The question most often asked of me is, “Where did the idea come from?” This question is more frequent now that I’m no longer making images of the world we see every day.
This blog will be an attempt to answer that question. I will try to give you an explanation of how I work. This is just me and is not something I was taught, the process evolved and perhaps will continue to evolve.
As a prop for my explanation I’m including two images of a particular painting.
The first one is of the completed painting. I’ll be including it in the exhibition at the J/M Gallery on Portobello Road, London in September 2022.
Just for clarification, it is oil on paper. 15”x22” (38X56cm)
The second image is of the painting at the end of the first day of work. That was on the 8th June 2021. The painting was completed on 7th August 2021. That tells you only how long this particular piece took. Others can take much longer, more than a year, or much less time. So in answer to the other frequently asked question, “How long does it take?” I can only say it varies.
One of my foibles is to photograph my work at the end of each day and to download the photo onto my computer. Before computers and digital cameras I took 35ml slides. Remember those?
Same paper, same size.
So, how do I work?
I usually get to my studio at about mid day. My wife and I have coffee and a croissant or toast at about 11 o’clock and then I take the tram from Wimbledon to my studio at Phipps Bridge.
The ritual begins with spending time looking at what I’ve been working on the day before. I mean really looking. It could be that I’ll spend thirty minutes or an hour. I might put on a CD or listen to Radio 3. I try to clear my head of any and all domestic issues.
It may be that I very quickly know what has to happen next. The painting tells me. Or it may be that I have to put it aside and begin a new piece. The ritual continues regardless of whether it’s the old painting or a new piece.
Paint is squeezed out from the tube onto the pallet. Sometimes a range of colours, sometimes only a single colour. If it’s an early stage I’ll use the paint as it comes from the tube. If I’m painting over an existing layer, I’ll add some painting medium with a pallet knife to make the paint fatter. The medium is a mixture of pure turpentine and linseed oil. Proportions will vary depending on the result the painting demands. The general rule is ‘fat over lean’. The oil in the medium slows down the drying time. If the paint on top dries before the paint underneath it will crack and sometimes drop off. One of the things we learnt at art school.
My pallet is half a dozen steps from the easel. This is deliberate so that I can look at the painting while I’m working on the pallet. I will approach the painting with a loaded brush or painting knife and apply some paint. I will then respond to the new mark. Each time I make a mark I must respond to it.
The only way I can explain it is by asking you to imagine a conversation with another person. You say something and they respond. You have no real idea of what they will say or how you will respond to it. It’s not rehearsed. You cannot plan ahead.
Making the painting is the same. I don’t know how I’m going to respond to the last mark I made on the painting. I don’t know what my next mark is going to be any more than you know what you’re going to say next.
You can see from the two states of the same painting that it is impossible to have predicted, from the first state, what the finished painting would look like.
How do I know when a painting is finished? Another frequent question. The answer is, I don’t know. Often it’s simply that there’s nothing left to say. If you’re honest with yourself you know that all you’re doing is fiddling around.
I hope that this has given you some idea of how I work. If you care to visit me in my studio I’ll be delighted to talk to you. You can email me. I also invite you to visit my recently created Instagram account.