Why I (still) bother painting

#P5: Marsh in Twilight (Pastel on Fabriano HP Paper)

I went back last night to this post that I wrote some months ago. Now that I am working more in pastel, I wondered if it was still relevant. I think it is – for me – it was worth reading again if only for that quote by painter Albert York. I hope you find it useful.

Fruitful Dark

Many years ago, I hated my line of work. I yearned for something that I could do with more passion.For some reason I settled on painting as a possible way out. For years I toiled away at learning to paint. I set myself targets, like painting for an hour a day, or painting 100 “starts”. I got up before work and painted by a dim electric light. I painted at night when the kids were finally asleep.

IMG_0588 Work in Progress (Oil on Panel)

It was only recently, after I had stopped painting for almost 10 years, that I realized how much I used to hate most of it. I am a slow learner with a perfectionist streak – and that made for quite a bit of doubt and depressing self-criticism. Most of my paintings looked (in the words of Dennis Miller Bunker) “thin and deadly” to me, even when others seemed…

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#C12: Drifting September


Since I will be holed up in a hotel room for the next week, I planned to do some invented landscapes using a small sketchpad and willow charcoal. This is one of my first attempts – obviously inspired by the last post I did after Mauve. Continue reading “#C12: Drifting September”

#P12: After Mauve

#P12: Landscape after Anton Muave (Pastel on Canson Paper)

The past week I made this small landscape which is based on the beautiful painting – “Crossing the Heath” by Anton Mauve (Dutch painter, 1838-1888). As you will see when you compere the two, I was more after creating the same mood than trying to make an exact copy. I also removed the human figure. Continue reading “#P12: After Mauve”

#P10: Summer Rain

#P10: Summer Rain (Pastel on Paper, A4)
#P10: Summer Rain (Pastel on Paper, A4)
#P10: Summer Rain (Pastel on Paper, A4)

This is a pastel version of a painting I did earlier in oil, and which I posted here. For this pastel version, I did not refer to the oil painting but just used the source photo (shown below) as a reference again. It is interesting how different the two paintings turned out. Continue reading “#P10: Summer Rain”

#P9: Stone Threshold

#P9: The Stone Threshold (Pastel on Fabriano Paper)

At last again some time in the studio, and I managed to finish this still life this evening. The source photo is below – one of a whole series I took last Sunday in a brief but glorious moment of sunshine entering my little studio.

This is done on heavy Hot Press Fabriano Watercolor paper. I started off with a loose watercolor painting which had strong color but was not highly finished or detailed. Then I worked into that with my little pastel set. The source photo is shown below.


I found a poem of apples and thresholds:

A child is born
into a great landscape
Half a century later
he's nothing but a dead soldier
This was the man
we saw appear
and then set on the ground
a heavy sack of applies
two or three of which rolled out
around amonth a world's sounds
where the birst sang
on the stone threshold.

Jean Follain, trans. Bernard Waldrop,
in Modern European Poetry

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#P8: End of the Earth

#C8: Tonal Landscape (pastel on paper, roughly A4 size)

This small pastel painting was based on the charcoal sketch shown below. This was in turn roughly based on an earlier oil painting which I posted here.

Concept Sketch (Charcoal and Chalk on Paper)

The pastel painting was done quite quickly in a stolen hour over the weekend. The format is a bit too square – I like the rectangular format and larger skyline of the charcoal sketch a bit better.

The pastel painting shows some white dust specks – these are semi-fixed now because I applied fixative before shaking or blowing off the white dust that came down from the sky – lesson learnt.

Feeling anxious and tired. Responsibilities and invented expectations crowd in on the mind and without morning meditation I am lost at sea.

In his book Creativity and Taoism, Chung-yaun Chang, introduces a poem with the words: “The following lines testify to the inner melody of an excessive anxiety:”

Withered vine.
Rotten tree,
Dark cow,
Little bridge,
Running Stream,
Worn-out road,
Western wind,
Lean horse,
The sun is setting in the west;
The broken-hearted man is at the end of the earth.

Ma-Chih-yuan (13th Century)

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