I think these alphabet letters might be one of my favourite series of paintings. It would be very easy to say that at the beginning of each new project, when you feel the familiar tingle of inspiration, but this has been extra lovely to work on. It’s been the antidote to doing work at the computer, to stick on a podcast and apply thick sweeps of colour to my sketchbook.
Each time I take on a new letter, I feel a fresh surge of anticipation about what it will end up looking like. I don’t really follow a plan, other than using hues of colour that will work both well together on the individual print but also collectively with the other letters. It’s quite magical to see it all come together on the page. I find that painting is a bit like putting a jigsaw together, taking time to puzzle together the various features until it ‘works’. Which colours sit most beautifully on the page together? Does it need a little dose of another hue to make it sing off the paper? How to temper the scheme with just enough moody colour to stop it being sugary?
One of my favourite combinations is in letter C. The cherry red mushrooms, lovely spindly things, are set against a pale periwinkle blue. There is enough purple in both hues to give them a subtle prettiness, rendering the duo joyful without needing overly bright colours. I also love the stormy teal – the colour of Scottish seas – paired with a blush pink in letter A. They look like ferns caught in the early sunset.
To me, there is always something a bit special about hand-painted design. I think this is why I feel such a connection to the folk tradition, which embodies the charming, painterly quality of art created by hand and with natural materials. This is very possibly just me, but when I paint by hand, my work feels so much more soulful. There is something relaxed and happy about the loose, illustrative style. I’m always thrilled when, with a deft stroke of the paintbrush, it is possible to create beautiful marks and patterns and watch the delicious pools of watercolour swirl and set across the paper. Although I have gone over these prints with the Photoshop healing brush (a friend to us all) and cleaned up some contours, I’ve intentionally left many of the textural ‘imperfections’ in place to maintain that hand-painted aesthetic.
So, what’s my vision for these alphabet letters? I hope that people will enjoy them as bunting, maybe to spell out children’s names or other messages. I think they would look beautiful in a bohemian bedroom or above a fireplace. The letters will be interchangeable so that it is possible for people to pick their favourite borders and colour combinations. Anyone with an eye for beautiful, natural colours and playful folk markings will hopefully find as much delight in these letters as I had in painting them!