Sunday, 28 February 2010

Coming Unstuck

New Year Lilies
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

No, this isn't a reference to collage (although if you read the last post you could be forgiven for thinking that it was!), but to the fact that for several weeks I had a painting on the go which I couldn't finish - no, let's be absolutely clear here - I could barely start. Back in January I was given some beautiful lilies which sat in a vase on my windowsill looking like the perfect subject for a painting, with the wintry light slanting through the window behind. I was too busy to get the paints out then and there, so took some photos, put them on my inspirations board and let them simmer for a bit.

My first dilemma was the composition. Did I want to paint a vase of lilies? one lily? abstract lilies? portrait or landscape? I'm not used to being that indecisive. Eventually I decided on a landscape format - no vase - and found enough time to lay down the background wash. The colours I could see through the window were blue, yellow and green so I used ultramarine and indian yellow and lots of water so they ran into each other, and left it to see how things would turn out (see above pic) . When it dried I put in the slanting light with a sponge.

And then - nothing. A fortnight passed with no inkling of what to do next. Eventually in desperation I decided to treat it as though I were on a life painting course (the one where my tutor told me I was using watercolour like pastels), and blocked in the lilies with alizarin crimson, adding highlights of titanium white.

So far, so good. I added some leaves and stems and stamens but it wasn't right; I'd forgotten the shadows. I still didn't like it, so I painted over the background with an ultramarine wash and - hey presto! - it came together. I could even see the slanting light through the wash.

In summary, then: time spent thinking about painting: four weeks; time spent looking glumly at the background wash: two weeks; time spent completing the painting: 90 minutes. It's a funny old world . . .!


  1. Isn't it amazing what blood, toil, tears and sweat (ok, so only probably two of those in reality!) goes into creating just one picture? Actually the timings sound about right to me from things I've done myself! Another fascinating insight into just what inspiration really means.

  2. Great to see the painting building up from the base wash - it's interesting to see how all the different stages come together at the end!

    Some things just take their time : -).