365 Paintings

The idea of making a painting every day over one calendar year came about through both my life long interest in painting and recording the landscape and in my preferred method of recording it through direct observation.

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The resulting Paintings were never meant to be studies for future works, to be completed indoors in the comfort of my studio, but as an exercise in its own right, an attempt to complete an A6 watercolour every day on location. As I got into the project, it quickly became apparent that this would not be as straight forward as I had at first anticipated and after a while I found that I had to incorporate “catch – up” days. Some days were missed through either illness or work and family commitments, in other words, this ‘business of living’.

Martin Creed’s ‘Work No370 Balls’ exhibition at the SNGMA in Edinburgh, is a good example of how original intentions can evolve into something else: The exhibition started out as a room full of balls collected from all over the world. He encouraged the public to interact with them walking through them and “playing” with them. However, after a short period of time the balls were becoming damaged, so a wire barrier was put around them and the public were asked not to touch changing the original concept entirely!

Shortly after starting the project I found myself writing notes on the back of the Paintings, Initially it was just the date and the location that was noted, but this quickly evolved to include a description of the events and circumstances that related to the execution of the painting. “just before accident”…(29th Aug.), or “round the back of the island after “mishap”….(16th Sept.) Also Included were the weather conditions, colours used, and any ensuing technical issues, eg. “Deep colours, dark land…. not quite captured with this…suggest acrylics, or oils…pastels? (28th Sept.), or “Freezing, but bright day. Cold sitting here…. no more than 10 mins. Water and paint froze as it went on…left a fine layer of ice on painting…. hence “scratchiness”…. blurring as it thawed…and then I had to jog down the hill to warm up again!”. While not in themself being crucial to the viewing of the Paintings they do give some context to the work and act as an ‘Aide Memoire’. My advice would be to record as much information as you can as you never know when it may come in useful.

I also had recurrent locations where I would paint, places that I would regularly visit, eg. The Montrose basin, Aberlady bay, Pembroke coastal path (near St. David’s) and Pembrey cycle path in Wales. A family trip to America towards last summer was an absolute bonus and offered quite a different set of problems from working in East Lothian in January!

Sometimes visiting an exhibition and seeing an artist’s work would motivate me. Recently, I saw a Joan Eardley Exhibition at SNGMA, a James Morrison show at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, William Kentridge and Vivienne Koorland at the Fruitmarket Gallery and an exhibition entitled “Drawing Attention: Rare works on paper” at the National Gallery of Scotland. All were really interesting and served to motivate me in different ways. There is no substitute for getting out and actually looking at Art.

In conclusion, taking on this project, and having a goal has been of enormous benefit to me. It gave me a structure, a framework within which to work and as it progressed, I realised that I had to be prepared to “adapt” slightly, and not be put off if I couldn’t stick to “the plan”. I could still achieve my aim, albeit slightly amended from the original concept.

By doing this, I achieved a body of work upon which I can reflect and plan ahead. The paintings themselves and the “notes” on the back have given me a framework for future projects.

Shona E. Bowen. February 2017.


This body of work is currently on display in the studio project space of the Gray’s School of Art painting department.

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