This painting developed quickly and changed dramatically from the initial placing of colour, so I thought I would show how it came about. Nearly all my paintings start from a tiny snippet found almost randomly in a magazine picture. I never buy magazines – except the occasional art mag – so rely on superseded ones being passed on. They can be fashion magazines, gardening, household, anything, the content is not relevant – I am looking for shape, form and colour, and find it in advertisements and editorial images. My technique has refined over the last few years, and I now have a large folder filled with pages that have neat little squares pasted on to them, arranged in a grid. This is purely for the satisfaction of the way they look, there is nothing more to it than that.
I have made a mask from a piece of cardboard with a 4 x 4 cm (1.5 x 1.5 in) square cut in it, and I move it across any images until I find an intriguing composition, then I cut it out and stick it down. A very satisfying exercise when the brain is feeling in need of a rest. It is very random. Sometimes I go back through and find interesting images I completely missed the first time.
Starting a painting I search through my snippets for an image that appeals, then do a very rough painting, marking the forms loosely with a thin brush then slapping colour on quickly. Once I am satisfied with the basic composition I then start refining the image. This is where it gets interesting. Occasionally the original snippet is identifiable by the end, but mostly the painting has taken on an entirely new character, dictated by brush marks or small changes that become bigger changes. Sometimes it works better turned upside down. I am not particularly faithful to the colour in the original image, it is inspiration only.
So, below, first is the snippet that inspired the above painting (you can see bits of the other ones on that page) then the quick rough placement of colour. This eventually turned into the painting at the top. (I struggled a little with a title for this, but to me it suggests a plant in a dark and serious place. Patti Smith provided the title!)
Oil on mdf board, 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in).
The reference for this painting was a tiny snippet from a photo in a gardening magazine. It was of a flower in full bloom above a leaf. In the development of the painting it has turned into something a bit more sinister, twisted sideways and with a glow behind. Still a living, growing object, but maybe more of nightmares than dreams. But I like it, I think there is a story there somewhere.
This one belongs with the others in the series (see here and here), but no longer has a seasonal feel to it, so a new title was needed.
Oil on gessoed mdf board, 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in)
I am lucky enough to have two spaces to work in – my office inside the house where I do my ‘real’ work (i.e. work I get paid for!), with computer, scanner and all the other related paraphernalia – and a shed in the garden. The shed is shared, so I only have half. In the other half there are bicycles, weights, some tools and tables where the other occupant does mysterious things with cables and soldering irons, and other unidentifiable bits of hardware. It is a blissful place to work, no distractions of emails, but with radio or music or talking books in the background.
The table is actually a sewing table with fold down sides, so it can be folded up and pushed back against the wall when I need more space, but opened up fully I can really spread out. There is a floor-standing light with magnifier, handy for miniatures or fine detail, and a hard floor to cope with spills or paint splatters. The magnifier is covered with a bag as I discovered to my cost that sunlight going through it at the right angle can start a fire …
On the drawing table is a work in progress, a series of studies of broken shells in pencil, but there is another drawing under way which uses the coloured pencils set out. On the back of the table are some recently completed works in oil on board and on the wall are some of the small oil paintings on canvas, which have been a continuing series over the last four years or so.
Light pours in from the folding doors that open to the garden, letting sunshine and fresh air in. So what am I doing sitting at my computer writing this? Time to go!
Do not look for literal interpretations of Autumn and Winter in these sets of works – it is more an impression, a sense of each season. Autumn – going to seed, shrivelling up, pods bursting. Winter – warm and dark, only the most robust plants survive the outside cold.
These are companion pieces to Spring and Summer (see here), a counterpoint to the energetic growth and fulfilment of those seasons. The sap is slowing, defences against the short days and cold are building.
A little postscript – Summer has sold. I felt sure if someone bought one, they would buy both, to me they were so clearly a pair, but the buyer must have just fallen for one. So, I think I will frame another set of three and call it Summer 2, just so I have a full set of seasons!
The paintings are 10 cm x 10 cm (4 in x 4 in), oil on canvas.