Summer News

For me personally, the best paintings are those that combine aesthetics with some kind of a story. It’s the aesthetic element that grabs my attention and pulls me in, and the story that allows a deeper level of interest and engagement. The story might be subtle, ambiguous or blatant – whatever works for the subject. Occasionally though, aesthetics alone are enough to make me want to either look at a picture or to paint it.

A recent example is a painting I completed of some red lilies. I’d been thinking of ideas for a painting that would feature a decent splash of bright red, on the sort of scale that would completely dominate the picture. I sketched out a few different ideas, but nothing really seemed to leap out. One day while I was going through the supermarket I saw an arrangement of bright red lilies that stood out straight away, and I announced to my wife that we needed to buy them so that I could make them the centrepiece of a painting with a story built around them. In response, Tricia calmly informed me that we already had some in the back yard at home.

I was taken aback. How could we have colour like that in the back yard that I’d never noticed before? At home I trawled around the fence line of the back yard and sure enough, hidden between the Pohutukawa and the fence was a small cluster of bright red lilies still in their Spring bloom. Admittedly I’m not much of a gardener, but it was still a surprise to find something so spectacular blooming right under my nose without my noticing.

There was no question that these lilies would now be my next painting, but with only a small number of stems growing behind the tree I was initially reluctant to cut any for the studio. In the end though art won the day and the lilies came inside, but somehow they didn’t need anything else built around them for a painting. They now seemed to be sufficient stars in their own right.

Pure aesthetics? Maybe, but suddenly these lilies also had enough of a story of their own.

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