Yesterday I finished the angel at Parson Cross. Here is the final piece:
It’s been a great learning experience for me as I love getting to grips with a new medium. It always takes a while to work out what a certain material will and won’t do, and trying to force it against its natural inclinations is a recipe for frustration. So, for example, watercolours can be beautifully luminous because on wet paper they have a life of their own as the colours spread and run. Fight this and you end up with a muddy mess, go with it and you can create amazing images that are spontaneous, light and lively. Oil and acrylics both (on the whole) stay where they’re put but acrylics can dry so quickly whilst oils can take (literally) weeks before the paint won’t smear again. I find that it’s the limitations of a medium that inspire the greatest creativity – when you allow it to be what it truly is, that’s when beauty emerges. The same could be said for people, places and communities.
I particularly like the detail on the face of the angel. I’d practiced in the studio on smooth wood boards but they have a different texture and absorbency to the breeze blocks and so I had to adapt again to the different way in which the paint interacted with the surface. I love the way the paint has settled on the rough bricks and the random mists and spatters of colour; beauty emerging in an ordinary place, out of my control.
Once again the most moving aspect of the process was the response from passers by. As people talked I got a sense of the community owning the image (and it is theirs not mine). Some would say how they’d been wondering who had been painting the angel, some told stories about the building: people who had worked there, played bingo there, or teenagers who had explored it as a derelict site and ventured up on the roof*.
It struck me how sad that such an iconic building at the heart of a neighbourhood could fall into ruin; the owners live far away and have no stake in the community but people on the street had dreams about what it could be used for if only they had the resources.
So, the angel finished and we have two other sites in mind to complete for advent. I hope this image stands as a messenger and a symbol of strength, hope, goodness and beauty emerging in a place where so many people wouldn’t expect to find it. In making this painting I experienced all those things, not just from the art, but from the community itself.
*Please don’t try this at home kids