Anyone seeing my studio over the last few weeks may wonder about the direction I am taking. A large proportion of the paintings on view are of quite traditional landscapes in contrast to the vigorous scribbly drawings also on the walls.
I have recently been revisiting my love of landscape as a way of refreshing my vision before I start on a new theme. Early in my career I was advised that the imagination is rather like a bank account – you should put something in before you take anything out. Some of the paintings are developed from sketches and photographs while others have been completed on location, ‘en plein-air’. The starting point for this was a “Paint Doncaster” challenge from the Brevon Gallery where I have my new studio.
The great thing about working en plein-air is that there is a sense of quiet urgency about the work. There is a serene tension that I have also encountered while fishing with rod and line – things can change in a moment. There is the added pleasure of meeting the people who dare to be ‘nosey’. They often bring snippets of information that get woven into the picture and add to the quality of the work.
The return to landscape stems from my American trip to the No Boundaries International colony on Bald Head Island, North Carolina. I had gone with the intention of painting my usual encrusted studies of old walls and stone buildings but found sleek wooden buildings and massive amounts of sky, sea and open air. I was a little rusty at plein air work but thoroughly enjoyed painting a couple of large beach scenes. I knew there was something there that I wanted to explore but it took several months to bring it into focus. After the intense close-ups of my Venetian walls I wanted to try to capture a sense of space – the air between the objects more than the objects themselves. This led to some drawings which, for me, have exciting potential. By layering and erasing random marks in a personal calligraphy I am creating a depth of space that forms can inhabit – sometimes planned by myself but very often created in the imaginations of the viewers. The origins of these marks can be seen in the dancing haze of “Pellicciolli” and “Lucatello” drawings of 2007 or earlier signs in “Lagoon” from 2005. However, my first attempts at trying to show the air between viewer and subject stem from student days in Durham and the river-mists that shrouded the castle and cathedral. Just how the new work will develop over the next few months remains to be seen but I’m glad to have rediscovered the buzz of plein-air painting. Weather permitting I’ll be out to invest in my imagination again soon.