It’s all too easy to see one or two images of an artist’s work and make judgements. If an artist has been working for many years, it is better to see the big picture. In other words examples of work from different periods in their career, so that we can understand more fully where they are coming from.
I was reminded of this on Wednesday when friends came to see the two large canvases I am currently working on. Although I have known them for eight years, they hadn’t seen any of my oil paintings, and were particularly interested in a ‘Symbolic Self Portrait’ – large oil on canvas – painted in 1989, because it is so different from anything they had seen previously.
Everything in this painting, symbolises my life. The photograph is of a large self portrait oil painting, currently housed in Wales.
My friends, are used to seeing me work in a spontaneous, free manner, and indeed that is how my work has evolved….however, by the mid eighties, I knew that I needed to re-hone my technical skills….I needed to bring consistency back into my painting and life, and to do that, I set myself the task of painting a series of large oils.
During this period, I had a large studio and so was able to work on several large paintings at the same time….which is my favourite way to work.
Each painting started with a formal underpainting. Given the complexity of the subject matter, this was necessary so that I could establish a solid composition before adding colour.
Each painting became a ‘Biographical still life portrait’ of people near and dear to me at the time.
There were about 30 paintings in the series. I am glad to say that they all sold, except for my Symbolic Self Portrait, which travels with me wherever I go, as a reminder of this period in my life.
It reminds me that no matter how difficult things might be, that I can work my way through it…
This detail from a very large oil on canvas, represents my dear friend Sue Hineman. Although Sue is no longer with us, I do have a watercolour portrait of her which always stays with me.
Although my natural instinct is to paint in a spontaneous manner, this four year exercise was probably one of the best things I could have done.
Like a solid underpainting, this series proved to be a new beginning and foundation block. My observational skills were honed, and an understanding of my tools and technical ability expanded.
During the middle of my career, working with art consultants, I completed many corporate murals, which was a great way to bring money in and at the same time give me the freedom to explore my own work. During this period, technical know how was key….my tools had to be an extension of my body….which is why I consider these ‘quilt’ paintings to have been an important foundation block.
This very large oil on canvas, represents two friends, Dick McClure and Jean Frohling.
As an artist’s life grows and evolves, so does their work.
When I returned to the Uk in 1993, and made my home in Crickhowell, Wales (the Magical Town of Crickadoon🙂 I had to focus on smaller works….namely because I was living in smaller spaces.
However, during that period, I did complete two large panels for St. Edmund’s Church, Wales along with several large mural projects including one in what was then the new Cardiff Bay. For these, I rented space from a good friend who had a small industrial park close by to the town.
It never ceases to amaze me how our needs are always met when we are following the right path.
This painting represents my dear friend Sammy who gave me the wicker chair, and Nicholas who gave me the quilt.
There are many more of these quilt paintings scattered about.
Every now and then it is good to be reminded of where I have come from. It helps me to understand more of what I am doing today. Each period, brings with it new experiences, insights, and understandings, and the good news is that this never stops……
As Picasso once said – ‘An artist’s best painting is their last painting’ – I like that.
Wishing everyone a beautiful weekend.