Towards the end of 2013 I had a phase where I went out painting every day, no matter what the weather. Sometimes it poured down and I had to hide under a tree with rainwater mixing into the paint on my palette. Other days it was incredibly windy and, on days where we were away from home, I would sometimes find myself in a busy place trying to hide from passers-by.
Only a few of the paintings weren’t duff (duff, adjective, meaning inferior, worthless; from duff, noun, meaning something worthless, first known use: circa 1889) which made me question the value of forcing yourself to paint, regardless of what’s in front of you. The best results seem to happen when you feel excited about what you’re doing, rather than trudging along as if you’re practising scales on the piano, but maybe the trudging is necessary in some mysterious way. Perhaps it prepares you for the times when you feel enthused and stores up skills that you can call on then. Who knows, really? Painting is a very mysterious business.
I managed to do this plein air experiment for 54 days in a row until the weather became so relentlessly awful that I gave in. People had become used to seeing me trundling up the hill with my pochade box every evening and had been speculating as to what was inside the peculiar wooden case, which looks as if it should contain something with dials, wires and antennae rather than comparatively dull oil paints. I never did work out how to answer the question: “What’s in the box?” If I told the truth people were invariably disappointed because they’d imagined something far more exotic. If I made up something or refused to say I felt guilty for being, perhaps, pretentious.
Out of all the 54 days I mostly painted in oils, starting with small 6″x8″ pochades and then swapping to watercolour for a while when I ran out of materials. Finally I did some bigger 9″x12″ paintings – still fairly small in the grand scheme of things but it wasn’t really the weather to hang around for long and I wanted to complete the pictures in one sitting before the light disappeared.
Some of the results that weren’t on the “completely duff” pile are below: