Working with Vincent - "Sunflowers"
Everyone knows the story about the sunflowers - how Vincent painted a whole series of them to brighten up his home in preparation for the visit of his friend Paul Gauguin. For once Van Gogh was happy and optimistic and these paintings reflect the joy and excitement he was feeling. Vincent foresaw and was looking forward to a burst of artistic endeavour with a man he much admired. Vincent saw heady weeks ahead of painting outdoors together every day with stimulating conversations about art every night. Sadly we know it didn’t turn out that way. Gauguin was looking forward to a different kind of break away from the city. He was looking forward to happy times discovering the local bars and brothels so inevitably there was going to be clashes. Clashes of personality too as Gauguin found it impossible to cope with Van Gogh’s intensity. The ultimate result was Van Gogh cutting off his right earlobe and Gauguin departing back from whence he came. Vincent was blissfully unaware of this outcome though when he painted these explosions of colour. I would imagine he worked very quickly on them mixing his colours straight on the canvas ‘wet on wet’. I allowed myself a bit longer and spread my painting over short sessions on four consecutive days totalling about five hours altogether. It’s a happy painting and it was a joy to paint. The colours are vivid and the composition elegantly pleasing. I decided to use a very limited palette. Van Gogh probably used primary colours but I used ultramarine blue, Winsor yellow and brown madder as my blue, yellow and red. It is a large painting so I worked with my trusty Chinese brushes. I picked them up for a couple of quid at a Chinese Herbalist in York and they are brilliant for this sort of work and probably the best bargain I ever got. Made of hog’s hair (that’s pigs!) they are very versatile and the same brush can be used either for large washes or incredibly fine work. They are also extremely tough. Working in my ‘Van Gogh’ mode I painted onto dry paper instead of my usual sodden mess. Apart from the irregular background wash, the painting is made up of individual brushstrokes some layered with another colour and some ‘wet on wet’. Although initially it was a mental exercise it was impossible not to get drawn in to the spontaneous joy and freedom of the work. I am pleased with the way it turned out and the original is now hanging on one of my granddaughter’s wall. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed experience working with Vincent and I look forward to spending some more time with him. Now where did Merice put that bottle of absinthe? Cheers
Leave a Reply.
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!