As you can see from the photo above, I’m just at the stage of laying down layers for this first painting in a series of three. My usual approach (unless it’s a commission where someone has asked for something very specific) is to lay down translucent layers and textures. Partly because it creates depth and interest, but also because I don’t like to be too specific when I start out.
One of my favourite painters is Peter Doig who grew up in Canada and Scotland, before moving with his family to Trinidad several years ago. He had a huge retrospective at Edinburgh’s National Gallery recently, and I can’t begrudge him the fact that his paintings are among the highest selling in the art world (of living artists). He had his fair share of grim flatshares post art college! I love the texture and mystery of his paintings and I was fascinated to learn a little of his technique, which has some similarities to mine though the end results are different.
Doig builds up layers, often beginning with a photograph as a starting point, but with a certain narrative or sense of place that he wants to capture. Apparently he often leaves paintings for many months, allowing inspiration and ideas to grow. This is something I can’t currently afford to do as I have deadlines to meet and my paintings sell at a miniscule fraction of the amount Doig’s do!
His work has interesting perspective and depth too, not obvious in a sense, but definitely there in the way your eye is drawn in to a view – from a distance perhaps, from across water, or through trees. It’s partly this that creates the sense of atmosphere and mystery, but the layering of texture adds to this, drawing your eye in to details.
Often the deliberate flaws, the lack of coherence in some areas, that makes a painting interesting. Even Vermeer (whose works look almost photographically realistic at first) uses this technique; deliberate roughening, or leaving gaps. It works because that’s the way our eyes work – we select details, focus in on some, or become curious about things our eyes don’t quite understand.
All of this observation gives the impression I know what I’m doing! The reality at this stage is nearly always anxiety – patiently waiting for the painting to make sense, unsure of where it’s going.
After a day of staring at a canvas (in this case a 40×40″ wood panel) all day, my mind is full of fleeting images before I go to sleep – effects and colours. Soemtimes they’re even useful!
This first painting I’m working on is called ‘West’, and it’s part of the series of three I’m creating for the Eigg Island group exhibition opening at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Thursday 26th March
Click on this link for more info, or to book tickets for the launch music and poetry performance.. Eigg Island exhibition
More of Doig’s works..