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.
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.
I have just been working on a commission based on one of my recent New Forest paintings. It has taken over two months from start to completion and I am genuinely pleased with final outcome. For those of you who have worked on a commission before you will know that they can sometimes be problematic. I think it is extremely important to be clear about the nature of the painting process and to communicate this through discussion with the other party.
Each painting is inevitably unique and few artists would be able to recreate an existing painting or exact copy unless the style owed more to photographic realism and/or geometric precision. You will see from the close up details that this painting has been developed through the application of successive layers of oil paint and cold wax medium. The raised surface and tactile nature of the work embodies the textural qualities of the subject matter.
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.
…..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.
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.