I can quickly sketch at my computer and paint for a while properly at a table I have too much pain in the evenings to stay up for very long before I have to lay down.  I can’t do something as messy as acrylics in bed.  I can with watercolour, ink and gouache, but acrylics are a step too far.  So I’m going to give myself a break for a couple of weeks to get my pain levels down again and then perhaps have another go.

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