Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Why Oh Why Did I Choose To Add Tartan?!

Hi everyone

I have been very busy of late trying to do lots of things, one of which was to finish the painting I started for the Port Community Arts Centre "Celtica" exhibition.    This exhibition is held once a year and is a member's exhibition where the theme is anything Celtic.  Members can enter paintings or sculptures on any subject they wish and win a prize or merit award, but there is always a special separate category and prizes reserved for those that enter the Celtic section. I always like to put in something with a Celtic theme and in previous years I have been lucky enough to sell paintings and receive some merit awards. 

This year, for goodness knows what reason, I got it in to my obviously senile brain, that I would paint some flowers.  As someone who has not painted watercolour flowers before and has not painted more than 3 flowers in any medium in the last 20 years, this was probably not the smartest thing for me to decide to do.  So, undaunted by the fact that I didn't have any idea how to paint flowers,  I set about doing a couple of Scottish Thistles with some Heather amongst them.  So far, so good - they were duly penciled in and I started to paint them.   I intended the painting  (as I usually do) to be sort of loose but it ended up getting more and more detailed (as they usually do). 

It was at this point that I decided they should have tartan ribbon or fabric wrapped all around them.  Yes, I know, I can't explain it - I don't know what possessed me. I roughly pencilled in something that looked like ribbon and because I had purple flowers and some touches of yellow on the leaves I figured that something with yellow would be the go.  It was while I was pondering upon this subject that John Ford, my very talented art teacher, came over and suggested that I use something with yellow in it.  As he had suggested the same thing I had just been thinking, I knew I was on to something.

I went looking on the internet but next day  John emailed me a picture of the McLeod of Lewis tartan.  Well,  as I am a fan of the "Highlander" movie and the clan McLeod, that seemed to be a good choice and I duly set to, innocently unaware of what a pain it was going to be to paint this jolly tartan fabric.

I didn't like the outline of the ribbon I had drawn in so I rubbed it all out and started again. I still wasn't happy and next thing you know I was drawing in and rubbing out and then re-drawing in again (and rubbing out again etc., etc.).   Finally I got a shape of draped tartan cloth that I could live with (mostly because I was simply fed up with the whole exercise) and I started to work out what colours to  to use for the tartan so as to get it as close as possible to the picture John had sent me. 

If you look at the picture of this tartan, you will see a lot of lines, lots and lots of them.  I can't begin to tell you how sorry I was once I had started doing them.  It dawned upon me that it was going to take me a very, very long time to finish them all.  On one of the days I worked on them the lines flowed, the painting and I were one in our own little Zen moment.  It was one of those rare occasions when the paint flowed obediently along the brush, which also glided smoothly over the paper obligingly painting beautiful neat straight or curvy lines whenever required.  However, the next time I tackled it,  Murphy was by my side and the same brush that had shared the Zen moment with me perversely kept forming tiny globs at the end which ran down on to the paper and spoilt my nice neat lines - I was so not impressed but I kept at it, even though my hands were shaky and I would not have been able to draw a straight line if my life depended upon it. And as for Zen, he'd gone off back to a mountain cave somewhere and was nowhere to be found.  In the end it took me over 15 hours to just do the lines and then I looked at them and realized that to make it look more like fabric they should be broken up a bit, so that it looked woven.  

To do this I took a small brush and dabbed on tiny  little yellow dots at random all over the nicely drawn lines, which seemed to work.  In the end I toned down the yellow a bit as it was too bright and overpowering the flowers. The whole thing nearly  drove me ga ga but I stubbornly stuck at it, resisting the urge to consign it to file 13.  Sometimes I do wonder just what exactly is it that drives us to want to go and get all creative and start painting pictures that cause us so much stress.  Anyway, I finally finished it in the nick of time and this was the result of all my efforts, taa daaa, my first watercolour flowers (and possibly my last tartan!):

A Scottish Bouquet - Thistles, Heather and McLeod Lewis Tartan

Hmmmm, I wonder now what the chances are of a wealth member of the McLeod Lewis clan coming to the exhibition and desperately needing to purchase a painting - about 3 billion to 1 I suspect.   

If anyone would like to visit the "Celtica" exhibition, it is at the Black Diamond Gallery, 66 Commerical Road, Port Adelaide, South Australia.  The gallery is open from 11.00 to 4.00 each day and the exhibition opens at 2.00 pm on 26th November and finishes on 4th December.  

Cheers all