Travel inspiration

 

Travelling has always inspired. I’m drawn to warmer climates where palm trees grow, where people live outside even in January, where washing lines are strung from rooftop terraces and across windows and where you can lose yourself in narrow paved and cobbled lanes.

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Still life

I love the unsung towns and villages away from the brochure land publicity glare, places that welcome and smile without pandering, places that have developed a patina, a glow and a confidence that rubs along with modern life.

Portugal does it for me. The best fish and fruity smooth wines from the Alentejo and the Douro. Little bars where people snack on dressed crab and piles of prawns that price would forbid at home can be had here.

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Places that reveal still life potential at every corner, tiny details in pastel peeling layers of weather ravaged homes, glimpses of past lives close up with the here and now.

Wide open spaces with water wading birds pecking at sandbanks and sometimes flying in formation dipping, diving, soaring, squawking.

Places that know how to stand still and revel in it. Places where it is fine to just be and do nothing, places that act like a massage for the soul.

I rarely paint in situ preferring to lap up the sense of place by walking, looking, taking photographs, making speed drawings and absorbing atmosphere.

This makes for better memories and thus better source material as each memory can be represented in essence rather than accuracy.

I find this a freeing mode of expression that compliments my intuitive style of working. It’s all about atmosphere, symbols, colour, letting go of knowing how it will all turn out but having a faith in the mind’s ability to remember.

 

Inspired by Porto

Today I am sharing a selection of paintings inspired by Porto.

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Porto inspired paintings current works in progress in my shed – image ©Mary Price 2016

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Current work in progress  – fiesta colours bursting into the canvas ©Mary Price 2016

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Fiesta inspired work in progress ©Mary Price 2016

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Detail from one of my Porto window paintings ©Mary Price 2016

Curiouser and curiouser - secret lives lived ©Mary Price2016

Curiouser and curiouser – secret lives lived
©Mary Price2016

 

Mini intuitive painting

Sometimes painting small is a good thing and this week I am producing a series of jewel coloured intuitive paintings.

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Flight – work in progress ©Mary Price

It is so good to work small. I bought a budget variety pack of hard surfaces from Cass art and I particularly like the smooth gesso so I will be using this in bigger sizes in the future. It’s such a wonderful surface to layer on, very different to the rougher texture of canvas, my usual chosen painting surface.

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Mysterious garden – work in progress ©Mary Price

I am about three layers in with these current works in progress. The jewel colours are building beautifully and the next stage will be to introduce more tonal contrast, add some details and see what happens.

The final paintings will all morph into something quite different by the time they are considered finished but I am sharing the progress. Progression is something that always intrigues me, sometimes more than seeing finished artwork. I love to see how artists make what they do and what techniques they use.

With this in mind I signed up for Flora Bowley’s December studio diary this week. I was intrigued to get an insight into her process when she makes mini paintings.

The studio diary is a year-long e course and you can buy a whole year or simply dive into one as I have done this time. It includes a couple of great videos of close-ups of work progressing as Flora develops a series of mini paintings for participants in her workshops. She also paints four small paintings on different surfaces, bamboo, paper and wooden panels.

Watching an artist you admire who shares their process so generously is a brilliant way of learning new techniques. It also kick starts inspiration to try something new so I recommend this to anyone. The first diary is actually free so there’s no excuse not to at least take a look.

Celebrating mark making

Many of my intuitive paintings begin with a building up and layering of marks using a variety of tools. I use all kinds of items from around the house from toothpaste lids to slithers of wood to pencils to twigs, anything that will make a mark that is different to conventional tools like paint brushes. Of course I use these as well but the key with selecting different tools is that it’s possible to create variation in shape, thickness of line and mark density.

Acrylic paint lends itself to this way of painting as it dries quickly so it’s easy to achieve a rich base or back ground for work. The process enables a very free style of expression and as these photos show each little section of marks could become a painting in its own right. I usually alternate layers of warm colours and cool colours to maintain vibrancy and follow this by adding in contrast and translucence. I keep going in this way until I either want to commit to forms by searching for imagery hiding in the marks or I impose it if there is a message I am contemplating as I paint. It’s often a mixture of teasing out form and structure and a subliminal thought process where memories and emotions start to emerge.

Colourful marks

Colourful marks

Some of this is conscious and sometimes I am surprised by the elements that jump out and add an entirely intuitive dimension to the work. I had for many years avoided figurative work because I found it difficult and was disappointed when an attempt looked nothing like the person I was trying to paint or draw.

Since working intuitively I have moved beyond this fear because the figures are imagined rather than drawn on reality. It doesn’t matter if the faces, bodies or features are representational because what I am trying to communicate is often based on the emotional or allegory rather than the representational.

Woman with tangled hair

Woman with tangled hair ©Mary Price 2015

Mark making as a starting point has presented a new freedom and opened up the subjects I now feel confident to include in my paintings.

In this painting I worked on plywood which is more forgiving than canvas in the mark making stage. It’s possible to really press hard with pointy tools without worrying about making holes in the surface as is the case with canvas. The painting is all about the hair, a real bed head mess, that has offered a magical opportunity to pay with colour, line and texture.

How memory becomes a painting

Details from ‘Memories of Sardinia’ ©Mary Price 2015

Memory has always played an important part in my choice of imagery. I love to travel and always take sketch and notebooks  with me. Moleskine notebooks and little postcard sketchbooks are portable and make it easy to do quick sketches without weighting down bags. I also use the brushes and paper 53 drawing apps on my iPad.

Moleskine sketchbook – View from the terrace at Porto Taverna – Sardinia ©Mary Price 2015

Little sketches fuel later paintings often subconsciously. Sketching allows real engagement with imagery, you are just there with your materials responding to something in front of you. 

 

paper 53 app drawing of ancient stone wall in Menorca ©Mary Price 2015

Drawings do not have to be photographic or representative in realistic detail to be useful. Sometimes the way your hand moves in response to what you are drawing or the marks made to represent something inform the way you later paint as those movements and marks repeat in memory.

view acros the lagoon at Porto Taverna – Sardinia

Photographs are useful too. Here I have responded to the sunlight on an old stone wall. Not a great photo in terms of composition but the way these old walls make me feel is what this is all about. The way the stones are crushed up against each other and covered with growth integrating  the human made with nature.

The painting below shows the first few layers. I have reviewed an unloved painting and used the base of marks as a  jumping off point. It is easy to see here how memory is kicking in with shapes of rocks emerging against a backdrop of cerulean and emerald sea.

early layers of ‘Memories of Sardinia’ ©Mary Price 2015

Reviewing some photos from several trips this year I have been fascinated by the history residing in the ancient stone walls that weave across the Mediterranean islands of Menorca, Majorca and Sardinia. 

Dry stone walls on the walk to Cala Deia in Majorca

Dry stone walls near Valdemossa – Majorca

Hard dry stoney land that has been cleared and segmented by human made walls covering hundreds if not thousands of miles. The walls often re absorbed by their natural landscape of hardy scrubby plants like cacti and sun burned grasses, aromatic herbs like wild fennel and rosemary, colour bursts of vermillion, lemon and orange from oleander and juicy citrus trees and shade cast by olive groves.

cacti plant – Sardinia


These shapes, colours and sense of place fill the memory that stirs the emotion that inspires me to paint. There is so much inspiration in the contours of the snuggled rocks, the bursts of colour and the variation of plant shapes.

Memories of Sardinia 2015 ©Mary Price 2015

Memories of a landscape at sunset when the world is set alight in luscious pink and orange – this inspires the Fauvist colour that I love to emulate.