For this task Layla sent us into or rather led us into the woods near her cottage where we searched for an ideal setting for us to paint ‘en plein air’ (which simply means outside). We then made a still life from the woody debris we found there (see Fig.1.) and then set about trying to render this view in oil paint using makeshift easels..

We each made several paintings EN PLEIN AIR in the woods over a period of 5 days. The weather was for the most part fine but in the woods it was cold and damp when the sun wasn’t out and reaching us through the trees. When we were eventually sat down and faced with the amount of information in front of us, we were both overwhelmed and unsure how we might begin to translate this myriad of data into paint on canvas. “How the hell are we going to be able to make this look good, we cant do it, it’s too hard” On hearing our complaints Layla said this was indeed the point to which one inevitably comes when facing this kind of subject and something that you must endure and travel through. This point she called the pain barrier: you want to get up and throw your brushes, you want to swear, you want to go back to the house and have a cup of tea, you want to do anything else but this…but this is what you have to do and here you must stay, until you have made a breakthrough, until you have gone through the PAIN BARRIER and faced up to the challenge. Getting through the pain barrier doesn’t necessarily mean that you have smashed it and created a masterpiece, it can mean that but in this case it meant that we did stare down the

beast, we stood our ground, looked it in the eye and we didn’t run away, and although we didn’t create those masterpieces, we did experience what it feels like to stay in an uncomfortable place until you make headway and we did come away from that experience recognising the value of that. The paintings themselves were in the end merely part of the bigger process that was happening. This process was about the time procrastinating before going up into the woods, the time preparing the tools with which to paint, the time dosing up on caffeine and biscuits that would give us the energy to stay in the woods, the time talking about and dissecting what was going on, the immersion in the lair of the art beast, the creature that we were beholden to. Layla gently held the space like a wolf mother nudging her cubs into the open for the very first time, us the cubs blinking in the sunlight ready to learn about the strange world we are about to be propelled into. We came away with a certain amount of insight into what it really takes to be an artist, we had confronted and passed through the PAIN BARRIER..