The action takes place in April 2012 in a room at the Borrowdale Hotel, in the Lake District.  A small group gather expectantly round Jenny and Mike, two professional artists.  Rain beats down hard outside.

MIKE:  This morning we are going to experiment.  Jenny and I are going to put marks down together just to see what happens. It doesn’t matter if we finish up with a mess – it’s only a bit of paper after all.  We should probably do this outside where the wind and rain could play a legitimate part. (Smiles to himself as he recalls other demos held outside, in howling gales and driving rain, made possible by a see-through umbrella and the judicious use of bulldog clips.)

JENNY: (Rolling up her sleeves and donning a large smock.)  Yes, even if we finish up looking silly it isn’t exactly life threatening.  It’s very important to overcome your inhibitions, to trust your intuition and see what happens.

MIKE: (Pouring copious amounts of water over a large sheet of white paper spread out on the table.)   Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a painting should be descriptive, or a narrative.  After all, you are just playing with the three main elements; LTC – line, tone and colour – another version of TLC, only just thought of that!  You don’t even need to use a brush. Your fingers will do, or a bit of old sponge, even stale bread. Turner loved to use bread and he kept one fingernail long so that he could scratch the surface of the paper.

JENNY: (Selecting a large brush and plunging it into a blob of bright pink watercolour.)  We’ll work upside down – that’s with the paper upside down, not us –  partly so that you can see what we’re doing, but, more importantly, so that we don’t get tempted to make anything resembling a representative image. (Draws her brush across the paper leaving a large pink puddle in its wake.)

MIKE: (Producing a china serving dish with green and blue paints squeezed out of tubes all round the rim.)  Oh lord, I might have known it, too much pink.  Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that – you can’t have too much of anything – except pink possibly – nevertheless I feel the urge to retaliate with a lovely dark blue. (Sweeps his brush clean through the middle of the pink puddle leaving a blue trail.  A network of small tributaries spread out eagerly across the wet surface.)  That’s better.

JENNY: (Dipping her brush into a bright yellow.)  Of course, the paint would behave differently if we had the paper pegged out on a line……

MIKE: Yes, it could even be a cylinder.  You could have a large sheet of paper wrapped round an old oil drum and work your way round without ever being able to see the whole image. Then you could release it and spread it out and see it for the first time.  I once knew an artist who wore a large pair of thick specs whenever he painted so that everything was fuzzy and out of focus.  Painting in a dark room would have the same effect.  Anything to intervene and change the relationship between the stereotypical way we have learnt to see things and the image on the page.

JENNY: (Warming to her task, Jenny splashes a lurid green across the bottom of the page.)  This is only schematic.  I’m just laying it on ….I want to capture the light….not trying to describe the actuality. 

MIKE:  Ah, a rhythm is starting to happen here (Splashes on a turquoise.)  Suddenly, quite incongruously, we have little anomalies developing before our eyes……..  It’s like being a magician and pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

JENNY:  I wish you’d go easier with the blue.  (Applies more pink.)

MIKE: (Enthusiastically.)  Oh, that’s a lovely counterpoint tonally.  Amazing subtlety!  Just look at the pink mingling with the blue. They have a wonderful resonance.  I’m painting the sky and the water as if they are one.

JENNY:  Who said they were sky and water?  I’m just painting for the moment.  We label things too easily.  I just want to get a general sense of place… capture the wonder of a three dimensional place in two dimensions with a nod towards composition.     

MIKE:  Too many horizontals.  We need something vertical and uplifting or diagonal and dramatic (Splashes a diagonal from the bottom left hand corner of the page to the top right hand.)  I have a sudden urge to cut this page in half. (Seizes a pair of scissors.)

JENNY: Don’t you dare!  (Folds the bottom third of the page under so that a vast area of green is no longer visible.  Applies more pink.)  I want this to have an ethereal quality.

MIKE:  I meant to take photos of this at various stages.  (Whips out a small camera and takes a photo looking straight down on the painting.)  You can learn a lot from deconstructing a painting and tracing its progression.  Black and white photos are particularly helpful.  Removing the distraction of colour reveals tonal qualities you’d otherwise miss.

JENNY:  Yes, I love the journey, the whole process, even more than the destination – a finished painting that, hopefully, will give someone pleasure.

MIKE:  There is never any need to feel apologetic.  (Holds up the paper so that the paint runs from top to bottom then, just as the colour threatens to drip onto the floor, suddenly whips it back up and changes direction.)  Oh, this is fun!  Let gravity do our work for us.  Just look at the glorious accidental effects.  You can always lift off some paint due to the capillary action of the brush. (Demonstrates, leaving pale areas wherever the tip of the brush comes into contact with the paper.)  

JENNY: Well, I hope our little demonstration has shown you the importance of flouting convention; rules are there to be broken.    

MIKE:  Yes, we’re using the language of paint to let go of our inhibitions. See where it takes you, not where you take it. (Without warning puts a large blue streak across Jenny’s forehead.)  There, I’ve always wanted to do that!

JENNY:  Well, I did say it didn’t matter if we finished up looking silly. (Leans over and dabs bright pink on Mike’s nose.) Would anyone like to join in?  Come on now, don’t be shy, we can use any medium.  Who said we were confined to a sheet of paper; far too conventional. (Picks up a potato.)

The alarm rings and Jenny wakes with a start.  She realises she has been dreaming.  Or has she?  When she looks in the bathroom mirror she can see traces of blue on her forehead.


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