Over this lockdown period, I have been busy responding to students work from the computer, but I have also been a go at doing an observational painting using an easel looking out of the window.
I was inspired by reading that Bonnard, the French painter had painted over 50 paintings of his dining room alone in the south of France. I had also been looking at an Eric Ravilious painting I had on my wall of a view out of a train carriage. (He is the artist who did a mural inside Colwyn Bay Pier Pavilion.)
Both painters use the device of a window to create interest. It makes the image more interesting because there is a world inside and outside to paint and as an Artist, you are forced to make them relate. It also makes getting the drawing correct easier because you can divide the picture up- painting inside each panel at a time.
We have been doing something similar with Year 9 this year where we have used a checkerboard background to help us get the proportion of still life objects in the correct place. If you draw the window frame correct it makes drawing everything else easier because you can line everything else up.
I did the drawing first on some old lining paper I had from decorating and quickly realised that of course the window frame was white but reads as almost silhouetted against the bright background.
This is challenging because you have to decide how you are going to address the problem of essentially two painting; one inside and the world outside in a completely different light.
To start with I only had gouache paint so I was limited a little-but after a little research I found you could use glazes of thin paint, mix it on the palette and also use it thick with a dry brush. Bonnard claimed that he could get almost as much control from it as oil paint and after a little trial and error, I began to see what he meant.
I was keen to capture the kind of light we have been getting this spring in Rhos on Sea so I tried to keep my brushes clean when working on the roofs etc outside and I kept changing the water to keep everything fresh.
After a bit of searching I discovered I had a set of watercolours buried in the shed and these helped enormously when I started to at the colour for the inside of the mirror.
I found as time went on I was making the window frame darker, seeing it as a purple rather than using any black (I avoided using black through the whole painting).
Am I happy with it? As an artist, we are never really content and at the end. After a few days, I found I was “fiddling” with it rather than making meaningful decisions so stopped.
But I enjoyed the challenge and was trying not to be too ruled by the reality in front of me and react more to the painting itself. Bonnard said: “I hear all the time that one must submit to nature; sometimes one has to submit to the painting”.
Why not have a go yourself. First, draw out the window frame as carefully and accurately as possible. Then start to fill inside the frames what you see, this might be trees, other houses or a garden. Perhaps include something from inside the room too like curtains or something on the window sill, then add colour.
You can always do it as a collage if you don’t have any paint. Most importantly enjoy it and enjoy deciding how you approach the problem of the two worlds- one inside and one outside. Remember YOU are the Artist- you get to choose how to solve the problem. (have a look at Bonnard for inspiration)