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Freedom to Respond

With my latest series nearly complete I'm taking some time to look back on this body of work, that began many months ago, to draw out the learnings from, what has been for me, a new and exciting process that has evolved from very experimental beginnings.


Exploring the possibilities of gelli plate printing left me with a stack of random happy accidents in abundance; papers rich in colour, texture and effects that could not be reproduced with paints and brushes. But without finding a way to incorporate these into my work they were destined to gather dust, a standalone experiment probably never to be seen or heard of again!


If you've been following this series you'll know that the size restrictions of an A4 printing plate started to gnaw at me, and I wanted to go bigger......So first I responded by playing around with printing larger backgrounds on poly canvas pieces, which worked ok to begin with, but I just had this feeling that these artworks wanted to grow and have a larger physical presence. So the next logical step was to get the scissors out and chop up the early pieces and collage them onto larger substrates. This satisfied for a while, but then I felt that the single portrait format panels needed more. So I began a second piece to sit alongside each of them, eventually turning each artwork into a diptych.


Using collage as a starting point for these pieces was a new and liberating way to begin, it was a bit like doing an endless puzzle that had no right or wrong way of being! Focusing on placing colours and shapes gave me the freedom to move elements around until the right spot to settle each piece became clear. All these decisions were guided by my intuition stemming from memories of previous successes and failures, likes and dislikes, that have been stored away in my subconscious at various moments in time.


The collage work took me so far, but I had a strong pull to introduce paint and mix up the media to further enrich the surface. And when I'm using paint, my drawing materials are never far away! This is where the process of more conscious decision making and visual selection began and I started to look more closely for areas that I wanted to preserve and areas that I was happy to let go, these thoughts were guided by questions:


Do I have too much of this?

Do I want more of that?

Can I see variety in the marks and shapes?

Where are the main contrasts happening?

Am I working with too many colours?

What areas to I love the most and why?

Are there any major distractions happening?

Are there too many focal points?

Can my eye travel easily and comfortably over the piece?

What am I enjoying the most?

Are there ugly bits that are bothering me?


By allowing the artwork to speak for itself and show me the way forward, all I had to do was be aware of, and respond to, what was happening within the painting. Perhaps the most important thing to notice at this stage is how I feel when I'm working. Am I feeling free to continue trying new things and experiment with ideas or have I slipped into the resolution phase where I am enjoying nearly everything about the painting and I feel like the time for drastic and major changes has gone out the window?


Maintaining the feeling of freedom to respond either intuitively or more consciously, right up until the point at which the painting feels quite suddenly finished is a tricky skill to master, but I know if I can keep this front and centre of my mind as I work, my paintings will feel more lively and spontaneous and have a sprinkling of the unexpected.







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