Summer Cocktail and what inspired my return to relief artwork on wood

This bold, bright and colourful artwork marks a return to my creating mixed media relief artwork on wood. Following a break of about two years, during which I researched and explored other techniques and a variety of painting skills and media I was -quite unexpectedly- inspired by some ceramic sculptural plant pots.

While researching reference photos to practice my watercolour and gouache skills I came across some gorgeous ceramic plant pots by Jud Gliddon, a UK based ceramicist. Apart from their very sculptured, almost architectural, style and their eye-popping colours, he presents and enhances them extremely well with the flowers he selects to show them off. Needless to say, they caught my attention instantly!

The image I chose at the time to practice my watercolour painting skills was the red pot with the leafy plant, as seen below.

I LOVED painting the pot, but the plant was challenging. I couldn’t quite get the texture of the leaves as I wanted. Probably because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to depict them. I became so frustrated with the plant I painted the whole thing quite a few times! Despite my efforts I don’t think I even shared this one on my instagram, which looking back on it now is not so bad!

Anyway, it continued to haunt me. So much so I took a step back to reflect and think about why I had become so obsessed with it. I considered my recent creative activity and efforts, the online courses and tutorials I’d been following [since the outbreak of covid] and the direction I was trying to steer my artwork in, and the fact that it had become a kind of uphill -not altogether a ‘struggle’ but albeit a considerable- effort to create the kind of artwork I thought would be more commercial and well, well-received/acceptable/sellable. Bang. That was the problem. In my effort to do so I had lost myself on the way.

In an effort to produce more likeable, acceptable and commercial work I had lost myself, my expression and and innate creativity on the way.

So I took a step back and paused to reflect on what exactly and why I was attracted to painting this lovely plant pot.

  1. The first was the bright colours and their combinations. Notice how I also added a turquoise table surface to my painting making the colours pop even more.
  2. the sculptural/architectural design element truly intrigued me.

Following this revelation I began creating and developing a design that I explored in various versions of itself, including two versions of a repeat pattern. The first of the images you see below is one of the three versions in the bottom row that I did in my sketchbook, playing and developing the design in various colour-ways. The I created the watercolour and gouache version on the top right.

The following images are my play on repeat patterns.

Until it called me to create it in a relief artwork on wood.

I played with the watercolour version on my computer using the main ‘bottle’motif, as I like to call it, to create a design with 5 ‘bottles’.

Making it was a deep dive into what I truly enjoy doing. I found it so easy to swim. The territory was familiar as I let my intuition guide me, adding more and more unplanned details to the painting. The outcome was a fun, bold and vibrant painting.

Initially I called it [or rather the series of designs and patterns I created] ‘Obsession’, due to the obsession I had developed with this design. Later on, following a question I put to my followers on instagram, a friend suggested I call the watercolour and gouache piece I did ‘Greek Cocktail’, which I liked and is what I let it be for a while. But while creating this 122×70 cms relief art version of it, which took the better half of the summer working through the designs to complete  it, I decided on ‘Summer Cocktail’ to mark the period of its manifestation. Et voila! 

Pieces like Summer Cocktail take me about a month to complete. From prepping the wood board to varnishing the finished piece. That, together with the fact that shipping and transporting these adds another challenge, were the reasons I began looking for alternative, smaller, lighter and faster-to-execute types of artwork to create. But, they don’t compare with what I am able to create using this format.

That’s not to say I won’t also create ‘lighter’ paintings on paper and canvas, but from now on I will focus on what I enjoy painting. What is true to my aesthetic and, when I am called, or compelled to, I will not hesitate to create more relief paintings on wood.

You can check out the full gallery of this painting on my website and watch the video below too.

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