Thursday, 11 October 2007

Movement and stillness

Cloud above the hut

This post has been lingering with intent in my draft folder since mid-summer. Written in part as response to my visit to Germany in July, it was initially called Familiar Criticism. Yet, as part of last week's visit to Germany I thought it was time to post and to rename.

Much of my cloud studies were done in haste: noting down quickly the fast movement of clouds, sun and shade above the roofs opposite my flat. Because of its nearness and small window to the sky, the formations changed even more rapidly than the usual West Coast breeze makes them change in any case. Often, it took me three rapid sketches to get to a some of the patterning that I was after. Similarly, when painting outside in summer in the Highlands - the key was to get down quickly that what was going to change even more quickly: sun/shade and clouds - the impressions rather than the structures.

The challenge of working fast is one that I enjoyed very much. And it is here that the familiar criticism comes into play: it's the experiences, knowledge and along with them assumption of one's personality and character traits that are being applied to something new - in this case, my paintings. So, following a couple of days teasing of how fast (and in my family that also means: impatient) I was, it started to grate... the stories of me going through five paintings in kindergarten stopped being funny. Excessive sensibilities on my part? I'm not too sure.

And it was this tension between movement, speed and stillness that I got reminded of when walking last Friday through an autumnal countryside. In particular: how slow the sky was moving... there was a huge sky - views up to the horizon line and everywhere I looked movement was slow, almost difficult to figure out: clouds remained almost stationary, shade fell in the same spots for long times.

Of course, the clouds were moving, but much slower than what I got used to. Now: the big question is whether I would draw them any slower than I got used to? Well, I need to try that out the next time. Again, though it was an insight into the responsive way of doing art - so much of my sky studies resulted from the position to paint chosen, the materials chosen and the speed with which clouds tend to move across Glasgow.

Bubbling above the surface

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