This Blog was originally posted last December on the NEAC Blog.
I was looking at a book of Seurat’s tonal drawings the other day and came across the wonderful drawing he did of his mother stitching her embroidery. The atmosphere of quiet concentration, the self containment, the beautiful subtlety and delicacy of the tonal values and the complete absence of line all reminded me forcibly of another much younger woman also hard at work with her stitching.
It turns out that the Lacemaker arrived in Paris to take up residence at her current home in the Louvre a few years before Seurat drew his mother in 1882. Piero Della Francesca is the name that more often springs to mind when looking at Seurat’s large paintings and he did spend time studying Piero as a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but I feel sure he stood in front of the Vermeer’s Lacemaker now and again too.
The Lacemaker by Vermeer Seurat’s Mother by Seurat
As a painter I am insatiably curious about how fellow painters do their thing, how they work, how they avoid falling into the trap of practicing avoidance tactics, how they get down to the serious business of concentrating! So I thought I would start this blog by a quick tour of my studio and show you what is going on there at the moment.
Looking around I see with a sinking heart that it is littered with enthusiastic starts that have on the whole been abandoned for another more interesting idea once the going gets tough. There are always a few of these knocking about but they seem to have proliferated recently. There’s my current preoccupation with Piero Della Francesca’s Flagellation going on in one corner, to date two unfinished paintings, three books-worth of reading and still no sign of any resolution.
stag head blocking in
Then there’s the fine stag skull hanging precariously on a picture hook that I have been drawing for a while and thinking about painting for over a year. I finally made a start on it a couple of weeks ago, setting it up with two light sources and sets of shadows that make the most fantastic abstract patterns, and dived straight into the blocking in stages of the painting. It was a really good start as I had spent so much time drawing the skull I felt I knew where I was going with it. However I am now struggling to capture the terribly thin slice of tone that I have restricted myself to and to still the make the picture read coherently.
but still too dark…
getting there on the tones…
In the corner by the window is a jar of forlorn dying flowers, vestiges of a painting that left for an exhibition recently in a bit of a hurry. I find it difficult sometimes to move the setup on even when the painting has long departed, because I know perfectly well the painting is not finished even though the deadline has well and truly passed!
Leant against the wall is the most protracted enthusiastic start of all, a portrait of my daughter Oonagh lost in one of the first big novels she started to read aged nine. She is now fourteen, has grown ten inches, no longer fits into the chair she was curled up in with that book five years ago, and I am still not happy with the painting.
There are a few more starts lurking in the shadows that I am not going to ‘fess up to because I can’t even face them myself at the moment. Now I need to go make a cup of tea, eat a chocolate biscuit, and finish a few paintings….