Whether you are a realist, surrealist, impressionist or abstract artist, you pour yourself onto the canvas with every mark that you make and whether this comes naturally or it is a battle, the image you make will tell.
I began my art career as a hobby artist, with the knowledge that I have always been able to replicate what is already there (I started by copying my mothers signature on school letters to get out of PE), I am on a journey to convey more than just a copy. I want to find my signature and put it into everything I do.
Part of the challenge of portraying oneself as a portrait painter (of animals) I spend a lot of time painting horses and dogs from photographs. Whilst this is a great way to learn about painting methods and making some pennies, it is no substitute for authentic life study and the freedom to play.
This is of course why every artist should have a sketchbook! And some tuition.
With this in mind and a landmark birthday on the horizon I persuaded my husband that I needed to go on a workshop. After much musing and debating what would be more useful to me in this stage of my artistic development, I plumped for a course with a much admired artist whose use of colour and ability to create an abstract painting that spoke to me. So with much excitement and trepidation I arrived at the idyllic Coombe Farm Studio to attend a week long course with Gerry Dudgeon!
The numbers of students taking each course are kept deliberately low (between 4 and 12 per course) in order to allow the tutor to get to know what you would like to achieve from the course and support your work whilst you are here.
Gerry has taught throughout his professional painting career and uses his experience of working on archaeological excavations in the scraping and wiping back of the paint surface to reveal underlying layers and in his fascination with Dorset’s ancient geological past. He draws parallels between Jurassic fossil forms and the shapes of the hills, and he enjoys finding rhyming shapes in man-made tracks, hedgerows, field systems and hill forts observed while walking high up along footpaths, often with a distant view of the sea. He likes to combine a scrutiny of close-up forms with a feeling for deep space in his work.
The course is designed for students who are seeking ways to unlock their own creativity and enables students to free up their self-expression and lose their inhibitions.
This is a particularly useful course for people who feel that they want to find a new direction for their work”….PERFECT! Where do I sign up!?
I was the second to arrive and soon settled in, meeting the other artists that would be sharing the experience, along with affable Gerry and Lara who manages the business side of Coombe Farm. Our first evening was spent getting to know each other and dining on the excellent food created from fresh local produce and presented beautifully by resident chef, Tanya.
The first day began with a quick sketch exercise around the property and as is usual with creative types, each came with an individual response to the exercise.
From these sketches we were encouraged to distill our sketches down to their basist forms and explore the shapes and colours within.
This may sound easy but for someone that strives to create a realistic portrayal of what is there (paint what you see, not what you THINK you see!) it was to be honest a total head ****! I was now plunged into the world of opposites! Paint what you THINK you see, not what you see!
The best I could offer was an illustration for a Childrens’ book on gardening!
Gerry has a method.
Gerry’s method is thus: Always start your abstract painting with an abstract painting.
That may sound confusing, but in reality it meant that every painting started off life as a ritual flicking splatting and splodging of paint onto the canvas. This creates an interesting ground to build upon, leaving some areas of the initial marks exposed and others painted over. Plus it’s fun – release the inner child!
My attempt was (in my opinion) only one step away from the black bin in the corner of the room, but I was determined to bust the key on the padlock that was holding the door to my inner self! So onwards!
Having completed my first work with the zig zagging stream, I immediately became hooked on a zig-zag that became apparent through a line of hedgerows that slithered off into the distance.
We were exploring perspective and distance and this zig zag took you from the foreground and off into the far horizon really nicely. At last, I was getting the gist….mmmm
Back in the studio I only had two narrow format canvases left so I taped them together and painted them as one. Colour is my signature and my first love, so that would be the language that was spoken on my final work.
There are aspects of these paintings that I love and much of it remains unresolved as time ran out. I do think about ‘finishing’ them and maybe even framing them, but they do serve as a reminder of a big challenge for me.
- Explore the shapes within and image and don’t be afraid the use artistic licence.
- Don’t be afraid of painting something just because you like it…e.g. a smooth blue circle next to a bright pink square – just because…
- When sketching from original source, take the information that you need – i.e. the tonal contrasts, the shapes, the form, the light, the shade, or maybe a colour.
- When painting NEVER start with a white canvas.
- You don’t need to have a reason – just an imagination
- There are no rules.
- I should be a childrens’ illustrator?
Well we will have to wait and see!