Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

At last . . . paint on canvas

Five years ago I decided to focus on printmaking in the hope it would help me find my own language of mark making. Working as an illustrator had made me a chameleon - changing my style to suit the needs of the client and the project; it took a couple of years before I felt really comfortable in a world of lines and colours that came from me.

Could I go back to painting and still hold on to the freshness of line and limited palette? When I use colour in my sketch book I've been thinking of translating the image into a linocut - the constraints help to free my mind to just draw rather than getting distracted choosing colours and techniques.

Yesterday, after completing the 'A fox broke cover' prints, I wanted to start work on the design for another print. But after some tentative sketching it felt like something else was in the way - something creative that I just had to do first. I flicked through the earlier pages on my sketchbook and found this . . .

. . . just what I needed for these - some small square canvasses I'd bought a couple of years ago. They sat, snowy white taunting me. Last year I painted them terracotta, in the back of my mind I was thinking about colour theory and how if the underpaint is a complementary colour to the colour you use on top it sings through the little breaks in the pigment and makes the colour glow brighter. Yellow ochre behind a blue sky, chrome green behind a rosy cheek.

I then very quickly sketched three hens . . .

And mixed a shade of verdigris to paint in the backgrounds . . .

When I packed up work for the day they looked like this . . .

This morning I was itching to finish them, but I wasn't in the zone. I got carried away with more colour and texture and ended up somewhere far from where I wanted to be . . .

I stomped about for a while and felt cross with myself for stuffing up what had been going so well. Then I put the first little canvass to one side (it's going to get a coat of terracotta paint later).

I turned my attention to the other two hen canvasses, they only needed a few lines in dark grey and they were already there . . .

I think I've broken through the barrier, there'll be a lot more painting in 2010.


  1. I loved seeing the process and hearing the thinking behind these pieces-it's like being a pupil alongside a very good teacher.I actually like all three canvases.

  2. Can I have first dibs when they are put up for sale?

  3. I'm pleased for you - not being a painter I can't appreciate the finesse of that dicipline but I do recognise that nagging feeling that something other than the work I'm supposed to be completing is getting in the way!

  4. I love the post and totally understand the idea of using the constraints of the medium- I am constrained by fabric- to help you not get taken away with other idea- the drawing and the breakthrough of painting are beautiful and yeah to your insight!

  5. thanks for allowing us to follow along. i enjoy seeing the depth the technique gives to the hens.

  6. It is very difficult to find the real you when you work to commission and have an art editor to please. Spending a day working on the bread and butter stuff does not leave much time to devote to experimenting and exploration. It is good that you have broken through this barrier and look forward to seeing lots more paintings.

    Oddly enough I am also painting chickens today.

  7. Interesting insights. I lean towards crafts rather than pure art and much prefer to choose my own quilt design rather than work to someone else's suggestions. I soon decided that I was happy to give people my quilts but NOT to let them decide what I had to make!
    It's good to let your inner self have a go - I like the first hen too - but that's all I know!

  8. Just a thimbleful.What is it about chickens? I have been working on hens the last couple of days as well but on the machine!
    I enjoyed being walked through your thought processes and I, too, like all three of the canvasses.

  9. I love to watch the progression of work... always glad to see I'm not the only one who gets frustrated at times! Looking forward to more paintings.

  10. Celia, you new year is off to a fabulous start.

    Thank you for letting us see some of that sketchbook! And also for showing a bit of how the paintings evolve. Beginning with the terracotta really does set something in motion, and working on a series also lets you not put "all your chickens in one basket" but rather work out several ideas as they pop up. I have loved the various exhibits I have seen over the years of various Monet series ... the exhibits that really did have a lot of cathedrals or haystacks somehow let me get his light play in a different way.

    Thank you again! xo

  11. Celia,
    What great canvases and what a treat to see the chickens evolve from the sketch to the finished product. Hearing and seeing the thought processes is a treat. The tip about the background colour singing through is one to store away and remember. Thanks. Lesley.

  12. Such a great post, you can see how you got to the end point.
    Its amazing how you know what you want to achieve and what is not quite right. I'd probably ignore my inner critic and be pleased with the initial results - its such an insight to the process.
    I love the end results.

  13. Oh these are so lovely, look forward to seeing more.

  14. I really liked your 'a fox broke cover' print yesterday and then along come these as well! The hens are great and its interesting to follow the process of getting them on canvas. I love the colour combination with the verdigris.

    Look forward to seeing more of your painting:)

    Jeanne x

  15. I love the colours in these paintings and found them very appealing at each stage in the process. I could happily live with all 3 of the paintings and so enjoy looking at them.

  16. These are gorgeous - do you ever sell your work? The Fox print in the previous posting also lovely... look forward to seeing more during 2010... Miranda

  17. How wonderful_Im so pleased for you.Im not an artist in any sense of the word but I can feel your relief and satisfaction through the computer screen! Brava,Celia And they look stunning;-)

  18. Lovely to see how you create your beautiful work! I love the subject, they are too cute! It seems we are on the same wavelength right now (chickens and eggs), fun to see!

  19. Now I need to know if they are portraits...eggs too? Do you do that thing where you collect the eggs then spread them out on the table and debate which egg belongs to which hen? :)

    It really is a breaking through process and I so relate to the stomping around cranky thing. But persistence pays off and look at them now! Lovely. Looking forward to seeing more (also love the print).

    Bye now,
    Jacqui x

  20. Those are glorious Celia!

    I loved seeing the transformation of the canvases. There is so much movement and life in them.

  21. great work and so pleased you broke your barrier. Looking forward to seeing more in 2010

  22. These are lovely Celia, and it's great to be able to go off at a tangent like that. Loved seeing the process too, Iknow how fiddly it is stopping every so often when you are in full flow to take the pictures! Great post. Penny x

  23. These are great simple is always best. The 1st one works best to my eye, its got the texture and depth you were after but also has gentle detail.
    The other two have good texture and colour but don't look finished ( but they are all charming), very good post and site

  24. I just discovered your blog and have very much enjoyed browsing through your archives and seeing your beautiful work.


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