After quite a number of years without usable ‘studio’ space to call my own, this painting was an exercise in logistics to carry out!
The subject was no problem. Being a commission, I had spent some time exploring the area in the North Lakes where Red Pike, the mountain I had been asked to paint, was situated, looking for suitable views. When I spotted this one, I knew that I needed to look no further!
I realised that the size of the required painting (to fit a given space over a living room mantelpiece) would preclude my carrying out the work entirely ‘en plein air’, so undertook several working trips there, making sketches and taking photographs. As David Curtis comments, there is a danger of an artist overworking a painting if photographic references are employed excessively. As a landscape painter, I find myself taking pictures of fleeting cloud and light effects at the scene, and then play them ‘on a loop’ on my computer in the studio as I’m working. This enables me to keep mood and ‘sense of place’ uppermost in my mind while I’m working, without allowing me to overdo the detail!
There was just sufficient room in that shed to spread out computer, all my sketchbook notes, paints, brushes , etc etc. It was a tight squeeze, but I could escape into the garden or carry the canvas across to my room whenever I needed a breather! Another use of the reference photograph is to carry out a colour study, together with detailed notes – this I did on a tiny scale in my moleskine reporter’s notebook, carefully working out how I wanted the painting to look.
Then at last I was able to negotiate some temporary working space in my sister’s potting shed! Obviously this wasn’t ideal, but in the circumstances it had to do, as a guest bedroom , however light and spacious, as this one certainly was, is hardly the place to carry out what I call my ‘dirty, smelly, messy’ work! There was just space on the potting bench to prop my canvas, and the advantage of this type of painting support is that it’s easy to carry around, being light and provided with supporting ‘struts’ at the back, which make excellent carry handles! Needing to work at speed, acrylic was a good choice, not needing lengthy periods of drying time between stages of the work . As I couldn’t view my painting from a distance where I was working , I protected the mantelpiece in my room and used this as a temporary easel in order to view progress and plan my next move! Working privacy also had to be negotiated, as an artist needs the freedom ‘to make mistakes’, and with severely limited time at my disposal I also had to be sure that I would not be interrupted. All this is not easy to arrange in someone else’s house, but I found I was able to work successfully. From the first stroke of my painting knife on the wonderful springy surface which canvas affords, I knew that this particular painting was going to work!