Painting with black, white and greys. Hmm…no colour, that will take some persistence.
At least that’s what I thought at the declaration of the challenge. More than persistence, it took hard-headed perseverance. Remember that trick sentence teachers slipped into grammar tests? “The boy made his way into the impenetrable jungle.” Impossible. That’s what it felt like.
Today I painted my third monochrome. I have really tried to get the most out of this challenge.
My first was from a photograph of some tourists on Calton Hill Edinburgh.
It seemed to turn out quite well but working from a photograph felt like an easy way out. I needed to be tougher on myself.
For the second painting, I chose to work from ‘life’ and a view of brush fences, concrete and grey brick presented a possibility. It was a view from the balcony of the neighbour’s front yard. (Sshhh)! Sort-of en plein air.
The composition is totally dominated by that jolly kayak and the pale fence because I laid it down fairly literally. The brush fence was difficult to render and it made me see that large flat areas were not the answer. The proportions of the two fence panels on the left are too similar. This is an unfinished struggle.
So, I had worked on people from a photo, and some hard-edged forms. For the third work I needed to pit myself against more organic forms. Do you hear words of battle?
It was not the lack of colour, although I was dying to take refuge in some greens. The nub of the challenge lay in the discipline of seeing tonally and translating it into form and line. Of course that is what the real pro’s do in plein-air-land as a matter of course.
After about an hour and a half I was ready to give up. I knew this reaction. My tennis court behaviour. 40-love up when I’m serving usually ends up with the opposition winning the game. Self-sabotage? Perhaps it is just giving up. I really thought about it, talked aloud to myself. Not this time. Hot coffee and back to work.
This is my year for learning new skills and brushing up some old ones. It promises to be painful as well as enlightening. A bit like learning to serve properly/reliably in tennis when the old habits work most of the time. My tennis ‘career’ is almost over, so I won’t bother with those lessons.
And by the way, did you notice it is almost May? I think these challenges could be quarterly rather than monthly.