Starting Afresh

This year I’ve taken a completely different approach in how I start a painting and it’s really shaken things up in my studio in a good way.

In my process before, I would have a clear plan of what I was going to do. The disadvantage of this approach is that if I didn’t have any ideas or inspiration, I didn’t paint at all and this was hugely frustrating. My process was to put down an imprimatura – simply weak transparent paint all over the white canvas, and then roughly block in the image in slightly thicker paint. Gradually each layer would become more defined as I progressed. All very organised, but for me, if I’m honest, formulaic and unexciting.

What I do now is slap paint all over the surface in a cacophony of colours and shapes with every tool you can imagine apart from a paint brush. Then oil pastels or pencils might be scribbled on and paint scraped back to reveal previous layers of colour and fascinating abstract images stimulating ideas and scenes. If I’m using oils, I need plenty of paintings on the go at once because of the slow drying time. With all the different variety of colours and shapes, there is something new and fresh to respond to so that my experience of each painting constantly changes with each pass keeping my creativity fizzing and firing at full capacity. It is so invigorating. With acrylics and their fast drying time the process can become positively manic. It is so much fun!

Every tool you can imagine apart from a paintbrush

Eventually after many layers of paint, I see a composition emerging or have figure drawings I’ve already prepared to hand that I think will work really well over a particular panel and I am off again, usually with paintbrushes now, sometimes painting my subject over the background and sometimes incorporating the background into the subject. The results are exciting and unique. Admittedly they don’t always work but what does happen without fail, is that there is something, an area, a colour combination, a quirky composition that does, and it is something I can take forward into a new piece of work. Lack of ideas or inspiration really isn’t a problem any longer.

I came upon this new way of working by discovering cold wax painting which is mainly used in abstract or semi abstract work and it has revolutionised my process even though I tend towards the figurative. It is dynamic, exciting, experimental and totally absorbing. If I use acrylics, I don’t use cold wax but the process is much the same. However, colours tend to be more brilliant and less subtle than using the oil and cold wax combination which I tend to favour. Either medium has its drawbacks and merits, but whichever I use, time spent in the studio is now always productive and a huge amount of fun.