How I paint

Old painting - Stormy Day, Small sketch 6 inches square, oil on paper, Vivien Blackburn

I read this quote by Nina Murdoch

Basically I put stuff down to work against – Put on a mark and then cut back – What takes the time is finding those patterns, making space work, where the light comes out – not just ‘ooh colour!

....... the play of colours and light – the sense of something real and concrete but at the same time constantly melting and reforming,
Nina Murdoch

and it so accurately describes the way I like to work.

Even in the recent, more illustrational, observational sketches of apples and the skull - there are tentative marks put down, areas of colour or tone, constantly adjusted, wiped out, drawn over, changed, until I've pushed it to where I want it to go :>) .

In oils I mix colours on the painting often in putting down one colour into another wet colour, scratch through to earlier layers, scrape paint off, flick paint, drip paint, use painting knife or edges of card to 'print' shapes - then modify, adjust, keep changing ....

This little sketch was done in the teeth of a gale, blowing off the sea, The only thing I could hold still enough was this tiny 6 inch square sketchbook. The colours are scratched through, overlaid and generally pushed around in exactly the way Nina describes. There is even a little scumbled coloured pencil in there put down the next day when it was dry (done in quick drying Griffin Alkyd oils).

I have a general idea of how the finished work will look but as important it is the 'feel' of the day - catching that wind and wildness - or calm stillness/whatever. The marks help to get this. I never start out with a crystal clear end image in mind - the journey is important and because of the layers etc, it isn't possible to envisage every outcome clearly and the image evolves as it progresses.

How about you?


Kelly Marszycki said…
the unplanned, the quick, the spontaneous -- or sometimes the plain what the h-ll, please let me just get through this is the best. when i plan, it usually ends up completely different at the end of the day. you remind me of Turner, lashing himself to the mast to get the feel of the storm -- bravo!
vivien said…

I think we were insane that day! we had no idea how bad it would be - usually it's possible to get some shelter but with the wind straight off the sea we couldn't. I simply couldn't hold anything bigger still long enough - it kept flipping in the wind before the brush got near to it!

the 'please just let me get through this' is a familiar feeling! especially if classes put me on the spot and ask for a completed painting demo - eeeeek! I only do them VERY occasionally.
Billie Crain said…
I've always enjoyed the look of your artwork and the way you manage to capture the 'feel' of your subject, Vivien. It looks so spontaneous and 'in the moment'. I'd love to be more freehanded with my paintings but with my current medium of choice(w/c)I have to have some kind of plan beforehand or things quickly get out of control. *sigh*
Yellow said…
The wildness and constant movement is fabulous here. I agree with your approach. Nailing the moment is what it's about, what gives us our kicks and is what drags us out in all weather, and ignore the impending frostbite or pneumonia. I'd rather be a mad artist than a coach potato any day.
Yellow said…
PS, remind me to send you some huge bulldog clips some time soon.
Nicki MacRae said…
Vivien, with fear of sounding gushing, I have wanted for some time to say just WHAT an inspiration you are to me (and to my work). This post seemed an ideal moment :-)

I often find myself thinking things like 'how would Vivien tackle that?' and several times in a dry or difficult patch I have come to your blog or website to have a look at your work and seek inspiration. Not to mention the many gems of advice you have generously given me...

Only the other day I was pondering how to handle some water in a landscape and looking up artists who 'do' water well to help lend confidence to my brush - and you were right at the top of the list.

So anyway, in a rather self-conscious and awkward way, I just wanted to say a huge 'HOORAY FOR VIVIEN' and a huge THANKS! :-D
Tina Mammoser said…
Love it! :) And glad someone else has that general idea. The hardest part to express to people is how important and how much work goes into the lower layers, yet without them we just couldn't achieve the final version.

I'm imagining you in the wind, trying desperately to hold the notebook still in one hand while the other is shaking anyway! heh.
vivien said…
Thank you Billie :>)

and me too Steph! oh and those bulldog clips may be useful :>D

Nicki I need a blushing smiley here! thank you - and you are very welcome - your work is developing in leaps and bounds and it's a pleasure to see :>)

Tina I love watching the way you layer colours and abstract - and your blog is a great read :>)

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