Some thoughts on painting a large canvas

This is a short video of me at work on a relatively large painting. It will give you some idea of how I approach the challenge of working on big surfaces. This is a 200 x 150 cm custom made canvas and the scale presents new challenges, forcing you to adopt different methods and techniques.

I have deliberately avoided brushes for this stage of the painting: an assortment of rollers and palette knives are used to block in the main areas of colour. For me, it is important to establish the overall composition as quickly as I can, it really doesn’t matter if these early indications and suggestions are obscured or abandoned. I am always alive to the notion that the painting will undergo many changes of direction; in a sense each new direction can only be based on previous decisions and judgements. The key is to make some judgements and decisions, they can always be modified as the work progresses. These early layers are essentially a way of breaking the ice, they may be obliterated by subsequent layers but they do begin the process of finding a composition whilst simultaneously building impasto and texture.

Paintings on this scale use considerable amounts of material and this has to be taken into account at the outset. There would be little point in adopting a parsimonious attitude towards materials and thereby restricting your creative options. Part of the joy of painting this big is the freedom to use materials with genuine exuberance and conviction. If you are worried about the quantity of paint you are using, I imagine this concern and hesitation would inevitably show in the work. Painting big requires physical movement, energy and action and you have to resist the temptation to reach for the fine sable brushes. Playing safe always seems like an attractive option but it is generally counterproductive in painting; in an effort to exert control over the exciting events unfolding in front of you the encounter becomes more about accountancy than art.

As you can see, the painting is in the early stages, I’ll update you as I progress over the next few days and weeks. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Night Forest

painting forest
Night Forest

This painting is from my New Forest series and the materials used include oil paint, cold wax medium and a solid block of oak. The oak block is 20 x 20 x 5cm. I have worked on cradled boards many times and have found that the harder surface encourages a more aggressive approach to mark making. The weight and density of the oak block takes this strategy a stage further and allows you to exploit the resistance and grain of the wood. That my subject matter is trees and I am working directly on the ‘machined’ surface of a tree only enhances the poetry and mystery of this activity we call painting.

Night Forest Painting
Night Forest (Detail)
Night Forest Painting
Night Forest (Detail)

New Forest Painting (revisited)

I’m currently working on this painting… have been for quite a while now. It has gone through a series of changes and modifications, but that is just the way it always goes. The close up shots of the surface should give you an idea of the heavy impasto of the cold wax, the incisions and layering.

I increasingly find that a painting only really begins to ‘work’ after I have been through a stage of irrational confidence, followed by more rational misgivings and doubts to the final point of total despair. The point at which I lose all faith in the endeavour is the moment of maximum freedom, clarity and opportunity. That’s when I am liberated from my preconceptions and the false notions of correctness and quality…then I can begin to kick start the recovery.  I repeat this ritual all the time….you would think that I would learn…but I can’t and I don’t.

The Locker Cafe Exhibition

The Locker Cafe
Abstract Paintings 100 x 100 cm
Abstract Paintings 80 x 80 cm
Abstract Painting 100 x 100 cm

These photographs were taken yesterday at The Locker Cafe in Cambridge. The exhibition of paintings and photography runs from 19th July – 19th August. If you are in town do come along and take a look. The Locker art cafe is located at 54 King Street, just opposite Tindalls art supplies.

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Exhibition at The Locker Cafe in Cambridge

Just completed setting up the exhibition last night at the Locker Cafe. Many thanks to John, the owner of the Locker art cafe for his assistance with the hanging process. I will visit the cafe over the coming weekend when it is busy and full of customers… Maybe take a video to give you an idea of the overall layout and lively atmosphere. Don’t forget, if you are in town, take a break from your shopping, have a coffee, a bite to eat…enjoy the artwork.

Exhibition in Cambridge

The Locker Cafe

18th July – 18th August 2109

Opening Times:

Mon – Fri 8:30 am – 5:30 pm, Sat 9:30 am – 5:30 pm, Sun 10am – 4:00pm

If you are in Cambridge between 18th July and 18th August come along to the Locker Cafe, just opposite Tindalls art shop at 54 Kings Street. I will be displaying a range of paintings and photography from the last couple of years so there should be something of interest for everyone. The Locker cafe is a lively ‘arts’ based cafe founded by father and son team John and Adam Hodges in 2017. The paintings are primarily large scale abstract pieces in a variety of media including acrylic, bitumen, cold wax and oil paint. The monochrome photographs are based on the Fenland landscape.

UnderWood

‘UnderWood’ Oil on Canvas 100 x 100 x 4cm
gold abstract painting
100 x 100 cm
oil painting on canvas

This is a multi layered mixed media oil painting on a high quality canvas frame. This painting represents a development of my New Forest series and continues my engagement with nature and land. The surface consists of multiple layers of oil and cold wax, with a marked impasto and pronounced textural qualities.

The gold paint has a soft patina and mirrors elements of the colour and tones of the immediate environment. Gold leaf has been applied selectively to some of the vertical forms and provides intense points of a golden reflective light.

The abstract nature of the work reflects the process of growth, flowering and renewal. This painting is concerned with serenity and contemplation. The falling and rising arcs of paint are designed to be both hypnotic and calming.

