I’m currently well under way working towards my next painting Pearl, but as yet I haven’t even begun to work on the final piece. I thought I’d use this blog post to talk about process, and why it takes me so long to produce a piece of work.
After dwelling on an initial idea for some time, I usually come up with a very clear image in my head of how I want the final piece to look. In the case of Pearl, the imagery in the poem that inspired me to paint was so striking that I could visualise my finished piece almost immediately. After making some very quick, scribbled sketches I can them start researching each individual component of the picture. At the moment I’m working on the flowers which will take up the majority of the bottom of my Pearl painting. Each component is first sketched, then, taking my direction from the light, medium and dark areas of shading, I can visualise how the 3 shades of paint can be broken down, (I always try to paint in 3 shades of each colour, although sometimes a 4th shade is needed to pick out detail). Using tracing paper, I trace over the sketch and create blocks of dark, medium and light. After tracing this onto a new page, I can then paint using the sketch to guide me, a little like painting by numbers. If I’m not happy with the painting, I’ll do another version and so on until I am happy. Fortunately, I’ve been doing this for long enough now to be able to pretty much get it right first time. This process is repeated for every individual component until I’m completely satisfied.
Next I draw each component onto acetate and, using my OHP, project them onto the canvas (after already painting the background colour), moving the OHP as needed to get them each in the right place. At last I can then paint the final version.
I think that my paintings have a strange look to them, as if they are made up of lots of individual transfers, exacerbated by the black outlines. I like this quality and think that it adds a kind of neatness to the work, neatness being a key aim of mine in order to satisfy myself with my own work.
People are often interested in my sketchbook work, which is almost a “How To” guide for each piece of work, and has been compared to botanical or biological sketches. This work isn’t what I really want to present to the public, but thinking about this has lead to me deciding to produce some of these initial sketches on a large scale as part of the Reviving Leviathan collaboration I’ve started working on with Michael Borkowsky.
The images above show the peony I’m currently working on as a sketch, tracing and preliminary painting.