Last summer, between redundancy and freelancing, I decided to try my hand at painting. I’ve often thought how pleasant it would be to earn some money by not staring at a computer, but if I was ever going to get back into, say, illustration, I’d better prove to myself I still have what it takes.
Although I’ve never been a great painter, I’ve done OK in the past by working from photos. And whenever I think about doing illustrations any other way my thoughts always come back to computer-based techniques, which is kind of defeating the point of this exercise. So I dug out my paints, most of which were still usable after nine years of neglect, picked some photos from magazines, and set to work.
They’re not great works of art, but I’m still quite pleased with the results, which I’ve only just scanned in. I decided to work on portraits, because while human faces have some inherent interest they also usually lack much complicated detail — a very good thing at this stage!
(I’m also aware that, especially when these images are online, there’s something a little peculiar about producing paintings of famous people, like I’m obsessed with Gabriella Sabatini and arthouse film directors. I was thinking more of these as illustrations along the lines of those that grace the cover of The Guardian’s Saturday Review section. So there.)
But this was all far from easy; I’d forgotten how mind-wrenchingly difficult it can be to paint, how depressing it can be to stare at a work-in-progress, convinced it will never succeed (even though experience shows it usually does). Consequently, although each one took around 2-3 working days of actual painting, this was generally spread out over a much longer period packed full of daydreaming and avoidance tactics.
Somehow though, partly thanks to work and other projects, I lost the momentum and suddenly nine months have passed without me touching a paintbrush. Hopefully I’ll give it another try soon, because not staring at computers for a while is, once again, sounding enormously attractive.