What can happen when you embrace the unexpected:


Sometimes, unexpected things happen.

Cars break down just days away from finishing a Summer-long road trip. You unwrap a leg of lamb for dinner and it reeks of something so bad you consider becoming a vegan - until you return said leg of lamb to store and buy a BBQ chicken instead.

Or your son smashes – and nearly falls through – his own bedroom window when he overbalances shaking down his duvet... while standing on his bed. (Perhaps not such an unexpected outcome after all, now that I re-read that last sentence, but it was certainly the last thing I expected him to say when he entered the lounge room hours after having been sent to bed.)

My latest painting fits into the category of the unexpected as well.

For a start, I had in mind to paint a still life, but got distracted by my holiday photos en route to my studio corner. Less than a minute later I was bent on replicating this landscape that I’d initially created as a digital painting:

‘Bush fire Sky’ - Digital painting study

‘Bush fire Sky’ - Digital painting study

The image comes from a series of photos I took from my car window (passenger, not driver!) on our return to Tasmania after a Summer spent away.

Driving south, with dusk fast approaching, the air was tarnished with smoke - carried on dry winds from bush fires that raged across multiple parts of the state. Some are still burning weeks later.

While I certainly appreciate the sight of a good sunset and often marvel at the colours God uses on his palette, I rarely find myself wanting to replicate one. In my opinion, the line between beauty and schmaltz is a thin one where paintings of sunsets are concerned - and I’m loathe to get too Disney with my art. Yet, here I was, unexpectedly painting a colourful sunset-y sky.

Entering the last 100 metres of my painting dash, I wasn’t really stamping my feet with satisfaction. Despite being happy with the loose brushwork I’d employed and the careful attention I’d paid to not going overboard on my colour saturation,** it wasn’t really floating my boat.

** Excuse the skewed colours - photo was taken at night and it all looks  very  bright and saturated!

** Excuse the skewed colours - photo was taken at night and it all looks very bright and saturated!

I decided to scrape off the lower front section and try again with the grassy area on the verge of the road. And that’s when it happened.

I made one long diagonal scratch with my palette knife and out popped some definition. I made another scratch and a foreground started to appear. Before long, I was scratching and scraping more enthusiastically than a kid in the heat with a bad case of eczema.

The difficulty was knowing when to stop. I gave the painting some breathing space for 24 hours and then added a few corrections and touch ups.

I really like it.

Something in those lines captures the movement of the car and accentuates the direction of the brushstrokes. The little reveals of my Burnt Umber coloured under-painting help create glimpses of light in those darker areas of the painting that risked being too flat.

‘BUSH-FIRE SKY’ - 12 x 12” | 30.5 x 30.5cm - Oil painting on panel - Available]

‘BUSH-FIRE SKY’ - 12 x 12” | 30.5 x 30.5cm - Oil painting on panel - Available]

This was an unexpected outcome I am happy to have experienced. I feel like I am on the verge (haha - pun fully intentend) of discovering new painting territories.

My lesson for the day? Savour the unexpected and work with it to learn something new.

Your turn: What unexpected event have you experienced and grown from? Could you take a minute to share it in the comments below?

Till next time – this is your ordinary-loving, unexpected-embracing painter signing off to call a glazier.


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