I’m working on a few interim pieces before I take a summer break–two weeks in LA and San Francisco, to visit friends and look around. I always love to go the the museums and galleries and see what’s going on. Looking at great art really refuels my inspiration.
Last week I did a demo for my painter friends Sylvia and Arlene. They wanted to see how I start a painting.
I start with the general (the big shapes) and try to get the colour-world and values more or less established within the first couple of hours. I love this first step, from nothing to… hopefully something.
On subsequent sessions I move slowly toward the particular, (the details.) But I hold back a while and sneak up on them. Getting too detailed too soon tends to lock in the image and give me nowhere to move to. So I like to leave lots of options available at first.
The last time I was in London, I visited the old Tate, anticipating what I thought would be a room full of Constable paintings. Looking forward to some illuminating picture-viewing I followed the gallery map to the appropriate room and found instead scaffolding, dropsheets, paint cans, and other materials scattered about. At first a little disappointed, I did however find this an interesting subject that might make a painting, so I took some photographs. It looked a lot to me like a contemporary art installation.
Living Room (below) has come a long way in six days. I guess Malcolm Morley was right: “if the inspiration is there, the process follows”. I think it’s well on its way.
The process of making a painting is rarely straight-ahead. Since I don’t work with formulas, each piece is a way of starting again. At the first lay-in (starting layer of paint) of a multi-panel piece, my initial excitement was followed by huge self-doubt. Convinced that I had begun a project impossible to complete, I pronounced the painting a failure, and turned the panels against the wall for about a week. In a brave moment, I showed them to some supportive painter friends, who thought the project worth pursuing.
If I feel a glimmer of excitement about the possibilities, that’s a good sign. These things never work out if I just do something because I think it will be good for me (martyrdom definitely not on the agenda).
Only through time and effort will I know whether I can pull it off. There’s still a possibility that three or four weeks of work will go nowhere, but I’m optimistic it will be worth the effort. Or will it?
This painting is based on a photograph sent to me by my friend and amazing artist, Chris Dorosz.
Below is one of the newest works completed in my studio. I am currently painting a handful of pieces for the Galerie de Bellefeuille, so my body of work for the Bau-Xi (forthcoming, November in Toronto) is on hold temporarily to fulfill that obligation.
I have previously made I think two other works of the Painted Hall in Chatsworth. Something about the geometry and light of this room keeps me coming back. No two works are ever alike–I am a slightly different person today than I was yesterday, and quite changed from the person who painted a similar piece two years ago; my way of laying down marks has been shifting.
It’s also admittedly an excuse to spend time in this room again. I don’t think I have delusions of grandeur, but the hall, which was expertly decorated for an overall stunning effect, is great fodder for a painter. This piece, which is 36 x 48 inches, took around five days to complete. I would love to do one more, much larger, so you can physically feel the space.