Katja_Schmitt_Hampton_Court_03_Pastel_Painting_frame

Thanks to my ‘mastermind family’ I had a truly Royal Art Experience!

I spent a fabulous Sunday at Hampton Court taking in the sights and sounds and taste, the history, and the weather, and then captured the experience artistically.

As an experiment, I had asked them to send me to a place of their choice in London, to ‘commission’ a painting so to speak. They left comments, telling me of the places they liked (and also the reasons or some part of their memories). I wrote down the locations on pieces of paper, put them in a bag, and drew one randomly. The result was Hampton Court Gardens – I have to admit that I was seriously tempted to cheat. At the time there were other places I preferred. Sandra, whose choice this was, had written “It’s a place that filled me with awe when I visited it a few months ago”, so I knew I had to be faithful and honour my commitment!

Wow, am I glad I did this!! I still don’t have all the words to describe what I felt and experienced, but thankfully that’s where my art comes in and helps me express the fascination, the joy, the amusement, the awe, the sense of history and time.

The weather was rather challenging that day, so I recorded everything as best as I could – but I did my writing, sketching, and doodling mostly later. And I started to paint when I returned to my studio. I’d like to share a photo journal of the experience and of the process that led to lots of ideas and three finished paintings so far:

Katja_Schmitt_Hampton_Court_Project_Travel Art 02

There was a small window of time when the weather allowed for some sketching in the Tudor Garden, but I soon realised that it was simply too windy and wet -> so I took a lot of photos instead.

To get into the ‘zone’, and to get a feeling for shapes and structures, but most of all to let the experience percolate, I did a lot of blind contour exercises during the following days – It’s a trick I fall back on when I wish to work on a project but haven’t really found the right ‘angle’. It is also an easy way to forget about questions like ‘is this good enough?’ and concentrate on the subject.

I was absolutely fascinated by the heraldic beasts and other statues everywhere. Many of them were alien to me, and therefore endlessly interesting. So my first sketches were more about these creatures than about the gardens.
And the first painting I started was inspired by them, so I named it ‘Tudor Beasts in the Rose Garden” ­čśë

Unfortunately I had a bit of an accident, because I tried some experimentation with my materials… Because of that, I have to ask for your patience until I’ll be able to show the finished painting.

Meanwhile I had started to do sketches of the gardens. This stage of the process is a bit like learning a new language, but instead of a new vocabulary I learn new shapes and structures. I try to explore details here, because while my painting is very much influenced by gesture and movement I also always want to show the characteristics of a place. It’s the potential between capturing the emotional aspect and keeping the subject still recognizable. My paintings sometimes fall on the more representational side, at other times tend towards abstraction.

Through my sketching and experimenting I had developed ideas for the paintings I wanted to create, and the motifs I wanted to work in more detail. Let me share some of the process:

Because I work in layers, it takes some time to arrive at the stage I’m aiming for. I painted layers of plants, and layers of architecture, and layers of wind, and then more layers of all of the above…

I painted these two pieces completely independent of each other. But when they were finished, I realised that I had created a diptych. They belong together:

Katja_Schmitt_Hampton_Court_Set_Pastel_Painting_02
Hampton Court I & II | Pastel Diptych | 2 x 64 cm x 49 cm

These paintings are as much influenced by what I saw as by what I imagined it would look like in the spring and what it might have looked like in the distant past.
The layers I worked into the paintings show plants real and imagined, the buildings, the weather – and the ghosts I kept seeing everywhere.
As always, I have hidden shapes and figures inside the overlaps of those layers. The longer you look, the more you find!

This is also true for the next painting. While it may seem a lot more representational than the other ones, I have ‘buried’ surprises beneath the topmost layers here, too.

Some impressions of the painting process, and below that the finished version:

Katja_Schmitt_Hampton_Court_03_Pastel_Painting
Hampton Court III | Pastel Painting | 49 cm x 64 cm

All in all, I have to say that I’m extremely happy with the whole experience. I’m grateful that I had this opportunity. Because it once again confirmed for me the value and beauty and fascination I can find – and express – even in places that I had no plans to go to.

(But I definitely need to return during the summer!)

Hampton Court 3 Frame Vignette

Katja_Schmitt_Hampton_Court_Set_Pastel_Painting