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Pauline Bewick

Pauline Bewick RHA Aosdána

June 10th 2008

Pauline Bewick …on painting. I am driven to paint. It helps me sort out my thoughts. If I am stuck in my thoughts, it is usually solved by the time I have finished a painting, and some of it gets into the painting. I paint year-round, but the time of the year that really excites me is the early spring and I could be saying that because it is now. I think what excites me is nature bursting out all over, when the buds start, when buds come, it’s almost like a bud in my head that’s starting up and that’s when I’m most creative. Each Spring I think I have a high. I paint nearly every day. There’s a lot of the day that has to go into being obsessionally tidy so I think ‘I’m not going to start that painting or finish that painting until I turn the mattress, put on these clean covers, or sweep under the stairs’ so I have to get stuff in order before I can go on painting. When everything is in order then my brain is clear to paint. It’s an obsessional thing I suppose. I am not always brave enough to pick up my paintbrush so I pick up a brush for the floor, and I suppose it’s a ritual that has to be done. I can’t do a picture in the midst of unsolved chaos. I have to get my letters all written and a list written. Once I’ve written a list of what things I have to do tomorrow, then I can paint.

…on pre-conceived notions: The majority of time I don’t know beforehand what it is I am going to paint. In fact, quite often, these are the better ones… you know I just start with an ear, and it then doodles on to being a face, I don’t know if it will be a man or woman, and then it turns into a woman, and then I think, she’ll look nice with a man beside her… and wow, wouldn’t it be lovely to set her in the mountains – and so it grows, without any preconceptions… and then I think if it needs something else I will put a little aguisín in between the legs or wherever, or under her arm, or in front of her house. So, it grows like that – mostly. When painting it can be very bad to preconceived idea in a sense that you could never live up to it – because your mind can paint better than your hand. If you have this glorious image in your head it’s terribly hard to translate it down onto paper. If a surprise can come out, it can look marvellous.

…on the ‘artistic block’: I regularly get ‘blocks’, but I have a Psychiatrist husband who says every time, ‘Pauline, we have been through this before and you always come out of it…’, and then I say,’ Yes, but this time it is because of age, or because of menopause, or eye-sight, I blame something and I think - that’s it, I’m finished!’ And then it comes again with such a burst that I can hardly believe that I ever did a bad painting, and one after the other they come out - so exciting and so good, and then suddenly, bang, I’ve done a bad one, and I can’t do any more… I do destroy a lot, but then there are some that have got such a good beginning and I can’t finish, that I put them into a folder and I could pick one up three years later and I think ‘now I am brave enough to do something with this good beginning to make this a good picture’.

…on rest: I once decided before going to the South Pacific that I was so tired - I’d had this big exhibition called “Two To Fifty” in the Guinness Hop Store - I’m not going to paint while I’m over there. But something made me buy paper and paints and pack a huge case of them all. When I got there I cried that I couldn’t paint, I mean, nothing would come. And my daughter Poppy said, “Mummy, you’re trying too hard, just relax, your colours are too bright”. So I thought she’s right, I am trying too hard. So she got me going and I couldn’t stop.

…on praise: If I were on a desert island I would paint for myself, definitely. But I also like to paint for praise. Not for the critics, but for an individual who may be around me - like my mother or my husband or… yesterday, this woman inspired me to do a painting of elder flowers because she’s doing a cookbook for charity. She said “I want your recipe”, I said “its elder flower cordial” and she picked me a bunch of elder flowers to paint because she wants the cover of her book to be mine, I said I’m not going to just do a book cover I’m going to do a painting. From about two in the afternoon until the evening, a fabulous painting of two women pulling down flowers from an elder tree with the mountains in the background. I rang the woman it was for, who’s a neighbour here, and she really has nothing to do with art. But I was so excited I’d done a good painting; I said, “I’ve done a smashing painting”. There was no hurry for it, she’s not publishing that book until way into the autumn but I had a huge inspiration and I was longing to tell her, and she was thrilled. So I do like to get praise; but I don’t depend on critics in the newspapers and things like that. I think one of the main things that have been flung at me over the years is that my work is like illustration - which is true, it’s illustrating my feelings, and it’s illustrating what I think. Illustration doesn’t offend me really, but I think they want it to sound offensive.

Pauline Bewick…on expression: I think that I was born with that way of expressing myself and encouraged by my mother. We all have a way of expressing our talents, cooking or singing or whatever… music etc..

…on success: My neighbour saying ‘that’s brilliant’ or a child coming in and saying ‘that’s a great picture’ - that’s success to me. So I do need that, whether it is the greatest art critic in the world or the greatest person in the world saying I love or I hate you but I depend just as much on my farmer neighbour’s opinion.

…on getting older: I love painting and perhaps everything has come rushing to me at this hour in my life. Maybe I don’t have that many more years to live - which is a pity, but I can do damn all about that! I just hope that I keep strong enough to go with this inspiration that I have.

…on energy: I expend a lot of energy in painting, but energy begets energy and I seem to get even more energy from it. If it’s a good painting that’s come out of me, it’ll inspire another whereas when I’m in a down, I could have lots of sleep, rest and good food but nothing will come. But one good picture will inspire another and so on until it suddenly stops.

…on influence: My mother was the primary influence in my life, she never belittled anybody nor did she give me high rivers of worldly praise, she always made me feel “go your way, root down yourself and do things for yourself. You know what comes out of you and don’t be doing things for other people because you think that’s what they want”. And without being rude to anybody that’s what I do. I remember when I was young and I’d get commissions I used to try to get into the mind of the person that had given me the commission so that I could please them and come out with the right thing for them. And now when asked to do something, oh let’s say they would ask “would you please paint a woman in the river in the summer” and instead of thinking ‘how are they picturing this woman in the river in the summer?’ I think ‘how do I see it and how do I feel about that’ and I go right into me and so I do what I think, nothing to do with what I hope they will like.

…on tapestry: When I did a painting of the women fishing I thought ‘I’d love to see this absolutely huge, and I’d love to see it in something incredibly permanent’ that’s why I chose the tapestry. I would think that it represented human beings catching fish in the elements for food, for life, whereas I wouldn’t choose a painting that is just perhaps a passing moment that hasn’t got a huge ‘life thing’. A lot of artists don’t want to see their work leaving their house or their studio because it’s like a child, but to tell you the truth without showing off I’ve got so many more children ready to come I’m glad to see them go. Making room like giving away my collections, my studio got nice and empty, wow, now I can really get going.

…on pastel: I think I have invented a new technique with pastels, I use the finest unbleached linen, turning the primed side to the back, the fine "tooth" of the canvas holds the pastel pigment very well. Pastel allows me to work very quickly without having to stop to bip into paint, the painting finished is now ready to "fix", I use a flower spray bottle with a half and half mix of conservation acrylic varnish and distilled water, spraying the work 3 or 4 times before I can use a varnish brush with undiluted varnish, this protection negates the use of glass. I’m absolutely thrilled with the whole business of it and I have enormous canvases waiting for more, more, more.