On my degree in Fine Art I made sketches outside in oil paint on paper. They were nearly abstract in appearance. In the studio they formed the base of oil on canvas paintings 4 x 5 feet in size. The paint was thick, inspired by Auerbach but referencing Kiefer in being landscapes with an urban history.
Since leaving art collage I have continued making art, painting and drawing.
Last year I took my watercolour box and easel out in to the local park, in Sheffield, to see if I could finish a painting on the spot. The results were ok to my surprise and I did not mind people looking. I discovered I enjoy painting outside. Over the past year I have been experimenting, trying out different ideas, prioritizing colour, then dark and light, then line and composition; constantly changing.
Only watercolour has been used there is no drawing except drawing with the paint. I sometimes scratch lines into the wet paper. Working outside I get to a stage where there is too much information and I model the paint in a blind manner. The paint is washed off many times the image distills and certain marks or shapes I find myself repainting. Although the time and place are unique to each painting I am not looking for a visual record of that. I am looking for something more abstact. Because of this experimental attitude I have used different types of paper.
The results are not art for me. If I illustrate an idea the results are not good. If I rework the painting by coming back to it another day the togetherness of the painting is lost. I can't even touch up the marks left by the drawing board clips without spoiling the painting. If I try repainting the same thing the next day the painting is completely new. The leaves on the trees often all face the same direction, it is lines created by things like this that I pick out rather than structure. Colour changes through out the year, the climate changes. Over the course of the year I have become less interested in detail. To begin with I painted on Hahnemuhl and Etival papers 50x65cm. These are attractive cheap papers and less inhibiting it does not matter if it is all lost. In April this year I started using 100% cotton papers; Fabriano Artistico and Jacksons eco paper (which is made in India with very little size), these papers are bigger, 56x76cm. I wanted a more sensitive surface that would retain a history. With the rhythms running across them these watercolours to me are related to music, or actually are music. Making them is a performance. When I was looking at an exhibition of Frans Hals paintings at the Royal Academy the paintings that were unrestored and completely by the artist were easy to pick out. Some of the paintings had been restored by other hands, the brush strokes did not fit in to the movement across the whole canvas. The same thing happens with my work. Many artists have influenced me, but some I look repeatedly at; Egon Schiele; for his tense line, Hepworth for her landscape form and Turner's outdoor watercolours. Recently I have looked at Constable's cloud studies again because I have been thinking about the interaction between nature and the atmosphere, trees and light. I have also looked again at Caspar David Friedrich and his use of glazes.
The photographs of the paintings are far less beautiful than the originals. There is far less contrast in the originals. When I opened my portfolio to show a curator work she had selected for an exhibition from photos she gasped. She could not believe how beautiful the work was. Then she said the original work was far more beautiful than the photographs of the work, and from her experience it was usually the other way round.