The painting game – beyond looking

I have always worked with dye on fabric, but I am now experimenting with acrylic and oil paint as an alternative source of colour. In my textile work, I used the dye in a very natural, expressive and abstract way.  It has been challenging for me to translate that freedom into paint, and I am having to learn how to use paint in a traditional way before I feel free enough to experiment.  The great benefit is the option of increased control over the medium as well as the option to rework.

But I am now realising how exacting a medium paint is.  It is a process of looking, looking, translating into a sketch, looking again, making a series of drawings to understand how my brain is selecting particular elements such as details or a colour or subject matter which have emotional meaning.  Then to bypass my brain to discover the underlying structure.


Freud portrait All Too Human TateLucian Freud “would talk about creating air around his figures, insisting that every square inch was of equal importance…”background” …had to be worked at like all else, paint vbeing the means of convinc ing the onlooker that such a sthing as a picture had more solid an existence … than we ourselves, or any old mattress, say.  Any painting not fully charged was liable to end up talkative … not telling”    William Feaver  “I was Lucian’s spare pair of eyes”   Observer 8.9.19

I am struggling with my own journey with this, redrawing and exploring to find the elements in the subject.  It is very hard work.  Lots of drawings to experiment with shapes and lines and tones before I get to colour.  I want to get these pictures beyond figurative, to get them to their elements.  That might mean changing them completely.  It will certainly take time.

Anthony Gormley, sculptor, says on drawing as a method of exploration:

“Drawing is about being with the materials: feeling the skin of the paper absorbing the scrafch of a pen.  In drawing, you can go to places you could never otherwise reach mentally or physically..”

A few weeks later I am looking again at this set of drawings.  I want to go beyond the photographic representation.  That is a challenge, but I want to go through that and engage more with my own energy and the mysterious energy of the subject and the image.  Yesterday I simply let rip with the colours and made an abstract statement that works.  But it is hard for me to work like this all the time.  I need a “plan” or a  “frame”, even if just as a springboard.  Today I used ink and brush to loosen up my engraved perception of the images.