I studied on a general fine art course at Bristol Art College from 86-89. This gave me a solid grounding in painting and printmaking. At this point it was printmaking that was at the fore. This lead me to undertake a Masters Degree in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art from 89-91 working in intaglio and more directly in lithography. The direct nature of lithography also started to draw me back to paintingl. Printmaking involves through a process which gives a working structure. To some degree this has found its way into my approach to painting from the preparation of a painting surface, hand wiping etching plates to hand wiping paintings to draw an image out. The parring down of anything that is insignificant to the bare essentials for the image to work. Early influences, and these influences have stayed with me until present day, are artist such as Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Milton Avery to Vermeer, Turner and Rembrandt. Elements of all have been introduced into my work. With the Rembrandt's it was the backgrounds allowing the paintings to emerge from dark to light. Turners handling of atmosphere which lived in the paintings and the gestural from Twombly and Motherwell.
So where do the paintings come from? Their source material is predominantly from around the South Downs. My studio is based in Lancing and it takes less than thirty minutes to be out and walking along the South Downs Way which stretches all the way from Winchester in the West to Eastbourne in the East, tracing a path just in from the south coast. It isn't that its a craggy dramatic landscape, more undulating, but it does rise to peaks such as Devils Dyke and Ditchling Beacon all of which have drawn me back time after time.
In 2014 I was awarded a two week residency at Cill Riallaig, an artists retreat in Kerry, Ireland. This has lead to an ongoing source for new work. A truly inspirational place which has opened the paintings up in new directions and scale.
What makes the landscape draw me back? To me it is the way it can morph in to a different state with in minutes. As it follows the coast so closely it can be clear one minute and then capitulate to a weather front that sweeps in from the sea and rapidly change the look and feel of the landscape. Known geographical detail can be expunged by a coastal mist, smudged away by a downpour or bleached out by intense low morning or evening sun. It is these transitions from one state to another that the paintings are dealing with, small periods of time, not really a singular moment as such. They are also not meant to be of a particular place, hence the rarity with which they are titled with a geographical name. This is in some way to stop the name already defining a picture in the viewer's mind. I aim for them to evoke a place, perhaps in your memories of somewhere you have been to. To describe a feeling, atmosphere during a passage of time. The viewer is bringing something to the painting as well, the painting draws it out of you only to deliver you back through the layers of light and depth.
The majority of the works start from sketches, photographs or just memories of a walk. All are just reference points to initially put something down on canvas, panel or paper. However before any of this starts the painting surface has to be right. I spent far too long trying to paint on a standard painting canvas. I now prime any surface many times to build up layers of primer that hide canvas weave and produce a substantial surface that will take hold of the marks I make but allow the free movement of paint when necessary. I think I can now trace this back to the connection with the surface that one draws on with lithography stones and plates. While some paintings start off from a traditional white surface many are now coloured; perhaps an orange, a deeper mars orange or a raw umber wash. Layers are built up of thin glazes of a usually limited palette. The primed base colours are then allowed to influence the top glazes or are completely obliterated only to be revealed again as layers are then sanded back or drawn through whilst still wet. At some point the painting process inevitably takes over and starts to generate the paintings subsequent direction. Original elements can then be re introduced to the work to give a piece the solid foundation it needs to hold together. Each time a painting is worked on the whole surface is involved with some areas getting more significant changes and others simply refined.
As to knowing when a painting is finished, this is always a tricky one. For me the painting has to work as a painting in its own right. If I am happy to come into the studio and look at a work then I know something is going right. If a painting doesn't make me want to look at every aspect of it then there is some way to go.