Learning curves

Finally, after a winter of slogging away at freelance design work, I have managed to organise my time a little better to allow regular painting time. I have always felt that I should do freelance work first, and painting second (after all, it’s the freelance work that pays the bills at the moment!). As a result, I got very little painting done because by the time I found some free time, I was too tired, the light was gone, and it just seemed too late in the day to set up my drawing board. Having become thoroughly depressed by my lack of progress, I decided to make drastic changes to my daily routine, with painting my priority for the morning hours. Sounds like a simple solution, but it’s not so easy to change long-established habits! There is nothing like a little pressure to push one into making those long-overdue changes, and when the opportunity arose to submit a painting for exhibition, it gave me the impetus I needed to change.

This watercolour of freesias is the result of my new work habits. Painting in the morning when the light is good, before I get caught up in all the other daily happenings and demands, has made all the difference in the world! I have found that most days – even when I have deadlines looming in my freelance work – I can manage four or five hours to draw and paint. As a rule, any more than that becomes counter-productive because I start to miss details or get sloppy. The great side benefit of this new routine is that painting relaxes me and actually helps freelance design work progress faster and better – the creative juices flow so much better! I just wish I had done this ages ago!

Painting the freesias resulted in a big learning curve for me. To begin with, it is the first large piece that I have painted on hot press watercolour paper – 300lb Fabriano Artistico. Before that I used NOT watercolour paper, because I felt more confident working on a paper with a texture. However, I knew that I would never get the really crisp finish that can be achieved on hot press paper. After a few practice pieces, and more than a few mistakes and false starts, I started to feel more at home with this wonderful paper, and found that it isn’t quite as daunting as I had feared. I found it more difficult to lay down washes on the smoother surface, but detail was so much easier to paint. I found the granulation of the purples a little frustrating, and I have become aware that I need lots more practice in laying down washes with confidence. On the other hand, I am quite pleased with the colour and the composition. I sent off my entry for the art exhibition today, and now I have to wait until the end of April to find out whether the painting has been accepted. Whether it is or not, I feel that I learned a great deal from this painting, and I had fun doing it. Now I can’t wait to get on with my next painting!

8 thoughts on “Learning curves

  1. This painting is wonderful, its such a nice feeling when you make sure you find time to paint. I’ve used the line ‘I just don’t have the time’ more often than I care to remember and I think you can always ‘make time’ if it’s something you really want to do. Please keep painting! Best wishes. Helen. – P.S. If you don’t mind me asking… What freelance work are you doing? And how do you go about it?

    • Hi Helen,
      I am ashamed to say that I have only just found your comment on my blog. Not sure how I missed it before, but thought I would reply anyway. I love your work! The struggle to find time to paint goes on, but I have made some progress. It helped a lot when I started giving classes and workshops in my local area – it’s not just about me inspiring the students: they constantly challenge and inspire me as well. You asked about my freelance work – I have been designing books for over 30 years, and it remains a useful source of income that helps when painting sales are slow. Only problem is that it can sometimes be very time-consuming, so I have been trying to pick and choose clients more carefully than I would have done some years ago. As far as how I go about it – it’s almost all word-of-mouth at this stage, and repeat customers. Actually, since I started tutoring in botanical art I am less reliant on book design work. I have just been asked to tutor a 5-day beginner’s botanical art course at the Burren College of Art next May. I feel honnoured to have been asked, and the thought of being able to spend a week in one of the most beautiful places in Ireland at the height of the spring flowering season (the Burren is an area of limestone pavement in the west of Ireland, which has an exceptional flora), with nothing to do but concentrate on botanical art is my idea of heaven! Apologies for taking so long to reply. All the best with your own painting.

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