The weather was nice during lockdown, and where I was staying fortunately had a large garden, so I set myself up there to paint what was there to be painted. My efforts were hampered by the willing "help" of my niece, the fact I only had my second best paints and brushes and that my easel was constructed out of a step ladder, a pirece of wood and some wire.
There are at either end of the garden two large old trees. One is an oak and the other (Check with mum).It is the second you can see above. It is very old, parts of it are dead. It is full of empty hollows, twisted branches and pollarded trunks. There is a hive of wild bees living in part of it (they swarmed during lockdown, it was very exciting). I didn't want to paint it in a realistic fashion but slightly more abstracted, and to capture some of the doom laden spirit of this year. I started with a red coloured ground and painted on top of that. The tree itself is just done in various thicknesses of ultramarine.
Above is the other tree, again with a red ground (above left) but painted slightly more realistically to provide another moody piece. Then a bee flew past and suddenly I wanted to do yelow and black, so I painted a yellow ground. Originally I was going to paint on it but then instead I opted for charcoal. The painting is very scratchy (above right) because before I started the drawing my young neice was allowed to attack the canvas with some charcoal. I incorporated her marks into the final work. Gives it a nice energy.
The colour I was enjoying using most was ultramarine. It had a lovely resonent depth to it so I decided to do a painting in mostly blue with a sort of photo negative feel to it with the dark of hedge in white and the light of grass in black (above left). It has a more hopeful feel than the earlier piece and I have to say I enjoyed painting it more.
Having done a painting with charcoal, I wanted to do one with some natural chalk I found in the garden. To that end I put on a black ground and drew on, again using the photo negative idea, to produce another tree picture.
All the paintings were done in situ passing the time in a garden, waiting for world to re-open.
After a while though I ran out of canvas, but I did have cardboard and some white gesso. I treated the cardboard and decided to experiment with an idea I have had for a while, a still life triptych. The cardboard packaging lent itself very well to this having the two wings on each side. I simply higlighted these divides in black and used it to portray again, in close up, two of the objects from the centre. I enjoyed this very much and it worked well. I plan to do it again.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.