Watercolour Clouds With the change of season there are clouds everywhere across the sky. Sunset becomes even more beautiful as the sun penetrates the clouds casting colours across the blue through grey to whites of the sky. Explaining why try and paint clouds, what is the fascination or need to paint them from life?
John Constable, Cloud Study Hampstead Heath, London 1827-30
Constable's studies of clouds moving across Hampstead Heath in London are rightly acknowledged for his attempts to document and render such a fleeting and ephemeral element. Coming from East Anglia with its 270 degree horizons across the Flatlands (in parts) and where ' a weather eye' is always looking for the next storm keeps the sky in mind. Trying to render the colours and cloud formations, as they pass, is not simply about technique. The extended moment is really what is evident as time passes and the act of drawing or painting necessarily requires time as part of the process (unlike a photograph where all of the preparation time is removed from the resultant image). Painting from observation is as far removed from studio painting as one can get. Decisions and approaches may be decided upon ahead of the work, where the reason to actually make something creates the situation, but once in front of a situation the demands to a) document what is there b) respond to variations, light changes, atmospherics c) adapt the work in progress or start another one d) observe e) allow accidents and either respond or reflect are all undertaken on a minute by minute degree of intensity. That is not to say that feverish Van Gogh style approaches are required, often there is more observation and less painting until a base image is perceived as able to allow development. Some initially promising opportunities either pass too quickly, where there is not enough time to push a work beyond a momentary response, or where the situation changes so rapidly that the evolving work becomes too ill defined. In this sense there is much of interest for me as our 'need' to have firm and definite form dominates our senses, even with regard to abstract art. The immediately recognisable form impacts more readily than a more tentative or uncertain statement. Even if the definite article happens to be distorted.
The studies I have started relate back to the oil paintings of the Marina, but while the environment has become less stable and more prone to dramatic change watercolour seems more appropriate for the job. There have been photographs but the urge to work from a photograph of a cloud formation seems more akin to painting from a black and white photocopy of a corpse than any living experience. But then our fascination with the dead has catapulted art to the realms of global stardom. These are from May 2011 where the Ruskin study formed the core reference point for the responses.
Cloud Study after Ruskin
In the weblinks at the bottom of this page there is a link to the Courtauld Institute's pages on Constables Cloud Studies which is well worth the time.
by Jeremy Blank at 12:38 am Labels: Ruskin watercolours Constable Clouds pleine air painting jeremy blank observation contemporary art