Over the past month, I’ve reached the stage where everything starts to slow down a little in the studio. The layers build, and as I move closer to finishing paintings, I spend more time looking before moving to paint. I try to work with what is already on the canvas, and I often feel like I’m balancing extremes, working over huge atmospheric washes with mark making. But when it finally works, and when the pieces fit together I love the contrast of sweeping washes against smaller, more intentional mark making.
I’ve also been looking into homemade painting tools, and I told myself that I would make some… but, I’ve fallen head over heals again with my squeegees! So I’m book marking that project for the future. Squeegees are so useful for making large organic, rough marks that almost reflect the texture of rocks when used with slightly thinned oil paint. Another tool that has been indispensable has been spare scraps of canvas left over from stretching. They move the paint around really well, lasting a longer than rags, and the scruffier bits of canvas are great for scratchy marks, plus it puts waste material to good use.
There were a couple of moments where I experienced every kind of doubt possible in the studio. With so many questions popping up that kept halting my progress, what if this? What if that? Is this composition too complicated? Are there too many colours? Too much going on or not enough? Working through those self-doubts required a balance between sticking it out in the studio, staying a bit longer than comfortable and also just taking time out to gain a clear perspective…. and then inevitably repeating during the next session.
I know it happens to everyone when they’re working on a project. After all, when you care you just want it to come together, and I think questioning things is just how we figure it out. I also wanted to write a little on this topic, just to put my everyday doubts out into the world; incase anyone else feels the same. It helps to know that you’re not alone in second guessing things every now and then.
One memory that I think back to often, is when I was painting a really big 2m tall canvas two years ago. I thought it had a really promising start (see right), the flowing paint had dried in a really interesting pattern. Then I started working over it and working over it, and admittedly, I got totally lost with no direction, by the end I didn’t know which way was up or down. But I asked my Dad to come and have a look, hoping a fresh pair of eyes might help reveal something. He said after a while, “it looks like you’re trying to paint two paintings in one” which absolutely nailed it on the head.
You can’t right every wrong or paint all your ideas in one painting. I don’t plan when I paint (maybe I should? haha), but judging from the past I think successful paintings always have a direction, some kind of internal compass that they stay true to throughout. If I look at every painting that hasn’t worked out (of which there are many) it’s ultimately because I lost my sense of direction and intention.
Despite the doubts that have popped up, creating a painting based on the theme of ‘Climate’ for the SCAF Award has been so rewarding. It also feels like the kind of project that I will continue to explore long after the exhibition has been taken down. After I found out I’d been selected I wanted to shake of the cobwebs of lockdown and spend the summer creating an honest painting that reflected long days exploring, and getting to know the Peaks.
In the next blog post, I’ll be writing about how my ideas developed, the concept behind the painting, my approach to theme of ‘Climate’ in more detail and how I plan to continue.
Thanks for reading and all the support!