Striation

abstract landscape painting
‘Striation’ Oil on Canvas 60 x 60 cm

This is an experimental painting on canvas using tar, oil paint and cold wax medium. Just recently, I have been trying to include more elements of drawing in my work, allowing the hand to make incisions without consciously controlling or dictating the final outcome. I guess I am attempting to eliminate myself from the process, to achieve a sense of originality and inevitability about the marks, undoubtedly a foolhardy enterprise. How can it be possible to draw without prior awareness of drawing? I recall the ‘blind drawing’ exercises we worked on in art classes; they often produced surprising and unexpected results. However, many of the students never quite grasped the purpose of these techniques and often felt they were creating interesting but more or less random ‘drawings’ lacking in observational skill.

How as an artist do you suppress and override all those aspects of knowledge surrounding line and form that we acquire over years of practice? The lyrical and poetic qualities of line become part of our skill set, our DNA, the sweep of the arm, the motion of the wrist; curves and contours, all the motor skills associated with looking and recording though drawing become ingrained and established.

I intend to explore and discuss this aspect of drawing further in the next few posts. I’ll be looking at the use of unconventional drawing implements and the significance of the material we choose to work with.

Detail from ‘Striation’

Land

oil painting on canvas, landscape, abstraction
60 x 60 cm on Canvas

I took the opportunity during my Fine Art degree course at Manchester Art College to work in the print room. I really loved the process of etching, preparing the copper sheets, drawing into the wax surface, revealing the bare metal and immersing the plate in sulphuric acid. The depth of line being controlled by time and the concentration of the acid solution. It is always a magical process and difficult to predict the outcome. I guess in many ways I have come full circle; that was over 40 years ago and I’m still drawing, scoring into surfaces and creating marks.

This series of paintings use tar, oil paint and cold wax and to some extent they can be manipulated to echo the qualities found in intaglio etching. Many artists say they begin a work without preconceptions and just allow the image to emerge and take form.

One of the assumptions about this technique is that it leaves open the opportunity for the spontaneous and unexpected to arise as the work progresses. This may be the case with particular pieces and you may occasionally ‘get lucky’. I prefer to think that this approach is often quite calculated and measured. It is about generating visual ideas through accident and chance, then looking carefully and reflecting on what has been produced and intervening to strengthen those qualities.

The ‘detail’ images shown below will give you some indication of the nature of the marks and the subtlety of the wax and tar surface. Beeswax is a beautiful medium to work with; selective burnishing enhances reflective qualities and a sense of depth and texture.

‘Land’ Detail
‘Land’ Detail
‘Land’ Detail

Arcadia by Peter Corr

P1110145.JPG
‘Arcadia’ by Peter Corr 122 x 92cm

This is a large oil painting on a 122 x 92 cm canvas. It is semi abstract and expressionistic in terms of technique and approach. It is however, based indirectly on nature and more specifically on the hedgerows of the fenland in East Anglia. Trees, brambles and woody shrubs such as hawthorn, blackthorn and field maple create an exuberant entanglement of chaotic growth.

The material and paint I have used is applied with a variety of tools including brushes, palette knives and assorted scrapers. As you will see, the surface is built up in heavy impasto layers and translucent glazes accumulating over a period of time. I have been working on this piece for a couple of years now and it has undergone numerous changes; that is just part of my process. Some of you will no doubt see the influence of the contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer and Gerhardt Richter.

 

P1110147
Detail of ‘Arcadia’

…..And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all.
Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment.
There are other places
Which also are the world’s end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city—
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.

From a poem by T.S. Eloit

‘Till’ A landscape painting by Peter Corr

 

Abstract Landscape Peter Corr-39
‘Till’ by Peter Corr 60 x 60 cm

The Fenlands are highly productive agricultural land and at this time of year, farmers can be seen ploughing and tilling the earth in readiness for the next year. The tilling blades comb the topsoil, mixing and aerating as they are dragged across the fields. I have used plaster, oil and cold wax medium, alternately scoring and layering the materials to recreate the furrowed surface. The late evening light at this time of year has a warm soft glow that I have tried to capture with gold iridescent paint.

Abstract Landscape Peter Corr-52
Detail of ‘Till’ by Peter Corr

Abstract Landscape Peter Corr-47.jpg
Detail of ‘Till’ by Peter Corr

How should you title an abstract painting?

‘The Three Realms’ by Peter Corr

The Third Realm.jpg
‘The Three Realms’ by Peter Corr

For me, a title is an important element in the creation of a painting. I know that many abstract painters use numerical systems to identify and classify their work. I prefer to title each image and through the invention of the title, try to enhance the life, associations and potential relevance of the work. In this instance, I really wanted a title that would express in a very direct way, the inspiration and the key components of this painting which of course relate to landscape. The title of this painting therefore is relatively straightforward; it refers to the three realms of earth, sky and water. I wasn’t aware until later that ‘The Three Realms’ has other, in many ways more interesting connotations. In Nichiren Buddhism ‘The Three Realms’ are, according to Quora:

(1) the realm of the five components

(2) the realm of living beings

(3) the realm of the environment.

These could be thought of simply as, from the standpoint of a human being, the person, society and the environment.

The Third Realm (2)
Detail of ‘The Three Realms’ by Peter Corr

The materials used in this painting include oil paint, pumice stone and cold wax medium. The heavy impasto creates an almost rough hewn marble like surface pitted and marked with successive layers of cold wax and oil paint.