A photo is a moment in time, the shutter clicked to capture a subject that excites visually or emotionally, or it can simply be a notebook to record facts and ideas. Just as in photography, the choice of a subject for a painting can be made in a flash, or it can require slowly made decisions to choose that moment when the lighting is right and it all comes together. Before starting this painting, I walked all round the area, taking photos of potential subjects, then painted it on the spot, spread over two evenings, not finishing till almost nightfall. Below are some of the photos I took before choosing the painting that would emerge. The first three photos show what I did not choose to paint – but did consider – as they didn’t suit the size and proportions of my canvass, and it the case of the first photo, would work much better in graphic media, rather than oils.
A painting starts with my eyes, as I choose the spot that will work in this size of canvass and light falling on the image. This choice of subject could come immediately , almost by magic, or after a few hour’s walk round the area, searching.
I add a turps-thinned oil-paint-wash to cover the stark white of the canvass, usually in a shade of blue, then while it is drying I lay out the palette with my paints – three or four of each colour reds, blues, yellows and several larger blobs of white. (Never any black or muddy tones of brown, , ochre, or mixable colours like green or orange). Then I sketch out the composition, either in charcoal or ultramarine thinned with turps: the lines and swirls that define the shapes and emotions of the subject. The limited palette and tinted background helps to balance the colours together in harmony, while each mark is deliberate and carefully planned.