In the months when I find writing difficult - and always when I'm waiting for publishers and agents to decide what they want to do with the work I've already produced - I have to turn to other creative outlets. I can't just do nothing; I would boil over with frustration. When I really feel as if I need to clear my mind and allow myself to see and think in a different way, I get my paints out.
I'm a pure amateur. Sometimes these paintings work, and sometimes they don't, but that's not really the point. The intent is to have some fun. Over the past few weeks I've been working with fast-drying acrylics on several canvasses. I had a big, ambitious idea (perhaps too ambitious!) after looking at André Derain's Road in the Mountains (below), painted in 1907 two years after Derain had spent a summer in the South of France with Matisse and the two artists developed the innovative, bright bold style that became known as Fauvism.
Not only do I find this style very appealing, but its very directness makes it seem attainable by a happy paint-splasher like me. I had six blank canvasses: three of 20 x 16ins (51 x 40cm) and three slightly smaller; so I decided to see if I could put them together to make one large whole picture, perhaps hanging the constituent parts slightly apart on the wall if it ever got to that stage. A kind of exploded Derain, if you like.
So I set to work, taking elements from his paintings, and aiming to come up with a scene reminiscent of the Calanques near Cassis, showing the sea inlet. And then I started finding out about Nicolas de Staël and looking at his work. It seemed that some elements of his blocked colour would add something more interesting, so I did a five-minute study of two cypress trees:
I liked the effect, so I changed the trees in my painting and added more to the another canvas that forms the top left hand side of the whole:
Now I have to confess here that the piece as a six-panel whole doesn't really work. Try as I might, I can't make the other side balance. This is where a real artist would know exactly what to do but I lack the knowledge. But just for illustration, here are the six elements put out together on the conservatory floor:
No false modesty - it's not right as it is. But I do like the cliff panel and the two cypresses, and I might even put them up as separate pictures with all the other paintings on the tall white walls of the new sitting room in the French house. The important thing is that I do feel a sense of achievement, and an even greater appreciation of the details in works of art created by the masters.