For the first time in a while I am…

For the first time in a while I am painting. I am painting with oils, filling the air with that beautiful and unmistakeable smell of linseed and turps.

The need to paint

I want to make things, specifically I want to make images. These can be drawn, printed, digital or painted. Ultimately I have a need to create and there is something very special about painting, from it’s intoxicating smells to the stubborn dark colour trapped under your nails for days. I love painting, I always have. The tactile nature of the paint, the way it can flow like water across surfaces whilst at the same time be stubborn and need to be pushed and chiselled fascinates me. I never felt a need to have a subject for a painting beyond the exploration of paint.

Paint is powerful, it has the ability to convey beauty, stillness and peacefulness before instantly turning to be violent, aggressive and abhorrent. It allows for a flatness exposing sleek surfaces and the jaggedness of the deepest caverns. Paint can be brighter than the sun or darker than the midnight sky. Paint can do it all.

I think I put off returning to painting, fearing that what I produced wouldn’t be very good. I have been using the excuses of a lack of space or the lack of cash to invest in materials. It’s a shame really as now I am painting again I can feel it beginning to dominate my thoughts. The need to play, the need to explore and manipulate the surface are all at the forefront of my mind.

Paint seeps and moves around the canvas like water into rock pools.

Finding a subject

In the past when I was painting having a specific narrative or illustrative subject was never too important to me. The exploration of paint and the act of painting was enough. During my MA much of my work was focussed on the need to paint and documented turning the artist from creator to autonomous machine. Returning to painting after this amount of time, and having built up a more illustrative and narrative portfolio, I felt uncomfortable returning to these ideas.

I honestly did not think I’d ever really return to serious painting as it suited me to work with other mediums. Then one day I found myself playing with a kaleidoscope and I found my self enthralled with the way the light reflected off the cheap plastic beads to create the most amazing imagery with a myriad of colours. Each turn was creating a new image with areas that had deep pooling shadows and incredible bright spots. Whilst I was playing with the toy I began to wonder if I could take photographs through the lenses to document each turn. You may have seen some of those photographs on my Instagram account.

Whilst I was looking at the photographs and snapping more and more of them I began to feel that they would make for amazing paintings, or at least an interesting starting point. The strong imagery, the warmness of the random pattern had all the markings of what a good painting should be. It should draw you in deeper and deeper, holding your attention, forcing you to find all those little details. You should be hunting for the hidden, being drawn into the paintings story.

Beginning to paint

I knew once I had decided that I wanted to make these paintings as real paintings, not digital pieces that time would be crucial. Digital work tends to be relatively quick. You can work in blocks completing set tasks and stages, thanks mainly to the way in which software organises itself.

‘Real’ painting doesn’t work like that for me, I find that I have to work with a flow. Give the painting my undivided attention, clearing all other work and headspace. Walking away for too long and working on other things mean I risk producing a lacklustre piece of work.  With that in mind I decided that the only time to work on the paintings would be Summer. I would have some clear time to work, allowing my mind can be focussed on creating and without distractions. By the time other distractions would emerge I would be so deep in the process that they would not derail my painting.

Progress made on day one

The painting evolves

When I first planned these paintings I had notions of moving towards photorealism, really highlighting the glistening light of the plastic beads but as I’ve continued to paint the focus has changed. The original composition is still important and being referred to but I’ve found examining how the paint interacts with the surface and how it compositionally makes sense have begun to take over. Capturing the light and overall feel of the composition has become more important than accurately recreating the imagery. As the painting developed in my thoughts it changed to being about creating an image that draws you in. I want to create a feeling that you could fall forever through the painting.

Beautiful, lush brush strokes and that unmistakable gloss of oil paint

Opening up about the creative process

Opening up about my process and work when it’s not finished incredibly daunting. What if it’s rubbish? What if I never finish it? What if I become disillusioned with it and throw it out? All these questions whizz through my head.

I thought that on this occasion I would begin to share the work earlier. Take the viewer on a journey, with regular social media updates documenting progress on Instagram. I hope that you will join me on this journey and enjoy the paintings and their developments.

Progress to date of my first painting in years