I have been painting ‘gardens’, in some form, for as long as I can remember.
It is mid-August as I write this. Summer has finally arrived on the Isle of Wight. Today I hope to completed my walled garden series of paintings.
I love walled gardens. I love how each one is different and each one is a world unto itself.
I am so lucky that my studio sits in a wonderful formal garden. There are two walled gardens on the site. One is a Victorian brick-walled rose garden. The other is a stone-walled vegetable garden. It has provided for the ‘big house’ since the early 1800s.
In many ways painting is like gardening.
In the early stage of painting everything grows wild. A profusion of colours and ideas.
But slowly, slowly, they reveal their secrets.
As I begin to see their individual strength and character, I can then start the clearing process.
Like weeding, I clear away what’s not needed. By removing unwanted material, I can see the image more clearly.
Then it’s a process of pruning. I make fine adjustments to bring out their particular character.
I find that I cannot rush these paintings. They actually take as long to make as my larger works. They need time to acquire personality like any real garden.
I am inspired by garden paintings throughout art history.
Monet, of course, is the most famous garden painter, with his water lily series painted in his garden at Giveny.
But I am equally drawn to early woodcuts filled with strange creatures, as well as records of nature and the seasons. I love their graphic simplicity and how they 'tell the story'. This one is from 1502.
Indian miniatures are another source of inspiration. They are full of sumptuous colour, pattern and design. These exquisite paintings are often places for lovemaking or secret assignations. This one is from around 1720 and shows Radha's hidden meeting with her lover through a painting. It is in the British Museum.
I also love their flattened isometric perspective. By ignoring vanishing points there is little illusionistic depth. Instead we have pure geometric shapes, rhomboids and parallelograms. This allows us to appreciate the surface design of the painting. Very different from the perspective we are used to in western art where we feel we are looking into a painting.
So now it is time to finish this series.
Some have collage elements. Others are a combination of acrylic paint, spray-paint and acrylic inks.
To harmonise them all I finish them with an acrylic high-gloss glaze. Finally I give each a cold-wax coating that turns the high-gloss into a lovely rich satin sheen.
As these are on painted on birch boards I need to frame them in floating frames. I have chosen deep frames of natural wood in which to photograph them.
Each one of my walled-garden series is a world unto itself.
They are not large paintings. I like to think that they’re the sort that you tuck into your favourite corner of a room.
They are places to discover, and escape into.
If you'd like to see the full series click here.