On my easel

on my easel

At the moment I have a great desire to be painting with no agenda other than to enjoy the materials, to see what will happen, to not worry about painting a finished piece, to just be laying down layers of colour shape. There can be a sense of ‘I should be doing this or that’ but I also know that working without expectation is an important part of what I do.

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Only a fraction of the work I produce is frame or wall worthy, but that is the way and nothing feels wasted. I learn something new every time I put paint to surface. As always I wish I had more time in the day and more days in the week but the more I am in the studio, the more I want to be there. Even when I don’t have time to paint for a few hours at a time, a one or two hour painting keeps my hand in and ensures I don’t have large gaps in-between painting days.

on my easel

It also feels good to leave work in a state where it is not completely resolved. Perhaps I will go back to these pieces. perhaps not. They are a good reference for when I am working on new pieces – each layer of a painting goes through a different phase – there are always the places where it is fresh and minimal, always there are the ugly stages and then there are flashes of something unexpected, so to have a few pieces around me at different stages gives me inspiration for new work. This piece was kind of a self portrait (so, so valuable to do I find) but in the end I think she became something else.

So I really would recommend just painting for the love of it on occasion, no expectations, no guaranteed result, just enjoy the feeling. For me all too soon it will be time to really get down to the work that does need to be done!

(Please excuse the dark shadowy photographs, I don’t seem to be able to pick the right time for photographing on these gloomy winter days.)

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On my easel… Venturing into Oils.

On my easel

After many years working with acrylics (and loving all the possibilities that they allow) I am currently trying to put my fear aside about working with oil paints. Yep, I said fear. It has gone on for far too long. It is bordering on ridiculous. Acrylics I know, almost inside out. I know that used correctly they are one of the most stable painting materials around. They won’t flake, crack, fall off the substrate or discolour unless you do something really silly. Over the years, all the reading I have been doing about oils has put the idea into my head that they are the opposite unless you really know what you are doing. Because I have never known what I was doing with them, (fat over lean anyone? I know what it means but how much and when?) I have let them be. The odd tube I have purchased has taunted me into starting but never enough for me to open that lid. I know that as silly as it sounds, I will never really feel like a ‘painter’ until I can paint in oils. (yep…silly)

I have read and read and read and am currently reading The oil painting book by Bill Greevy and I have eventually decided that all the reading in the world is never going to make me an oil painter – only actually getting the brushes and paints out will give me even half a chance at that. So today I began. Confused, perplexed, trying to let go of doing it ‘right’ and just ‘doing it’. But I made a start and that’s what counts! Here’s to a new journey.

Progress of a Painting …. part two

Continuing the journey of my latest painting (the inspiration and beginnings as described in this post) after developing an idea from images, places, dreams and sketching them out eventually the idea starts to come together for the first time on the canvas….

As always the light and atmosphere are really important in my work and I wanted to get the balance of establishing an interesting background but without it intruding on the central character and the emotion.

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Lately I have been working using lots and lots of layers of glazes of colour, building them up all over the painting – painting, wiping away, painting, wiping away to give a translucent quality that changes as the light shifts. Painstaking slow but very satisfying when the atmosphere starts to appear.

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Even with all the preparatory sketches, the face changed many times with this piece – painted and repainted over and over. I felt I had a clear idea of how she would look but I am discovering that rather than applying the character to the canvas with the paint, I am using the paint to excavate the character from the canvas (if that makes sense). At many points I probably could have left her as she was but there is always that sense that she is still not who she is supposed to be, so I paint again, changing the profile and this feature and that shadow – I am discovering who she is over many hours. It is the eternal question – how do you know when  a painting is done. There is no formula – you just know

Sometimes when I feel a painting is finished, I keep going anyway, just to see what will happen. More subtle and not so subtle changes, more and more glazes and layering of colours, more rubbing away and the emotion and atmosphere that I am seeking begins to come through.

Then finally I know it is done. I can leave it for a few days and go back to make sure I still feel the same way. But when I know, I know.

So here we have

Seeking Truth behind those Bright, Seeing Eyes

Acrylic on Board 2013

Progress of a Painting …… part one

It always starts with a seed of an idea, something that sparks my interest and a story begins.

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Lately I have been drawn to trying to create a sense of time and place, a certain atmosphere. Something that will draw the viewer in and encourage them to think that they may have been there at some point in the past. These photos are from my recent visit to Calke Abbey, a national trust property that has gone to wrack and ruin over the last decades but that is in a constant process of conservation to keep it as it is rather that restoring it to its former glory. There are lots of dark corridors with peeling layers of wallpaper and paint and it has an incredible beauty and atmosphere.

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Of course there always has to be a character, someone that could be me, could be you or someone you know or have read about or have imagined.

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I never tire of drawing and painting faces. They are a combination of self portraits, images of friends, from inspiration but also from my own imagination.

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With this painting I wanted to create a real sense of light and shade so took lots of self portraits with the light the way I wanted and sketched from those.

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The image started to come together in my large moleskine sketchbook that I use for painting in (someday I will do a slideshow of all the pages). Here I can work big, with no expectation, just enjoying the texture of the page and the feeling of the paint.

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I prepared a lot more for this painting that I ever have before as I wanted to paint big (well bigger than my usual at 60 x 80 cms) and wanted to get the scale and perspective just right so I worked on yet another drawing and played with light and shadow too. Then time to start painting – but that is for another post!

Scattered to the four winds – Progress of a painting

Folks seem to find my progress of a paintings posts interesting so thought I would show you the progress of this painting that I just finished today.

Sketching out progress 1

I started this painting months ago and reached a certain stage with it where I knew I wasn’t happy but just could not progress with it any further at the time. So it has been propped up in my studio all of that time, taunting me, trying to get me to decide whether to trash or rework it.

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I put it behind my mirror and forgot about it for a while (as in the fourth image above).  But yesterday I rediscovered her and thought I would see if she was worth rescuing and on many occasions in the past 2 days I wondered why I was bothering.

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I liked her, then ruined her, many times over. But I think she is finished and I am so glad I returned to see her completed.

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And so it goes with my working process and I am trying to learn to trust myself, to persist, to push through the mess, to excavate what lies beneath and to pause and just look. Sometimes unexpected things happen. I painted the windmill and the poppies appeared last but I then liked the relation between the windmill and the idea of seeds being strewn by the winds and beauty appearing here there and everywhere.

my studio

Speaking of things strewn to the four winds – this is the state of my studio when I am immersed in painting. However my organisation has been much helped by my recent purchase of the Ikea trolley that so many artists have been mentioning – I highly recommend it!

This will be one of the paintings I show at The Art Market in Holmfirth at the end of June.