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The Process


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My approach to the process to painting is developing as I explore art. Historically I have painted mainly in the studio, this has not changed really but what has changed is my attitude toward painting outdoors (en plain air). It is a little strange for me as I used to do this sometimes but never thought it to be 'special'.  


I drifted into studio painting mainly because the weather in England is so bloody awful that painting outside is not conducive to having a good time - which I think art should be. Also I got lazy and convinced myself there was no benefit in getting wet, cold and miserable for the sake of art.

What has changed recently is a visit to Cornwall of an old friend from Brighton, Tony Parsons, who is a professional artist. He persuaded me to get out into the Cornish light and paint. The issue I have always had with painting outdoors is I have never been able to complete the work in hand and as a consequence I always viewed my time outdoors as a failure. What Tony has done is educate me that my approach should be to capture feelings, light/dark and tones in quick (1-2 hour) paint sketches. He also told me that for the first 3 months what I produced would be awful and that is to be expected.

So my painting takes two forms nowadays.
1. I go out, take a few photos, paint some sketches and return to the studio to either develop the sketch into a working piece of art or start again with the sketch and photo as reference points
2. Go out take photos, visually take in the scene and return to the studio and start from scratch without a sketch to work from. (perfect for those times when you are visiting places for other reasons other than painting.

Below is the process of starting from scratch in the studio and may or may not include the use of a projector. Recently I have just worked off a photo in the initial stages.

I think what I am trying to say in a roundabout way is I am developing a multi-system approach to painting nowadays.
The most daunting thing you can ever present to an artist is a blank canvas and too many ideas.

What should I paint, what style should I adopt, is this going to be a quickie or should I take my time over it.
Speed painting may sometimes lack precision but often results in the most fluid and entertaining pieces of work.


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This is the one bit which I need to ensure is right. The sky.


Once done and the layering of the painting starts it is difficult to adjust the base colour of the sky without it seeming obvious that your painting a different shade/colour around trees, building and people. It can look bitty or amateurish seeing interruption in the flow of paint.


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Basic shapes and form are then identified. What part of the subject shall/not be in the painting. The position of the subject in relation to everything/one else (composition) and perspective.


There are a number of ways to do this. The obvious one is just look at the subject matter and determine where each aspect of the subject will be intuitively. This takes a keen eye and more creative interpretation. Another option is to do as the Victorians did with their landscape paintings - have a frame set up between you and the subject with grids in and identify points within the grids where lines cross, start and end.

My way is a lazy way. I really want to 'get on' with enjoying splashing paint onto the canvas and although will sometimes adopt the creative interpretation approach I am more likely to just take a photo, project it onto a canvas and paint some basic lines of where I want things to be. I move the easel left right, up down backward and forward. I find this so much easier to get basic composition when I am too impatient to mess around having to think about form.

Once I have very basic outlines of where I want things to be I turn off the projector and crack on with having fun with paint and just doing what I feel is right. 


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The next three slides are about building the layers up.

This is the part which I find great fun because I don't think about what I am doing - it's a spontaneous process. 
The immersion into the art is so rewarding and often forget to stop on occasion to have something to drink. Once I start on the layering it gets so exciting I just don't want to stop and I have been known to go on until 3am. I know if I do stop it's a chore to get as enthused to restart. 
I really don't understand how some people take a mechanical approach to art. How they do a bit at a time and come back to it. The only time I do this is at the end - when I leave it for 2 days and then come back and review if there is anything I am unhappy with. 
But I don't tweak.


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I  tend to see feel what colours I want to put into the painting rather than seeing what is in front of me. 

Once I have a vision of what I looked at I look back at the subject only to confirm I'm along the right track or confirming light/shade and texture. I find studying a specific area of what I am about to paint only stifles the artistic process.


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Texture.

I love texture in my painting. The world is 3 dimensional and I think that paintings should try to reflect this. We do it visually by use of perspective but I like to place paint on to enhance the aesthetic value of the painting and the texture in itself offers shadows dependant on where the light int the room comes from. As such the painting will have very subtle changes in appearance throughout the day.
I also do it because I like to touch my paintings once they are hanging on the wall. I often go into museums and art galleries and have an overwhelming urge to touch the paintings on display. So the next best thing is to create my own work of art that is tactile.


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Once the majority of the painting is complete I hang it on the wall for a few days and reflect on a job well done or a pile of garbage. 

After a couple of days I always take it off the wall and consider altering it - don't always do it though. Only then do I sign it.
Only twice have I chosen to destroy the original art piece. 
On one occasion I painted over it with big streaks of bright colours just to get the offensive result away from my eyes. My neighbour James decided he liked the 'abstract' so I gave it to him. I think it's pants.
The other time I got a stanley blade to the canvas and ripped the thing to pieces and then broke the frame into pieces. That was my first attempt at the painting of Hong Kong Harbour for my daughter and son.


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Then I decide where I am going to hang the painting.

I haven't got to the stage that my art teacher had in his house - so many paintings that they were 12 deep in every room including hallway and stairs. But one day I hope to have enough where I have an excess to rotate around the house. I do it to a certain extent already - but my options are limited.

What now...?
I have so many things I want to paint and just not enough time in the day to do it. One of my key distractions is television. At the end of the night I often think I have wasted an evening watching TV when I could have been painting art, taking my dog for a walk or doing something more constructive with my life. SKY has a lot to answer for - but mostly I am a lazy couch potato who should know better.


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