Seed packets

From 1st February – 5 March 2018 I worked on a 30 in 30 painting challenge – to paint one painting each day for 30 days. This is how the seed packets painting series was born. The more observant of you will realise that it took me 33 days, but sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself.

Post it note with days crossed of for 30 in 30 challenge.

The project was part of Californian artist, Leslie Saeta’s biannual 30 in 30, which she runs on her blog. Artists are invited to sign up for the challenge and then post their painting each day on her site, alongside work from around 160 artists worldwide, who have each risen to the 30 in 30 challenge.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a full time painter. I have a part time job in London which takes a good 12 hours of my day, door to door, 3 days a week. I also have two primary school aged children. My husband not only works but is also doing a part-time degree and, while the project was going on, was on a 6 week full-time placement, plus worked at the weekends. It’s not been easy. We also had half term, an inset day, a snow day and my eldest had a birthday and party… and I had a bad cold. The motivation to make artwork is very strong. Whilst I probably should stop my extra curricular art practice during these busy years, the difficulty makes the need more urgent.

Montage of work in progress shots of a painting, from beginning to end piece.
Work in progress on Day 15: Climbing Bean Cobra

To make sure that painting was going to happen each day, I had to chose a subject that would be a no-brainer – there should be no extra barrier to paint, other than my lifestyle. I love growing things and naturally have amassed quite a collection of seed packets, many of which should probably be thrown away by now. What can I say, I’m a slight hoarder. Rather than paint still life paintings of vegetables or flowers for 30 days, I had a brain wave of painting my seed packets. Easy to hand, colourful, plentiful.

Each painting would be A4, on thick watercolour paper, primed twice with white gesso, to take the oil paint. Some days when I’d finished the seed painting for the day, I’d then get the next few days sheets ready, laying out 2 or 3 pieces of paper out at a time to prep them for up-coming paintings.

Photo of work in progress - a painting on easel, alongside still life set up of seed packet
Sweetcorn in progress. I invited Facebook followers to play guess the vegetable from the work in progress shot.

The project was hard, but I enjoyed it. I made sure the family were fed and clean but other than that, many jobs went by the wayside for a bit. Each day, or nearly each day (some days I’ve had to paint two, allowing for a long work day where painting would be impossible) I’ve sat alone in my home studio, with radio or podcasts for company, painting away. Sometimes my girls came in and watched for a bit – my eldest professes to love the early stage where I’m getting the angles right and drawing in the bare bones of the packet, then adding the shadows – sometimes it was just me and the radio, painting while the girls had gone to bed.

Largely I’ve used my own seeds, but along the way a few people lent or given me their seed packets, weaving their stories in with my own. One packet was a special memorial variety of Sweet Peas from Thompson and Morgan, raising money for the Melanoma Fund, a charity set up by the husband of a local East Grinstead woman who sadly passed away.

The 30 in 30, says Leslie, is about making a space for painting, about developing new habits. Having finished it, I feel (yes, a bit exhausted, but also..) very accomplished.