Painting Adventure: Letting Go

September 27, 2018
By Richard Robinson
Painting Adventure: Letting Go logo

The other day I attended a weekend painting workshop held by my friend Brett A'court who lives nearby. His art is at polar opposites to mine and yet we enjoy each others company and we sometimes paint together in his studio. Brett's painting focuses on trying to express his inner world whereas mine attempts to express my outer world.

I thought taking his class would be a good way to loosen up for a while and just have some fun with paint. He turned out to be a natural teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed being on the receiving end of painterly wisdom rather than assuming my usual teaching role.

Detail

I enjoyed the workshop so much I thought I'd give you a run down of the process I learned there in case you'd like to try it out yourself.The other day I attended a weekend painting workshop held by my friend Brett A'court who lives nearby. His art is at polar opposites to mine and yet we enjoy each others company and we sometimes paint together in his studio. Brett's painting focuses on trying to express his inner world whereas mine attempts to express my outer world.

I thought taking his class would be a good way to loosen up for a while and just have some fun with paint. He turned out to be a natural teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed being on the receiving end of painterly wisdom rather than assuming my usual teaching role. I enjoyed the workshop so much I thought I'd give you a run down of the process I learned there in case you'd like to try it out yourself.

Detail

We began by taking some soltiude in quiet spaces around the arts centre, which is a very rustic gathering of buildings set amongst verdant native bush. Here Brett asked us to contemplate two ideas - 'The meaning of absense' and 'What drives me?' Each of us spent half an hour doing this, scribbling notes and drawings in our sketch books to bring back to the class.

We then discussed what we'd discovered about ourselves and what we wished to make a painting of and worked several of those ideas into loose sketches using black and white paint.

Once we'd chosen an idea we felt was the strongest or most appealing we began the process of painting the large canvas. Brett spent a few years at art college and recalled that what he learned most about there was building an interesting textural base for his paintings.

We laid our blank canvases on the ground outside and proceeded to throw, dribble, smoosh and scrub paint onto the surface with the aim of covering the canvas. That in itself was well worth the price of admission. Have you ever loosed paint onto a big canvas with no thought for design or the price of materials? It's fun and hugely freeing.


We returned after lunch to pour molten wax onto our canvases and more paint and sand and whatever else was at hand, scratching and slapping the canvas like a drum, throwing caution to the wind all with the aim of creating an interesting surface to begin working on. After all that fun and some more discussion we left for the day and returned the next to begin the more serious work of translating our ideas to canvas. 

The nice thing about working over a completely abstract surface is that, like carving a piece of wood or marble, the organic patterns within it often suggest directions which you would never have dreamed upon a blank white canvas. In my painting, long dribbles grew into Nikau Palms, and splatterings of white transformed into star patterns for navigating the soul. So we had begun with pure abstraction and progressed in this 'blocking in' stage to start working more with the left side of our brains, using more critical and formulated thinking.


The finishing stage was as always the most difficult. We needed to translate our ideas into the symbology of line and colour and pattern using small brushes. The painting needed to be able to be read in the end by ourselves at least, so we grasped for imagery and symbols and words which could describe some of the concepts we had begun with. My concept at the time was a feeling of passing through life, striving for some sense of achievment but missing out on the present somewhat because of my focus on the future. I quickly came to appreciate Brett's art all the more because despite his slapdash style and the simplicity of some of his finished imagery it in fact takes an enormous amount of thought and soul searching to boil the infinite choices of expression down to a simple clear distillate of meaning.

I believe some of my concept shows through in my finished painting, but it's by no means a sparklingly clear revelation. I guess that's good in some ways - it makes it more of a meditative piece than one which spells everything out for the viewer. I don't know if I would hang it on my wall, but I sure felt great painting it and came away from the experience with a new sense of freedom which I doubt could have been achieved any other way. So if you'd like to expand your horizons and open yourself to new possiblilities I suggest you give something like this a try - I think you'll find it very liberating.

Happy painting,
 
Richard


 
"SACRED HEART"980 x 835mm
Oil on CanvasBrett A'court www.brettacourt.com