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The Way I Work
Much of my work is best categorised as "landscape", although that term perhaps needs to be qualified in two respects. In the first place, the word "landscape" popularly suggests "views". Generally speaking, however, I am attracted by close-up studies of natural objects, such as rocks or trees. (Phil Hobbs has coined the phrase "a landscape within a landscape" to describe his own work, and I think that it fits mine well also.) Secondly, I don't normally attempt to produce a finished piece of work in the open air. I do enjoy sketching in situ, but I also collect photographs and make notes, and the finished product is usually produced in the studio. There are three reasons for this.
Standing at a studio easel, rather than working out of doors, enables me to stand back and see my work developing much better. I like to establish the basics of a composition from my reference material, and then set this aside, responding to memory, imagination and the process of painting in itself. Finally, I tend to work quite slowly--especially in the finishing stages of a picture--and can spend quite a long time just looking at it. Bearing in mind the usually vagaries of the British weather, it is much preferable to do this inside!
My first choice of medium remains pastels. I enjoy their immediacy and their tactile quality. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the challenge of working with other media, and in recent years have spent a lot of time with acrylics. I like the way in which it is possible to build up textured surfaces easily in this medium. It is refreshing every now and then to experiment with other media.
The challenge of attempting something new is irresistible. In 2014 my design for a pair of memorial windows for St. Alban's Church, Shrivenham, was accepted by the Defence Academy of the UK. In 2017 I accepted the invitation to design and execute a large mural for the Leeds Climbing Wall.
One of the pleasures of painting lies in the choice of support. I get a good deal of enjoyment working with a range of textured surfaces, sometimes exploiting their characteristics, but on occasions wrestling in the attempt to achieve something which might be thought to be out of character with a particular material.
Note for pastel buffs Often I expect to fix my work, depending upon its character. I know that there is a kind of purist dogmatism that objects to this. I have had too many experiences of work that has dropped colour because it has been roughly handled by couriers or galleries. Anyway: if fixative is good enough for David Blackburn, it's good enough for me.