Sometimes there are other, previously worked paintings under the latest works. Maybe ones I’ve had sitting around and never really felt 100% about. Or else they’re just tests or have been abandoned for whatever reason. This often gives the works a kind of added “weight”, that can sometimes work well. The key seems to be to not let too much of the earlier work through.
I can see how it is beneficial to hold on to every work and see if there is another way it may be used. I try not to really throw anything away, unless there’s something about it that suggests it will be difficult to use agin.
Starting around 2008 I would usually look to the patterns in the bare woodgrain for a suggestion on how to begin something. Maybe I saw a mountain, or sky, or horizon.
After a few years following that and slowly moving away from it, I started to work increasingly on the computer and arrange compositions in Photoshop. Then I would use this as the starting point, or at least the outline of it. Tracing the whole composition into the board.
One thing that has never changed in ten years is this way of transferring images into the board. Tracing over a printed image and pressing the outline into the surface of the wood is like invisible tracing. It’s a way to reach a certain point quickly for me, from which I can start to “work”.
I can remember doing that in Primary school around 6 years old, but into paper instead. The lines can only be seen under certain light, or on certain angles. I also loved colouring books as a kid. Working within an outline is perfect for me, having a kind of pre-existing parameter of form in which to really work.
With the newer ones I have been doing for about the past 8 months, I have no idea how the layers of colour are going to look when they dry. The decision is initially what colours to use, then how to kind of drip them into the soaking water and wood. Adding more as I go, maybe occasionally stopping a flow, or tilting the board. The layers of water and colour I put on the board these days can be kind of controlled and played with, but really there are so many factors beyond my control that at some point I just have to leave it sitting and wait for it to dry.
During that fairly slow drying time the work is still moving and breathing in a way, the layers of water are fairly raised and very fluid on the surface of the board. Wind, gravity, sun, humidity, dampness, dryness, the effect of 2 pigments mixing; all of this is something I can do nothing really about. One thing that seems important is to let the work dry naturally, not not use heaters or artificial methods.
When the board is dry enough to pick up, I can hang it on the wall and sit back and stare at it. I work on paintings on the floor mostly, just hanging them on the wall to look at.
Inevitably it seems, the accidental process of starting these works and how they dry will suggest an entire landscape if I look long enough. From this point, the kinds of forms to insert within this “landscape” start to come to mind.
Even though it is impossible to look at an image and not have some kind of associative reaction to it, I am probably more interested in the shape and colour of a figure, or tree, or whatever, more than any kind of narrative possibility. I don’t care about story in painting because it’s impossible for me to look at my paintings and see only one thing. Wether or not you have the same ideas as me about why certain images are included in a work, it is irrelevant. The work is not about anything other than how you react to it.
As much as I don’t have many pre-conceptions when I start painting, nor do I have any real idea about finishing. Each work reaches a point where something in it communicates to me that it’s done. Some kind of balance.
The difficult or problematic paintings seem to quite often be the ones where I feel it looks too “good” too soon.
The titles for works usually come at the very end, after I have finished working. It is just a case of whatever word or phrase springs to mind after staring at it for long enough. One thing I try not to do is really put puns, or jokes into the titles. I don’t like the titles of paintings to try and tell me too much,, unless they have a very specific reference.