A painting should speak for itself. As Fritz Lang, the great Austrian film maker and director of “Metropolis” stated, “When a director makes a film and it doesn’t express what he wants to say and he needs to give an interview to explain to an audience why and what; he is a lousy director.” I certainly don’t suggest an Artist be aloof or even this dogmatic, as I have enjoyed countless discussions with collectors that have left me with a vivid and refreshed perspective of my work, but it is a striking remark that applies to Art; a painting should grab the viewer without an essay or speech, leaving further explanation supplementary rather than vital. Where possible, my own thoughts should recede to allow space for the views of the audience.
I am a late bloomer and it’s taken a while to find my own voice. When I was very young, I taught myself a great deal, slavishly trying to copy any picture that appealed. This was a good way to absorb some idea of technique but a means to an end. Things have moved on thankfully and while I count Caravaggio, Degas, and Velázquez amongst many influences, I have no interest in emulating another Artist. Once you have found your stamp, there’s no going back and this is something I can not take for granted. Each bare canvas brings enough self doubt and nerves to keep me on my toes every time. I splodge the paint on and hope that I win the battle as sometimes the brushes and paint have their own peculiar ideas about how things should look. Not every piece can be of equal merit and it is this uncertainty that makes my heart leap when I have had a breakthrough. The first significant one of these arrived when I was 18 years old. It was a portrait of my Dad and I simply had not produced anything like it previously. Once completed, it made it possible for me to imagine painting as a vocation.
No matter how solitary this profession is meant to be, it is always a collaboration. In much of my work, I paint Gail, my wife. This is especially evident in my latest pieces. These paintings owe their character and presence to her. Even more than the aesthetic allure and depth Gail brings as the subject, it is her imagination whilst choreographing our many photo shoots, that makes the paintings work. She doesn’t appear merely as a decorative or passive pictorial element; she endows the work with nobility, nuance, intrigue and grace. This, in part, she does by making the poses look natural while showing some form of tension in the anatomy. There is also a sense that she is unconcerned about the viewer, cosseted in her own world. For an Artist, this has to be the finest definition of inspiration I can conceive of. A customer explained this far more eloquently, “You are painting love letters to your wife.”
When it comes to starting the picture, I do not draw or plan the composition. Occasionally this can cause issues, as I am continuing to compose whilst trying to finish, but its risky nature seems to lend movement and prevents the painting from looking too polished.
I still haven’t worked it out, this painting thing and anytime I feel close, I’m thrown a curve ball. However, the puzzle keeps me asking questions and that seems to make the work evolve. This quandary is okay, as conceit can often be the enemy of progress.
As I wrote above, this is all a collaboration; my wife, my Mum, my brothers and my collectors; we are all in this together.