Sometimes it is the things you see every day which inspire you. A colour or texture catches your eye, and you're hooked. The itch starts, and you find you have to paint it. Whatever it might be. This happened for me a couple of years ago, when I was working with the lovely Vital Veg at Midmar. Every week I packed beautiful, colourful veg into veg bags for customers. Some of the veg came home with me. And some of that came with me to the weekly art class I was attending.
I wasn't aiming for still life. Nor was I trying to make an exact, photographic image. I was aiming, I think, for a celebration of deliciousness. I laid the veg (the larger the better, some soil was often present too) on a sheet of white paper on the table I was working at, with a large piece of (usually cartridge) paper beside it. I had seen that this was how the wonderful Elizabeth Blackadder paints her gorgeous flowers. I am a great admirer of her work, so off I went...
Another influence fed into this process. A few years ago, I attended a workshop with Sofia Perina-Miller, whose work I also greatly admire. She paints fabulous striking flowers, as well as many other subjects. She showed us how to paint directly onto paper, without doing any initial drawing. This was an entirely new experience for me - and I found that I loved the freedom of it! Instead of feeling constrained by the pencil lines, I was "free" to paint directly, loosely, using vibrant colours, which resulted in more lively work. Sofia usually adds meticulous pen and ink details to her work. I left mine as they were; as I may have mentioned before I have rather limited patience!
There is always a certain amount of fear involved in painting this way. I had to learn to be brave, to trust that the colours I was choosing and the marks I was making were strong and true and confident. This was no time for fiddling around with details and tentative marks. Before I started, I would look carefully at the veg, get a feel for the overall shape and size and proportions, the main colours, the shadows on the paper. Really look, and get a feel for it. It helped to stand up, to have everything I needed to hand and to just do it, quickly. I love this way of working; writing this makes me want to do some more of this kind of work.
Some of my veg paintings are available as digital downloads from my Etsy shop.
Various items (prints, mugs, phone covers, tote bags etc.) sporting my veg paintings can also be found on Redbubble.
All the paintings can be viewed in my gallery (most originals are available)
I often make soup. At the organic veg farm where I work part-time, we take it in turns to bring a pot of soup to the veg shed on the day we pack veg bags for customers. One of the things I love about soup is that it is very forgiving. You can throw just about anything into it and it is usually pretty tasty and good. (The only exception seems to be kiwi fruit, which a friend reminded me of today - that did not turn out well. I do quite often put apple or pear in soup though, lends a lovely sweetness). Most of us who takes turns with the soup pot admit to making "bottom of the fridge" soup, with whatever is left and is maybe looking a little tired. Some celery, onion, a courgette, a bit of broccoli, the odd kale leaf and some carrots - add ham stock, a tin of chopped tomatoes and hey presto, it's minestrone! Minestrone is one of my favourites and yet I don't recall having it at home when I was a child. We had broth (not a favourite; I disliked the gloopy texture of the barley), and homemade tomato soup with lots of carrots and was it sago, perhaps, to thicken it? My favourite was cucumber soup, creamy and buttery and delicious. My dad loved consomme, hot or cold (brown meaty jelly with chopped chives on top). We had chicken soup too, made using a boiling fowl, with rice and leeks and chopped parsley from the garden to garnish it. We used to laugh at Mum, who would make soup from the peapods after the sweet garden peas had been shelled from them. "Is that grass soup?" we would ask. I quite often produce "green soup" of slightly dubious origins myself, these days, so I can now appreciate the greenness of her ways.
It's a real comfort food. And not just the eating of it, or supping of it, but the act of making it. I remember retreating to the kitchen of my mother-in-law's house the day after my father-in-law died very suddenly, over 25 years ago now. We went to stay with her, with our six month old son. To try to help; to organise the funeral, make endless cups of tea for people who came in to offer condolences; to try and make sense of it all. All I could do was make soup. I chopped and stirred and added stock. I left it to simmer, tasted it, ladled it into bowls for whoever wanted some. It seemed to help. It helped me, to feel I was providing comfort, of sorts. I think I maybe even baked. There was comfort in it for me too. Just the rhythm of washing and peeling and chopping, stirring and tasting and serving. Life going on, in some small way.