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29th March 2017. My 2 hour demonstration at the Mall Galleries. Thank you audience for showing up and for the interest and questions. I hope that you enjoyed watching me paint.
15 March 2017. Hottest day of the year so far.....painting Plein Air in Tooting Broadway
4 March - 10 March 2017. Great week painting in Palermo....
23 January - 6 February 2017. Fortunate to be painting in Jerez and surrounding area during this time.
May 2016 - Finally made it to York! Weather not great but made a start on a few paintings near the cathedral.
22nd - 26th February 2016. Painting plein air in Venice, what a treat!
I am a figurative artist and believe the best figurative paintings are painted directly from subject.
This is not always possible but drawings, watercolours, and oil sketches not only provide good reference but allow the possibilities of the subject to be fully explored before attempting a larger composition. Most of my ideas for paintings start within my sketchbook is your personal repository of ideas and visual experiments that never have to be seen. Ingres the French Artist and great draughtsman said “drawing is the probity of art”.
All investigative ideas start with drawing and it also develops the essential parts of creativity:
1) The way you see the world and break it down into visual component
2) The sensitivity and familiarity towards materials and technique.
It is a simple idea the more drawing an artist does the greater a visual understanding will become.
Painting ‘plein air’ can be difficult at first but at the same time it is a more satisfying way of painting as the artist is directly involved with the subject and also the changes of light shadows and other changes which occur through the progression of the painting to simplify the shapes and forms you want to visualise half close the eyes to create a tonality of lights and darks. It takes a long time to try and disregard all the detail in a painting and the secret is to learn what you have to leave out is as important as is what you put in. When painting outdoors and directly from the subject it is necessary to keep it as simple as possible. A limited palette of colours and few brushes is all that is needed. Bring too many colours and too much gear can only confuse with too many choices. The secret to good ‘plein air’ painting is being light and quick.
I would describe my style of painting as Modern British Impressionism which finds its roots in the work of painters like Walter Sickert or William Nicholson, painters who in most cases studied under the masters of the academies and ateliers in Paris during the 19th century. The British style of painting tended to use a tonal palette of colours and it is from this tonal understanding of painting which I have developed the basis of my technique. Generally if you can control the values of your tones the colours and their hues are easier to determine and look after themselves.
Although I believe strongly in painting from nature and observing directly from the subject, larger works painted in the studio by necessity have to be worked up from oil sketches, drawings and photographic reference. Photography can be a good aid to the artist but there are dangers of becoming over reliant on an image seen through a cameras lens rather than through the artists eyes. When teaching I try and encourage my students “especially beginners” to work plein air or directly from the model as much as possible and only referring back to any photo reference as a reminder for finishing the paintings for the studio.
Before going to Art School I was fortunate to learn the basics of figurative drawing and traditional painting and was quite competent by the time I entered Canterbury College of Art. In the 1980’s my tutors at Canterbury placed great emphasis on what was a more experimental form of expression rather than the disciplines and techniques of figurative painting which was the direction I always knew I wanted to travel. However, this time at Art School did develop and understanding the abstract and experimental methods of painting and at the same time I found an interest in the works of Picasso and Matisse and the painters of the Mediterranean.
On leaving Canterbury College I travelled to the South of France to follow up on my interest of Picasso and his school, and found the culture and especially the light of the Mediterranean opening up a range of possibilities for my painting. My interest in tonal painting could be applied to the strong shadows. Also exotic and interesting shapes and forms could be found, especially the more I travelled throughout the Mediterranean. I became more and more fascinated in the history of the area from Byzantine, Roman, Venetian and Baroque buildings. It is these elements that have become more and more central to my work to date.
I mostly work on MDF panels (medium density fibre board) sized and then primed with 2 coats of acrylic primer followed by a further coat of gesso made in the traditional way made with whiting and size. This is painted on quite roughly with a large brush, to provide texture. I am interested in the idea of the primer forming a paint texture that does not follow the forms in the painting but which has been applied before the oil painting has started. After the gesso I apply a coat of toned acrylic which is normally raw umber although sometimes I will use a warmer colour ground. The way the colour of the ground effects subsequent painting is that it allows me to paint lower in tone which means I am not using so much white in my mixtures and therefore the colour is stronger and more saturated. 881
I like working on board rather than canvas because I can vigorously scrape it down if I find myself getting too detailed. The tools for doing this can include an electric sander, craft knife blades and sandpaper. Also, the board can be cut easily so if there is an area of picture that is not working I can simply cut the board down and make a smaller painting.
Starting with a drawing in raw umber I add the darks keeping them cool and transparent, building up in layer after the darks I work in the mid tones and often paint in the sky at this point to establish a key that will influence the rest of the painting. I paint the light tones and highlight painting the traditional fat over lean technique, although I also use thin layer of paint which are applied and then wiped off to allow underpainting to show through. If I cover the picture with too much paint I find sometimes kills the vitality of the surface. I also avoid mixing white into my colours as it dilutes their intensity. Concentrating on a painting for long periods I find I become very critical and dissatisfied with my progress so often I turn the painting to the wall and return to it with fresh eyes when it is dry. Then sometimes I will add a scumble technique to add colour over another layer and also add glazes of colour such as a mixture of raw umber and ultra marine to unify an area of shadow.
My basic palette is titanium white, naples yellow, pale yellow ochre, raw sienna, raw umber, Venetian red, cobalt blue, french ultramarine and cobalt violet. I also have a secondary range of colours which include emerald green, cadmium red and lemon yellow and these are used sparingly to create areas of drama and impact.