I decided to go down to the Gardens on this freezing cold morning just to think about fruit, if nothing else. I have been fretting about what to paint for this piece. There are only 5 days left before it has to be in the post. There is a supermarket full of fruit just down the road and I seem to have almost one of everything, lined up and staring at me from the kitchen table. For some reason the supermarket fruit, however beautiful and exotic, does not make me want to paint it. Their ranks of orderliness and perfection, however pleasing to the designer in me, feel impersonal. Something is missing.
We had some stormy weather at the weekend and walking around the orchard at Leu, seeing the fallen oranges and lemons, I realised I was really longing for some windfalls or overblown fruit to paint or something I have picked or had some connection with; big Bramley apples, bruised but still worthy of a pie, or a pomegranate split by nature not the knife with the seeds tumbling out. Neither of those are readily available to me but I do have a connection with all the trees at Leu and so my decision was suddenly more easy. Forget the exotic supermarket crowd-pleasers and just paint what I find in the garden today.
I am not sure how much of the emotion contained in paintings communicates to others. I suppose it depends how sympathetic your audience is to your own sensibilities, but there is a great case for the artist, or writer, to depict what they know well and have some emotional feeling for. Somehow that genuine feeling seems to communicate. I wonder if that is why I have such a problem with “realistic” works that are painted from photographs. They can be superficially very beautiful but often the sense of being engaged with the object or place is missing.
My affection for these fruits from Leu will not, unfortunately, guarantee a beautiful painting but it will, at least, be more of pleasure to do.
So, my decision made, I brought back a motley collection of “fruit” possibilities and spent the rest of the afternoon playing around with them for composition ideas. I collected a couple of satsumas, a little stripy orangequat, some small fallen starfruit, some acorns, a couple of pignut hickories, a lemon, some Barbados cherries, a couple of coco plums and even a sprig of yaupon holly berries.
They are an odd mixture and after much rearranging I decided to keep it simple and go with just the satsuma, the stripy unripe orangequat, and two varieties of the Barbados cherry.
Technique wise it’s all about achieving texture. I have shiny berries, the matt inside of the orange peel, the pitted surface of the peel itself and leaves which will no doubt be dried out by tomorrow. I am very unsure how to tackle the inside skin of the orange. I have looked at the books but, as usual, there is no help to be had there..!