Field painting adventure and overcoming blocks

I have started to reserve Saturdays as a day off, otherwise I'm working every day without a break, which isn't particularly good for my fragile mental health. The weather at the moment is perfectly 'May' - not too hot, with a pleasant breeze and everywhere around is bursting with greenery, blossom and bird song. I have been yearning to do some landscape sketching for ages and decided to stay close to home, because I have a certain amount of anxiety about going out. So I packed a rucksack with a stupid amount of art stuff, made up a little picnic of a cheese sandwich and a bottle of water and after a lot of deep breaths, I set off on my monumental adventure; a minute's walk down the road to the back field which my bedroom overlooks. This is my usual  pleasant view, when I am working in bed (which is most days). It has the best light after midday and is comfortable.

I haven't  set foot in this field in the ten years I've been here. There are two reasons for this; the first is practical. There is a designated footpath which goes across it, but it ends abruptly at the hedgerow boundary, so it's fairly useless. The second is that I've had a mental block about it, as this was the field that Andy walked across on his last, ghastly walk in the dark snowstorm, leaving only his footprints, which remained there for days. I remember kneeling at the bedroom window the next morning, watching a police dog tracking what it could find of his scent and that image will never leave me. So despite it's beauty (and since then, I do appreciate it, every day), I have had little desire to actually go into it, even for a change of scene. So this was the day and it felt momentous. The footpath is just on the edge of Jean-and-Brian-Next-Door's garden and is almost never used (for the practical reason I mentioned before). It was overgrown with lovely Queen Anne's Lace and less lovely nettles.  

I scrambled over and waded through the jungle. Suddenly there I was, and what seemed like a vast expanse in front of me. The footpath leads to that gap ahead in the hedgerow. Beyond that are more fields, but technically inaccessible without extra footpath. I don't think the farmer would mind me pottering about, as we are on good terms, but I don't like going outside 'the rules', so I stuck to the  route. 

Happily, the area that I intended to sketch was perfectly placed for me to settle my gear and myself on the path - there is a small blossoming area of hawthorn that I wanted to capture, just beyond the oak tree on the edge of the woodlands (which belongs to another less friendly farm). 

It's been years since I attempted anything like this. I did a very rough prelim sketch of the composition, which was a messy scrawl that only I could interpret. 

I have no pretensions to being the next Cezanne or Paul Nash - this was really about getting out in the nice weather and doing something different. It was hard work though, even with copious amounts of pastels. I didn't create a masterpiece, nor even anything like how I emotionally 'feel' about the landscape. But I did have a marvellous two hours, sat in the sun, scribbling away in the middle of a field that I had feared entering for a decade. Now I felt safe and comfortable. I ate half a cheese sandwich and dickered about with my pastel mess until it was time to stop before I completely ruined it. 

It's been  long held wish of mine to be able to spend most of my time focussing on landscape art, but I'm not good enough to make it pay and I can't afford the time it would take to get to a standard I am happy with, nor the big canvases and oils I'd like to paint with. But this will do for now and more importantly, it was a break from my other work and I had fun. 

The problem is an old one - back when I was doing my art training over thirty years ago, I decided to go down the path of illustration, which suited my naturally 'tight' and high definition style of working. So it's hard to break out of that habit and needs a lot of practise to get out of. However I made a small start and the colour capture wasn't too bad - I'm just not happy with the way I depicted it, because it in no way expresses the way I 'see' a landscape in my mind's eye. There's no lyrical rhythm or magic. It is what it is.

However, self criticism aside, I also enjoyed seeing our cottages for the first time from the back - Jean and Brian's larger sections on the left and my bit tacked on the right side, with the white window frames. I had the odd sensation that maybe  (in some freakish quantum alternate reality kind of thing) there was simultaneously another Me in the bedroom, needle felting and gazing out of the window, while present Me looked on from the other side of the field. 

That's another block overcome and for the first time in ages, I have two mini- paintings for sale, in my usual style, over in my Etsy shop. I'm hesitant about mentioning them, as my art barely sells, compared to my needle felting, but I'm going to be brave again. 

This is 'Marmalade', one of my imaginary toys, which comes in a 6 x 6 inch mount but is unattached, so that it can be reframed if wished, which is available here

And one from last year, which I've only just listed, 'Autumn Pincushion' (very unseasonal), which is also in a 6 x 6 inch mount and is available here. 

Now I'm going to take the rest of the day off again, as it's Saturday, and I might sit under the willow tree in the overgrown garden and finish some Christmas ornaments so that they are ready in time for the holiday season, which will swing around all too quickly. 


Puddock said...

Hi Gretel, I haven't been around on the blogosphere for a while but I'm so glad that I've come back on the day that you were brave and entered the field. It's amazing how heavy and all-encompassing the burdens get as we get older. I'm in my mid-sixties now and eighteen years past the death of my husband. But it can still hurt and so can all the other deaths that I'm now the only 'witness' of. It's hard.

On a more cheerful note, I loved the colours of your sketch and the pincushion is adorable! Thanks for sharing your progress on these and on the field front x

Linda said...

I love your landscape! The pincushion and the little animal are adorable too. I’ve checked in on your blog for a number of years now. Your needle felting just fascinates me too. Glad to see you are broadening your horizons. One day at a time, one step at a time.

Madness and mayhem said...

I hope all is well, missing your updates