There are certain subjects which I look forward to re-visiting each year in order to paint.. Daffodils in Spring for example, straw bales in Summer. Autumn brings harvest time, pumpkins and stunning colour in the foliage. Winter trees are another favourite - and snow, but here in the Cotswolds one can't guarantee to have it every year.
This is not as monotonous as it may sound. Because these are seasonal subjects, one may only have a few weeks in which to study them, the way the light plays on them, their surroundings and so on before they are gone.
By the time they return a year later one has largely forgotten what one did the year before, and so the thrill of discovery awaits anew - and each year there is the possibility of discovering a little bit more to add to the store of ones knowledge.
Painting or sketching on location, en plein air ,can be one of life's greatest pleasures and it is always so rewarding to achieve something on site which is uniquely your own.
Yet the very idea seems to instill panic in many people who are put off the idea because they don't want their efforts seen by others.
It happens to us all at first - a lack of confidence. One way to overcome this is to have a painting partner who will come with you or even a group of like-minded people, as onlookers tend to shy away from large numbers !
However I have found that such fears are unfounded. It is surprising how often someone will come and stand in front of you and conduct a lengthy shouting match on their mobile 'phone apparently unaware of your existence. One time I was enjoying making a sketch while sitting on a bench when someone appeared from nowhere and flopped down beside me. I turned briefly and smiled only to receive an indignant stare in return, and after a while off they went without having spoken a word.
The other side of the coin is far more fun. Never, as yet, has anyone come up and told me what I am doing is rubbish (perhaps it will come). True some people come up, glance at my sketch and move away. They may indeed be thinking that it is rubbish, but they do not say so.
More often people will make a comment such as "How lovely, I wish I could do that" which opens up an opportunity for conversation if you wish.
Others reveal themselves to be 'dabblers', some turn out to be professionals, others students, or 'just-doing-it for-fun-on-holiday' sketchers. Either way I have shared some amazing conversations with people from Europe, America and Japan. I have been privileged to see some beautiful sketchbooks and allowed a glimpse into another's life. I have also mostly been happy to answer questions from those just starting out on their great adventure in painting.
Language never seems to be a problem. Somehow when those with a common interest meet, there exists a spirit of friendship and goodwill, and whatever your level of ability you will feel the benefit of having shared a moment of understanding and enjoyment.
There is nothing quite like it for building up your self-confidence.
Recently I visited a Lavender farm and was bowled over by the beauty of the colours and the richness of the fragrance. Even though I have been there before I had forgotten what a potent mixture it was for the senses. I think it is because it is a relatively short season when the fields are all bursting with full strength colour. A bit like painting daffodils in Spring or pumpkins in Autumn, one just gets the hang of it and then they are gone for another year. Sketching on site on occasions like this - when you have not gone there for the whole day with the intention to do nothing but paint - can often be nothing more than quick 'note-taking' whether on paper or in a sketchbook. Here I had a small block of watercolour paper. Because it was busy I tried to be discreet and not get in anyone's way - however, painting seems to attract many people (and repels others !) so one has to get used to being engaged in conversation despite an urgency to complete something before having to be elsewhere, or more usually, before the next burst of rain comes along. Sometimes what is produced here works well in it's own right - little gems which have more to say than a painting which has taken longer. Mostly, I find the smaller sketch is more useful in providing a reference for a later painting, for hopefully it will have 'captured the moment', the feelings, the impression of what was there at the time. Referring to it will bring back the memories, colours and fragrance of the day just as if you were there.
Yesterday I went to the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock as part of the West Ox Arts drawing day. Working in museums requires different skills to those more normally employed. It is not practicable to set up an easel in a small gallery where other members of the public are wandering in and out and where in some cases small children are running around. Museums too are wary of paint being splattered over their exhibits ! Instead I figured this was an occasion which required a sketchbook, pencil, fibre-tipped pens and, with a little subterfuge, a miniature palette and a waterbrush. With practice it is possible to hold most of these things in one hand while drawing with the other, standing in front of the glass cabinets. On the spot, I concentrated on sketching various exhibits, memorising any unusual details and colours which could be added later if it wasn't possible to complete it there and then. The page could be given unity by the addition of a border and some annotation. In this case I kept the handwritten notes to the barest minimum and placed them where I thought they would look most interesting. Another time I might give the placement of the drawing more consideration if I know there will be a larger area of writing so that the two will work in harmony as part of the overall design. Most important of all is to remember that an experience such as this should be enjoyable ! You don't have to go to a museum to try it, why not do something similar with your favourite objects at home ?