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Fancy a Scumble?

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

I was watching two toddlers playing with a new toy, a colourful cube where they had to find the right shape to put in the gap. One child was concentrating hard, turning the toy over in her tiny hands. She was going to play with it for hours. The other picked the cube up, put it down, picked it up again and shook it vigorously before flinging it across the park, collapsing in pleats of laughter, and toddling off to find it.

I think of my friend Maggie, the other half of the M&M Art Society. At this time of year, we usually go somewhere beautiful, by the sea or deep in the country, and spend a happy day painting together. Such easy company yet we are so different in our techniques.

Maggie is a brilliant artist who works with fine brushes, capturing every detail of the lovely flowers she paints. Hours and hours pass as she creates perfection. In contrast, it´s the freedom to play with colours and depth which excite me. I´m happier with my palette knife for the surprise element it brings to texture because the painting always looks quite different when the paint is dry.

I scumble with my brushes when I paint clouds or foliage on trees or on the ground. Scumbling-isn´t that a wonderful word? Scumbling is a technique where I use a dry brush to work a thin layer of paint into the canvas, allowing existing paint to remain visible. Like Maggie, I can spend hours getting it right, not resting until the clouds pop. But I have also been known to jump out of bed at 3am and complete a painting before sunrise.

I admire those huge canvases I´ve seen in galleries which look as if the artist has lost the plot and flung pots of paint and loaded brushes at it, somehow resulting in a fabulous abstract. I´m not sure I could do that yet. But watch this space..

I wonder what lies behind such disparate approaches to painting, such different techniques. It isn´t about mood because my preference never seems to change. It isn´t a matter of choice because such painstaking attention to detail would drive me crazy. Character perhaps?

I think of my childhood home in Holland, my elderly mother restless, unable to relax and enjoy her coffee until I had closed the cupboard door properly, or straightened a cushion. She grew up in terrible fear and insecurity during the Second World War in Rotterdam, when everything seemed out of control, so perhaps it´s understandable that she felt safe only when her immediate surroundings, her home, were just so.

I started out by painting minute details, never getting it quite right. It was frustrating and time-consuming for me. As time went by, I began to let go of control of the outcome and discovered I love surprises, which is possibly why I´m attracted to semi-abstract and impressionist art. I think my mother would like my paintings- provided they were dusted and hung straight. I´m sure she would be horrified by my technique and the mess I make sometimes though. I can thank her for the freedom I´m blessed to be aware of today.

The art is not in the painting it´s an expression of what´s inside of you.

I can´t leave without a pupdate! Sunny is coming home in just over two weeks’ time and his gentle nature is emerging. He plays along with his boisterous siblings, but he also seems to like some quiet time alone. I can´t wait to have him here beside me.

Marja Brown

Landscape Artist

Original paintings and prints available on my website.

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