Today I’m working in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Apparently, it’s not called copying. It’s more about picking up his palette, his mood and his peculiarities. Teacher shows us one of his watercolours… it’s a well-crafted scene of a sleepy town in an Adriatic clime. Lots of terracotta tiled roofs and shutters merging over the hilltop. He wasn’t too worried about perspective and his choice of colours was… shall we say… on the pale side.
So now I’m going to start my copying… I mean re-enacting… or
whatever they call it! I really want to be Rennie Mackintosh for the day. I saw
his picture – a rakish moustache and a Victorian style Ascot cravat. That’s what
I call suave.
Anyway, I digress, let’s focus on the task in hand. One
window done – another thousand to do. I have to start on lighter colours… the
serried rows of sunbathed townhouses. They all seem white, but subtly different
tones of white. That’s what Rennie would have liked… a man of understatement… someone
that didn’t like ostentation.
I still don’t have any white paint? Teacher demonstrates to
me… it seems that nothing is really white. Those shopfronts are just a
profusion of almost imperceptibly varied hues. Just like my teeth I guess. If I
just imagine that I’m at the dentist choosing from her colour chart – reddish-brown,
reddish yellow, grey, reddish grey. Yes, I think old Charlie boy had been using
a dental colour chart when he painted this scene. Or maybe he had been dragged
around B&Q (did they have superstores in the Victorian era?)… having to
choose amongst the 5000 variations of white for the guest bedroom.
I’ll tell you another secret. Watercolour is not about
painting… it’s about putting on water, dirty water. A hint of rose or a
suggestion of teal. But nevertheless, it’s just dirty water. Still nine hundred
windows to go and I’m feeling done for. Time for the hairdryer treatment.
I’ve come prepared with my SnappySnap photo. It’s a landscape
picture showing a cluster of silver-birch trees that I came across in Mote
Park. Today I give it the Fauvism treatment. Remember Eddy… let go. Don’t paint
what you see… paint what it makes you feel.
The good thing about my own feelings is that nobody but myself knows what they are. Nobody can tell me I’ve used the wrong colours to express them. But the bad thing is I don’t know what my feelings are myself. Do I just disengage the brain? See what the subliminal psyche has to say? I guess it’s a man thing… being out of touch with your emotions.
I plunge into the acrylic splodge of red… I’m going native
today. Not even mixing the paint… just going raw. I wonder what Henri Matisse
The art teacher looks on… seeing yet more evidence of my mania. Perhaps it’s time for some form of intervention. It’s a palette knife or spatula that does the trick. I’m going to paint the tufty grass in the foreground a sandy red. Why? Because I can… I’m becoming a Fauvist. It seems that I can add all sorts of detritus to my acrylics… flour, rice, cut grass… you name it. Teacher demonstrates how to mix my acrylic paint with flour. She says it’s rather like plastering “if you’ve ever done that.” Well I’ve never been a plasterer if that’s what she means. She struggles around for another practical example “it’s rather like mixing concrete”. These analogies are going nowhere with me. In fact I’ve never done an honest day’s work in my life…my hands betray the fact: even Prince Charles’ manicurist would approve.
It’s going on a treat… impasto. That means putting it on so
thick that you can see the rudimentary gestures of my palette knife. I’m going
3D. I like that idea. It means that nobody can forge my painting… no
photographic reproductions. You have to see it in the flesh. Folks will have to
travel from far afield just to see the real thing. Posting it on Instagram just
won’t hack it.
Hairdryer time. I have to mobilise my jalopy towards the far
corner knocking everything in my path. There I team up with Craig who is a
like-minded creative… It’s not the kind of hairdryer time that Sir Alex
Ferguson made famous with his catapulting tirade. This is a much more cathartic
experience as we attempt to preserve our incarnations for posterity.
If you want to see the true 3D impasto experience, you are welcome to see my painting on the kitchen fridge (for the next two weeks only).
It’s acrylics today… and I’ve come prepared. Eight stout
tubes ready to be squeezed.
One thing you discover on the journey to becoming an artist
is how to open the tube. After some time of fruitless endeavours, you realise
that hidden underneath that pristine plastic cap is a troublesome silver foil. It’s
been put there to reveal the incompetence of novices like me in an art class. But
I’m not to be ‘foiled’. I start with the yellow – the colour of madness. My
fingers don’t play ball (my disability has seen to that)… this is a job for my
teeth. My creatives in the room watch on with chagrin.
The silver foil takes me back to milk bottle tops. Of
course, anyone younger than thirty won’t understand this allusion. Remember how
the birds always got the cream using their hypodermic beaks. If you came back from
a two-week holiday in North Wales and had forgotten to cancel the milk… the
milkman had kindly arranged the bottles in chronological order… starting with
the festering container of botulism nearest the doorstep. Twenty-four experiments
all in varying states of decay. Bring back the milkman. But I digress. I’m
supposed to be thinking about higher things.
Peeling the tiny silver foil was more hazardous than I
thought. Having pierced it with my canine, I suddenly felt a surge of acrylic
paint down my gullet. Is this stuff poisonous? Well it’s all in the name of art.
It’s quite an acerbic taste… and metallic. I wonder if the other seven paints
will taste the same? Another hazard that I hadn’t anticipated was the tenacity
with which the discarded foil tops landed on my lap. Before long, my trousers
were looking like a Jackson Pollock. But I digress.
This is my picture for this week – I hope you like it. My
eight foot canvas stretched across the floor. To-ing and fro-ing with my daubed
wheelchair to create a scene of bulrushes in the fading light. But of course I’m
only messing. It’s only one square inch and it’s only an experiment to get ‘close-up
and personal’ with my acrylics.
The task for today is to create an acrylic landscape painting in the style of the Fauvist movement. It was led by the likes of Henri Matisse. It’s an extreme development of post-impressionism – my art teacher tells us. Fauvism is characterised by “wild brush work and strident colors, while the subject matter as a high degree of simplification and abstraction”. Well I can do the simplification… or is it just simple?
Gaugin once said to his mate “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermilion.”
So, Fauvism is about using the wrong colours? I can go with that. No more careful matching of hues. To be honest, it didn’t go too well today. My painting lacked that artistic edge and I didn’t give it a chance to dry. I was more than happy to fold over my creation knowing that it would forever be entombed between the two pages. But I learnt about Fauvism and I learnt about the taste of acrylic paint. Below is a painting by someone who knew a thing or two about painting.