Lessons in Perseverance

'Homage to Euan Uglow' - oil painting by Helen Davison

‘Homage to Euan Uglow’. Oil on board, 46cm x 62cm

I haven’t posted very much lately because I’ve been experimenting with a few larger paintings and taking a little more time over them. At least three didn’t really go anywhere and I scraped them down ready to start afresh.

This painting is one that I made a very conscious decision to stick with until an end resolved itself. I made quite a few major changes to the composition as I went along, and in all honesty it isn’t really the painting I had in mind when I started.

Initially I wanted to incorporate some of the photocopies I had made of reclining figures found in the work of Euan Uglow. Rather than doing a straight master copy, I thought I could make a learning exercise into something that allowed a study of his work within a kind of tableau of other things. In place of the fruit that is now featured, I got to quite an advanced stage of painting a Parian-ware figure of a reclining nude. The idea was for all the figures to mirror each other, loosely commenting on women as objects in art.

Sadly the figure just didn’t work. It is a very fine piece, but it didn’t translate to painting. So, my first lesson was to bite the bullet and change it. This involved a fair bit of work to redraw and match in colours and brushwork in areas previously cut off. But it taught me that you can push changes to work pretty far, and to resist my usual urge to start the whole thing over.

In finding new subjects I opted for standard still life items of fruit and a china dish. Having said that, the bananas also allude to a Uglow still life of the same subject. The result, I think, is a rather odd painting that has a lot of small positives but doesn’t really hang together. It was a good project to focus on though, and I’m pleased I persevered with it.

I very much wanted to keep some looseness to the brushwork, an element of expression. The following details illustrate something of what I had in mind.