Chickens, Clouds and …

I have always wished I could draw or paint, it is in my genes somewhere but so buried it struggles to raise its head, or paintbrush.  My maternal grandfather was always doodling cartoons and pictures, how I wish I had kept some and framed them.  A fraternal uncle – I think – was one of Queen Victoria’s painters, she had painters to paint the scenes she liked just as today we would snap a photograph.  So both sides of the blood line have a degree of paint and ink coursing through them.  Daughter is a whizz with pen, pencil, charcoal, clay, lino cuts and pastels but it appears to have skipped my generation.  Occasionally I might doodle, but I have never ventured further since leaving school, however, back in October when on holiday near Oban I suddenly dragged Hubby along the road with determination towards a shop I knew was hiding just off the main shopping streets.  I had a strong notion to awake that comatose gene and decided that if I could buy some basics for not a lot then I might tinker with my long desire to paint.  As Hubby got all excited about the fact the shop had models in, I, to my surprise discovered I could actually buy paints, brushes, paper and a pallet all for under £10 it was like a little sign.  A quick chat with the assistant and it was decided that acrylics where the way forward as they are more, forgiving with errors.

Boy was the sign little and if the acrylics were for forgiving I was certainly pleased I hadn’t got the watercolours that I had envisioned.  I had grand notions of being able to sit and whip up a landscape or two during the week but alas it was not to be.  My first attempt was well …. let me be polite, it was dire.  It just looked flat and the shapes and colours were just not right in fact it looked nothing like the beach I was sitting at, I had overworked it in a futile attempt to better it until it was an utter mess.  The more I tried to fix it the worse it got, Hubby was kind and encouraging, I was realistic it would make a good firelighter.  My second attempt at the old ferry, was slightly better, well the colours were better and this time I didn’t overwork it, but it still wasn’t right.  The perspective was all wrong had no depth despite the hi and lo lights, I was getting good at making fire lighters and again it looked nothing like the real thing in front of me.  My third attempt wasn’t any better, indeed it was poorer than the 2nd attempt, painting landscapes just wasn’t working.   I did try one more landscape, not of an actually scene but back in the cottage as an impression (not in style) but of rolling hills and a loch and the patchwork of colours that is the Argyll scenery.  I had thought that if I wasn’t actually looking at a scene and trying to paint ‘it’ then maybe the little bits that were annoying me and I was fussing over wouldn’t taunt me so – I was mistaken, another firelighter was created.  I admit I was feeling somewhat despondent and at this point was starting to think to myself well at least daughter would be able to get some enjoyment out of my vain purchase.  The pad and paints lay rejected for a day, until I decided to do something which I thought was going to be stupid in the extreme.

Beside the cottage where we stay the estate house keeps chickens and I took a notion to paint them.  Now this seemed ridiculous because I couldn’t paint something that didn’t move, the scenery, so how was I ever going to manage a chicken which was never still.  However we had grown very fond of the chickens and the more I thought of it the more I wanted to paint them, for unlike the scenery the chickens weren’t really captured in a photograph, and you can never have too many firelighters when you have an open fire.  I liked the way the acrylics dealt with the feathers and and maybe as a consequence didn’t overwork it, it was no work of art but I was at least pleased the chooks looked like chooks but mostly I liked the texture of the feathers, for the first time I thought maybe it is worth persevering with this painting lark.  Hubby was so pleased with the result that this time he wouldn’t allow it to go on the fire and, much to my horror, has since framed the chooks which now hang on the wall in the Rectory hallway.

