I have done a lot of painting in the various lockdown, partly for something to do, partly to keep the crushing loneliness at bay and partly for solace. This blog details two experimental paintings which are slightly different from what I normally do.
I also separated from my wife in January 2020. The combination of grief and a lockdown is not something I would recommend. I one of my more maudlin moments I started cutting the pages out of my old diaries and sticking them to some boards. I went through two volumes before I passed through this phased and decided not to cut up any more, it suddenly seemed a bit petty and something I would regret.
I left the boards for a long while but eventually decided to paint on them. The diaries were quite small, about half the size of A5 and I had stuck multiple layers onto each board. I now live on in Henley-on-Thames and had been sketching, photographing the area since I moved here in June 2020. You can see some of these paintings here. I had a few images I had yet to turn into painting. It was autumn and the changing colours were very engaging, so I selected one image, two red trees, flanking a small wooden holiday home and painted that (above).
The paint is oil paints (as all the paintings in my gallery page). It behaved very differently. It does not flow as well as across canvas or wooden board so I had to apply the paint thickly. I use thick paint anyway. It also took much longer to dry so no matter how long I left it I was always painting wet on wet. This meant fine detail was much harder so I had to opt for a looser style. The whole painting took me a few weeks but I was quite pleased with the result.
What I particularly like is the way the edges of the diary pages show through. They give the picture a sort of disjointed montage feel which I quite like.
Pleased with the first picture I decided to do another. A friend of mine suggested I try a wintery scene and one cold November morning, I was walking over Henley bridge, the sun was rising over the river, the river was high and flowing fast and a lonely rowing crew was manoeuvring mid stream.
I liked this image and decided to paint it. Familiar with the restrictions now I didn't even try for fine detail but went for a looser more suggestive style which I think suited the subject matter anyway. I was particularly pleased with the graduated sky. Picasso has this trick where he would paint a figure on a piece of paper and stick it on his paintings to see if he wanted to incorporate it or not. It is a useful trick and I used it in reverse here. I painted a blank patch of river and stuck it over the rowers and the buoy to see if I wanted to remove them. I decided in the end to keep them in.
Did I mention they take ages to dry? I finished them both before Christmas but they are still not dry. I think it will be months before they are. I have booked the Old Fire Station Gallery for the 19th to 24th August and intend to have an exhibition then. Hopefully they will be dry by then.
I may do more, but not with diary entries, I might use old receipts or other scrap pieces of paper instead.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.