As a self-taught water-colourist since the age of 13, people tend to ‘put me in the box’ of a draughtsman, a maker of coloured drawings or a wildlife illustrator. When I started to learn art at ‘prep’ school I had an art teacher who was a painter. She painted oils on canvas of hot air balloons in in hazy summer landscapes, using the oil very thinly, almost like watercolour. In secondary school my then new art teacher, Chris Ruscombe-King, insisted on my learning to paint in oils. Inspired by the impressionists, he taught me to use oils as an opaque medium. At the time I found this very taxing as I was completely ‘into’ finely detailed realism, but his teaching stood the test of time and I managed to maintain opaque media painting during my art school studies, when I did much life drawing and painting. But it wasn’t until the occasion of my Masters studies in 2000, some 27 years later, that I picked up my oil brushes again and started to paint medium-sized canvases. At the same time I also started to ‘paint’ plant shadows in Indian Ink but I also used watercolour, coloured inks, acrylics and oils.
I don’t paint as much in oils as I would like to and I often have ‘phases’ of oil painting: working on a few at a time either as a multiple or as part of a cycle i.e. « Rockpools ». I’m not an addictive oil painter and will exhibit oils to compliment and dialogue with works in other media, as in the recent work made during and after my Japan residencies (2010-2013). Curiously enough the selling of my oils tends to stimulate my production: their absence in the studio making room for the next. Being invited to contribute to joint exhibitions is also a stimulus as in the recent exhibition of a series 3 non-dissociable works made on the theme of an ancient oak tree at Seaul (one of Luxembourg’s most remarkable trees). These works were exhibited by the Shang Kun Luo Qi Museum of International Modern Art, Hangzhou, China in 2014 and are now part of its permanent collection. In this trio I tried my first «grey» shadow in oils.
Based on the classic combination of enlarged watercolour sketches and using my own photos as reference material, the oils will vary from being quite figurative to being almost abstract. I like to treat plant forms in an almost pop art way and to use close-ups of smaller subjects and to blow them up out of scale. My larger pencil drawings on canvas are derived from oil painting. Sometimes I’ll paint found objects in a very realistic way but on the pure white of the virgin canvas.
I will often surprise my watercolour students by advising them to try oils or pastels - to help them to see colours better!
I love visiting museums and looking at oil paintings: getting really close-up to study techniques, be they by old masters like the Vermeer’s at the Rijksmuseum or those of contemporaries like David Hockney in his «The Bigger picture» exhibitions.