A Summer Solstice Painting
Being fascinated with witches, mythology and all things magical means that when the solstices roll around, it feels only right to commemorate it in some way. Naturally, for me, that commemoration comes in the form of art, and this painting was inspired by the summer solstice.
I’m Melting, I’m Melting
We had some hot days over the summer, even up in Yorkshire. 2020 isn’t known for its sunshine and lollipops, but there were some glorious days of sunshine. Unfortunately, I am of the redheaded variety and my skin is like white, tissue paper, so sunbathing isn’t an option for me. I can usually appreciate the weather from the comfort of a patch of shade, but this year, I was absolutely stacked out and work had been pouring in. Something about being locked inside for weeks had spurred people to fill in the blanks in their homes. I had just closed commissions when the solstice rolled around, but I was still working on a huge painting of some hot springs in Florida for an American chap and it was just too hot to work on it – prancing around in front of a big canvas was hot work and the acrylic was drying before I could even get it to the canvas.
My studio is small, so in summer, it’s particularly warm. I’d thrown open all the windows and managed to get a fan into the space, wedged it in awkwardly among the canvases and picture frames where it wobbled precariously at each apex of its half rotation. But it didn’t do any good. I was too hot and I kept finding myself just staring out of the window at the pair of magpies that stomp around in the garden. I had a song stuck in my head and I’d been humming it out loud without realising it – Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness. It felt apt and I was suddenly inspired to pick up a small canvas.
It wasn’t Sadness – Just a Brief Moment of Ennui
There’s a certain type of inertia you get on a hot summer’s day. Especially that stillness that settles before a much needed storm rips through the close, thick air and cleanses everything. Those hot, sticky moments of waiting can feel like a lifetime and it often takes me back to when I was a kid during the summer holidays, when those six weeks of educational reprise stretch out ahead of you, full of the promise of playing out with your friends – climbing trees, walking along the bank of Glossop brook, maybe paddling and making daisy chains in the sunshine. Don’t get me wrong, I was a videogame kid too – we had a ZX Spectrum with a multitude of Dizzy games. Later we got a megadrive, and then a playstation. My younger self would be beside herself if she knew that as an adult she would be living with one of the character artists working on the Abe’s Oddysee games [swoons].
But videogames were for the evenings and winter time – summertime was for sun worship… even if from under layers of factor 50 and large-brimmed hats. And, yes, those heady, fragrant moments where we would flop onto the grass and moon around for hours, irritation just starting to creep around the edges. It’s not so much sadness as… a brief moment of ennui.
I wanted to create a piece that captured that very specific inertia. My subject had to be young and whimsical, but I wanted a redhead so I could paint a faintly flushed face. The yellow of the dress represents the sun and her posture, leaning back against the wall, gives her the impression of waiting. The calm before the storm. The expression on her face is ambiguous and different people see different things – ennui, contemplation, restlessness, calm. I don’t like to dictate to people what they should see in my work, so I take my intent in painting as just another interpretation and I love it when people see something unintentional.
For example, one particular woman on Facebook took great umbrage to another piece I created – Ritual. She was angry with me* because she said my subject looked upset and bereft and unhappy. Which was the first time anyone had had that reaction as far as I was aware. She was entitled to that opinion, of course. What do you think?
I was pleased when the entire summer solstice painting came together in one afternoon. Just in time for the solstice evening and the blissfully cooler air that came with it.
Purchasing and Prints
The original painting of Summertime Ennui sold within two hours of my posting it, but you can still get your mitts on prints, merchandise and downloads. Saatchi is your best bet for luxury canvas and framed prints, whereas Redbubble absolutely nail merchandise like clothing, stationery and home decor, as well as more budget prints and greetings cards. You can also download hi-res, print ready versions of this piece from the shop and make your own prints in as many formats as you like.
* I do seem to generate a lot of ire, particularly among older women, which makes me incredibly sad – one of my missions in life is to raise up other women, particularly women in the arts, but they are often not fond of me for some reason. Maybe it’s all the nudes and fetish art.
Details of how to download my summer solstice painting, Summertime Ennui, are available on the website.
Summertime Ennui summer solstice painting is available in all kinds of printing formats and across all clothing and home decor products on Redbubble.
Luxury framed or canvas prints are available from Saatchi.