Its been a good summer, defined by the execution of a number of paintings. I seem to have found a long-term subject. Its hard to turn my ideas into words but then if I could do that I’d be a writer not a painter. I’m concerned that if I try to describe what I’m setting out to achieve it will come across as inconsequential or trite. My work will be misrepresented because I wont be able to recall the thoughts that were in my head as brush, loaded with colour, made contact with the canvas. Although I set out on a painting expedition with a very general notion in my head the meanderings of my imagination add layers to the initial concept. As I paint I’m as affected by accidental thoughts as I am to the surprising and unexpected details I see.
All my paintings begin as observations of the natural world. I carry an easel, canvas, folding chair and a tool box of paints and brushes to a location, usually not far from my home. There doesn’t need to be anything particularly special about a location; like being a historic site or a landscape re-knowned for its natural beauty, just plenty of growth with a diversity of colour and texture. I unfold the chair, set up the easel and clamp the pristine white canvas in place. It looks out of place. Next I open the tool box and reach in for some tubes of colour. I squeeze some paint on to a paper mixing pad; Chrome Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue. These are a pretty basic selection of colours that, from experience, I know I’ll need. Then I look. I look at the scene in front of me and decide on the area that will be included in the painting. With a brush loaded with colour, unmixed; just as it came from the tube, I disrupt the blankness of the canvas with quick, bold strokes. Over a period of roughly four hours the painting develops, my mind wanders, the colour builds and shapes form.
As I’m usually out in the sunshine by a footpath, at the weekend, there are plenty of passers by walking dogs and exercising children. I get noticed and children stop and stare. Some ask their parents what I’m doing others tell me that the painting is really good. The canvas seems not to be out of place now, reflecting its environment, and I’m no longer self conscious as I was when I arrived and began setting up. I’m a feature of the scene and the painting justifies my presence.
In half a day I can get most of a painting complete; I’m only working on forty centimeter square canvases. After that duration the sun will have moved and the lighting of the scene changed completely. My joints will be stiff and I will probably be more obsessed with having a hot cup of tea than continuing to paint; its time to pack up and go.
Of course the piece is unlikely to be finished. I can do one of two things to complete the painting; return to the location on the next fine day or work on it in the studio. I used to be a purist and felt that it would be wrong to not be at the location to work. That view has changed now and I’m interested in creating the opportunity for including or emphasising the more abstract ideas, that augment my original reasons for producing my paintings, by developing them in the studio.