Speaking to a friend who paints on my return I was advised not to give up but to try and find a style rather than painting an exact replica of the scene before me.  To be honest I didn’t really know what he meant and time constraints had meant that apart form a little bit of dabbling at Christmas – an acceptable painting of a Christmas decoration in the style of a 60’s Christmas card – the paints have stayed in their tubes.  However the paints where duly packed for the holiday and I was looking forward to giving it all another go. As I have said elsewhere I was captivated by the big skies and ever changing cloud formations which along with the incredible changing colours of the water meant I decided to attempted to paint a sky and seascape.  Big mistake, again it just didn’t work, although also again Hubby was encouraging and said he might frame my first attempt, this time I said no!  I actually think I managed the clouds, (daughter on our return surveying the new stock of firelighters thought so too), but I just couldn’t get the scenery around it to my satisfaction.  Hubby suggested I paint the chickens as once more we were holidaying with chickens as our neighbours instead I thought I will try and paint the mallard which visited the pond just outside the window, didn’t work as well as the chickens mainly I think because a mallard doesn’t have fluffy feathers.  Unhappy with the foul I returned to what I really wanted to paint a seascape, I tried again and failed again then remembering what I was advised I decided to stop painting what was there and take the colours and subject and see what happened.

Thinking of the sea from down Hoxa way, the sun playing with the sky and clouds in front of me and the square slabs of cliff stone from one of our cliff walks.  I painted a sense rather than a scene and produced this which Hubby then took a photo of and now uses as a screen saver.

seascapeIs this going to be my style playing with light and shade of one colour and ending up with square clouds?  It is far from good, and it is far from perfect, but it is my first attempt in a style rather than a literal painting and just like the chooks it makes me want to keep trying.

And today, dear reader, I will be trying again as I have an idea of something I want to paint.  I first thought of painting this scene while we were still in Orkney but chickened out and as yet I hadn’t worked up the courage to try to attempt it as I am not certain I can make it convey what I want it to.  However because of this news story like the chickens and the clouds it is something I now feel I have to try and paint.  Over in this post on our visit to Orkney, I spoke of what I call the Scapa Flow Solfar, whether the end of the day will see a pile of firelighters or a new style only time will tell.

10 thoughts on “Chickens, Clouds and …

  1. Well I was going to sympathise with you as I am terrible at art. I regard myself as creative, but when it comes to visual stuff as opposed to wordy stuff I fall flat. I have a great vision in my mind that just doesn’t translate to paper. I say I was going to sympathise, but then I saw your painting and I think it is really good. And that sounds brilliant- painting a sense rather than a scene. Sounds an ideal way for you to release that creative vision.
    Really- I love it, keep going!
    Ps when I have time I am going to visit your previous posts as Orkney is my favourite place in the whole world! Best wishes.


    • Thank you Andy, you are too kind. However if you saw the firelighters then you would most definitely know I can not paint in the traditional sense of the word, but I am trying to learn to express myself though paint in a less traditional way and while I hope to get there some day I am still a long way off, there is already an extra firelighter from today’s first attempt. It is actually fun despite the frustrations, you should give it a go!
      April this year saw my first visit to Orkney I can’t wait to get back, I hated leaving and can’t wait to get back 2 weeks and I felt as if the surface had hardly been touched, would have loved to get down to London for that Neolithic exhibition too, was glad you blogged about it.


      • First time I went I stayed in Kirkwall. The second time I stayed in Stromness. It was in December, post tourist season, so going to sites like Stenness I had the whole place to myself which was great. The first time I went over to the island Rousay, climbing through some of the smaller tombs, sheltering in them from the wind. Saw dolphins on the way, but I missed the orcas.
        With island hopping, I think there is enough to ensure many future visits there for me.
        And when I am away and feeling the Orkney itch, I read some of George Mackey Brown’s short fiction and it transports me back there.


        • April was much the same, only time other people were around was at Maeshowe, there is something extra special about those sites without crowds to break the peace. While I loved being based in South Ronaldsay, next time I fancy starting up in Westray and taking a slow meander south exploring all the islands, that will almost certainly take more than one more trip!


          • I look forward to your accounts, and may use your advice in planning future trips when I don’t stay on the mainland.
            Who needs Spain and suntans!


    • Thank you, today’s efforts could not be called pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but there is always tomorrow.


  2. Pingback: A Pair of Saliors « Still Striving For that Elusive Halo

Please leave a comment if you wish.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s