This is something I have contemplated recently as I notice my own attachment to certain paintings. Are these paintings ones I consider my best works? Funnily enough they are not.
I realise that a couple of recent paintings that have become favourites seem to be paintings that have challenged me. Two paintings which come to mind were also painted plein air, which challenges me
Last Monday arriving at the paint out location which is chosen by someone else (as I paint out with other painters) with glaring sun, no shady spots to huddle under, I looked at the scene before me and thought - this is too hard, I think I would rather go home and work more in the painting currently on my easel. But feeling like you are letting others down by leaving is a strong motivation to stay. I thought if I am going to be standing out in the open with no shade I may as well move myself down onto the rocky platform between the two headlands and set my easel up to focus in on some rocks and rock pools, rather than paint the broader scene.
A similar occasion meeting up with fellow painters at Wamberal lagoon the only artist already there was set up facing a scene that I felt was really challenging. Again the positioning was exposed, with only a small amount of dappled shade. Glaringly white paper in full sun dries very quickly, and dappled paper is difficult to see the tones correctly. Your eyes are continually readjusting to the brightness of the paper.
Instead of moving to a different spot with the comfort of shade and an easier subject I set myself up wth a time challenge of 20mins so that I couldn't get bogged down in detail and had to simplify the scene.
Are these two paintings my best works?
No, but they both held moments of growth and learning which leads me to discover that that is perhaps what leads to a fondness for a painting rather than the easy ones that seem to 'fall off the brush'. That is if any paintings are `easy'. I have seen such a growth in my work and watercolour skills since committing to painting en plein air regularly, and notice that perhaps even though for some reason I don't place as high a dollar value on them, they hold more fondness and connection to place than my studio paintings do.