I have been painting different etudes of lilacs, to find the right style to reflect my thinking around an inspiring quote by Maya Angelou. In this post I'll share the stages of two paintings, so you can see how I approach building up my thinking and the colours to achieve certain expressions. I think primarily through colour, and while most of my works are conceptual, it is the use of colour which helps me to communicate those ideas with ease. I was really happy with the final painting, and will use it in the collection. And at the end, I'll ask you Which painting do you prefer? It was a more free expression, which I eventually worked the paintings into- hence the value of painting etudes! Here is the final painting below, 'Moments which take our breath away,' Ingrid Lee, 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 46/61cm:
A bit of background to the lilacs
My grandmother always spoke fondly of lilacs in Russia when she was a child, and I always wanted to expereince the scent of lilacs which were so evocative in her stories. I did try growing lilacs here in Australia, so I could experience what my babushka spoke of, but it wasn't the real thing. During my first trip to Moscow in 2012 I had that unforgettable experience, shared by my taxi driver who welcomed me to Moscow, winding down the windows of the car so that I could fully experince the heady scent of a park filled with so many colours of lilac bushes- it was overwhelming, beautiful and memorable. It is something which I try to capture in my paintings even today. I think this will be a life long painting journey with these flowers.
Then, during in May 2014 I was in St Petersburg (and later Moscow) for an art project, visiitng friends and researching at the Hermitage and other galleries for my current collection of works Nature of Truth. During this visit, my dear friend, and extremely talented artist Valentina Razenkova took me to the Alexandrovsky Gardens; where I'm glad to say I was not only inspired by the beautiful scenery through Nevsky Prospekt, but for the realisation I had improved in my Russian langauge skills since the last time we met 2 years before thanks to my wonderful teacher Yulia.
And here, again I was inundated with the heartfilling scents of lilacs. Here are some photos of that trip which I use for references:
Connecting Maya Angelou and my lilac expereince
How do these paintings of lilacs and Maya Angelou help create my art work? If you have been reading my posts about this collection of works, you see the conceptual journey develop about the notions of the Nature of Truth for myself as an artist, letting go of judgement and creating spaces of awareness and vulnerability. My travels in Russia are always special as I continue my Journey of the artistic soul from my very first trip in 2011. Each time I go, there are more moment which I open my self to, as I come and go and develop a better sense and spaces which are truly inspiring, and take my breath away.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”
― Maya Angelou
So, it is the concept of this inspiration, the scent of the flowers in the warm air which took my breath away during my first trip to Moscow, and later in May 2014 to St Petersburg with friends. I am always in a place of possibility, and that is the truth I am learning.
The etude I painted:
Here are the stages of the painting I used for the etude. While this is a pleasant painting, it was not what I wanted to express- the light and liveliness and air of the final painting- that concept of space which I keep writing about, was not there. I started with primary colours for the under painting, and built up the painting from a couple of photos I had. It was too detailed, not loose enough. It didn't capture expression of the heady fragrant scent of lilacs in the warm air.
Stages of the painting process:
It was at this point, I realised the painting wasn't what I wanted to achieve. The only two parts I was happy with were these close ups below. I loved the contrast of colour in the shadow section.
I loved the feel of this section, very Monet like and reminiscent of French impressionism...I was surprised where that came from )))).
However, I still pursued the painting, seeing what else was possible. This is a strategy I often use, and have described in my webinar series 'What stops you creating?'
It was important at this stage of the painting to find what I really liked, and enjoy the elements which worked, so I could move onto the next painting. I love this close up below
The finished etude:
So I start again...back to the beginning. I actually started this painting after 5 hours finishing the last one. I spent another 3 hours getting the underpainting layers done while my ideas and hand were fresh! I think dinner was serve yourself that night))))
Stages of the painting process:
Close up details of brushwork on the final painting:
I hope you have enjoyed this insight to my creative process, and how there are many ways to solve the problem in a painting. One of the biggest skills you can develop as an artist, which I always advocate in my courses, is the value of being a beginner and to journal your work, so that you can think through and analyse what you are doing well and where you need to improve.
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Which painting do you prefer?