Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The "Fair Maids of February" are cautious here. After a brief appearance near Valentine's Day they tucked their fair heads under their green cloaks and waited for less bitter winds. Now they are at full height, pretty clusters of white petal-bonnets pushing aside the matted leaf roof. I dug up a cold moist handful, settled them in a pot and brought them inside to paint their portrait. They fell about unsteadily at first, then straightened up and opened a little in the warm room.

My approach is always analytical - first the drawing, then a groundwork of faint colour, then light preliminary shadows and shading, followed by more defined colour, more intense shadows and shading, layers of transparent glazes, until the whole approaches a finished state. Hours slipped by and bars of sunlight moved across the table - my ideal studio would have western exposure for a longer visit with the sun - and still the snowdrops needed details, the green markings inside the bells of the flowers, the fine stripes on the leaves, and beads of moisture here and there.
There is never enough time in a two-hour art class to get to this final polished state, except in a very small painting. And art teachers never tell their students to paint small!