His Masterpiece of Life and Love

I wet the paper

Water sits a while before soaking into the fibres

Changing the structure forever

I wait for a particular sheen to appear

Then using a brush hand bound by wire

I carry across a wash of pigments

First, Raw Sienna

It spreads across the page with a satisfying flow

Merging with the cotton rough

It ceases to float and settles to stain faintly

Now a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna

Blending to make blue grey

When dry these may granulate

Leaving a textured bronze

I watch and wait

Moving the board the flow is encouraged in a particular direction

I dab to remove the excess

I wait and watch

Sometimes I’m surprised

More often I’m dismayed

Step by careful step I add more

Encouraging the image hoped for

I hope for a great deal

For days, weeks I have been filling sketch pads with images,

Placing and replacing strokes of graphite in an effort to recreate a Master’s work

Following a Master gives so much to the wannabe painter

It requires careful observation

It demands hands on experience

Just now I follow the strokes of John Constable

As he followed worthy Masters long before

He painted mostly in oils

I work with watercolours

It matters not

From observing what he did why he did it I discover much

Composition, Line, Form, Function

Perspective, Values and Relationships

And in trying to follow

I discover what is done, the effect it has

Centrality need not always be big, bold, strong or loud

In trying to recreate Arundel Mill, Constable’s final work of art

I realise

The distant, pale image of the castle is so distinctive

It places the timbered and decaying riverside homes with subtlety 

In trying to recreate his work

I experience the relationship between the elements

Light and shade, subtle inbetweens

Though my interpretation is poor

My efforts reward with a reasonable result

Although nothing to rival the Master

In this way I can learn from many Masters and their Masterpieces


There is One Master in my Life-work

I can only watch in awe as He works

How He places the elements of His creation amazes and astonishes

I try to copy, to follow but never rival Him

I need to study what He did

I need to trust as He guides

I need to honestly account the effect He has

I sift out variations

Substitute my choices, actions and decisions



Listening for

Looking for

That subtle exchange

Of the Master’s work

Then in part I understand

I can never live as He did

I can never love as He does

But I can try to follow

His disciplines

His guidelines

Hoping to develop some of the skills

Some of the Way of Him in my Life

My aim is not kudos

It is perhaps what many artists’ desire

To have the viewer distinguish light and shade

To discover and experience a different way

But most of all

To recognise and follow Jesus Christ 

To appreciate His Masterpiece of Life and Love

Words, Photographs and Watercolour © Denise Stanford

~ by Denise Within the Vine on 19/05/2010.

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