An obvious starting point for me is landscape, in particular, but not exclusively, wild landscapes. There is something about wild landscapes that seem to reach into my core – maybe it is something about expressing the wild, feral side of my nature that is often tempered by a more dominant learning of order and calm! There is also something about the raw and real beauty of a natural wild space that, for me, reaches into the desire for realness and authenticity in my own life.
I play soft, gentle piano music in the background and with a cup of tea on my desk, I slowly and gently work on my chosen landscape, building up layers of marks, developing tonal variation and details. There is a quiet balance between thinking about shapes, texture and composition, and just being in the moment working in repetitive, small strokes of the pencil. It is so satisfying and relaxing!
I work on Strathmore Bristol 270g paper with a vellum surface, which is a lovely, smooth surface to work on allowing a good range of mark making, blending and rubbing out.
I love the simplicity of graphite and the slow, gentle process of working with it, exploring more of the detail of a landscape. In the process I am remembering being there and already starting to think which features really caught my eye.
A more subconscious starting point for paintings might be something I am feeling at the time, something I am reflecting on or reacting to. I often like to use landscapes as a metaphor for the ups and downs of our journeys through life, finding visual references that help me to ponder further. Using actual landscape that resonates with those thoughts I might exaggerate certain elements or find that, vice versa, an element in a landscape might remind me of something I had been thinking about earlier.
Over time I have learnt to let the two approaches work together intuitively and the process both inspires the direction of the painting and helps me to understand myself and my place in the world a bit better.
I often start off with a rough sketch including the elements of the landscape I was drawn to. I tend to work quickly and expressively, particularly in the early stages, without directing the painting too much, often just seeing what emerges. I work in oils and cold wax medium mainly, sometimes combined with other media such as pan pastels, graphite or charcoal. I work on paper or wood panels.
“Fabulous work! So expressive!GT
Once the initial layers are dry I might then let the painting sit in a corner for a day or two whilst casting a glance over it from time to time. Eventually, I know instinctively what to do next – it might be completely changing the composition, or applying further layers that are scraped back or scratched into, or obliterating something I thought was important a few days ago!
You can find out more about my actual painting techniques ‘In the Studio’ here