Five years ago I decided to focus on printmaking in the hope it would help me find my own language of mark making. Working as an illustrator had made me a chameleon - changing my style to suit the needs of the client and the project; it took a couple of years before I felt really comfortable in a world of lines and colours that came from me.
Could I go back to painting and still hold on to the freshness of line and limited palette? When I use colour in my sketch book I've been thinking of translating the image into a linocut - the constraints help to free my mind to just draw rather than getting distracted choosing colours and techniques.
Yesterday, after completing the 'A fox broke cover' prints, I wanted to start work on the design for another print. But after some tentative sketching it felt like something else was in the way - something creative that I just had to do first. I flicked through the earlier pages on my sketchbook and found this . . .
. . . just what I needed for these - some small square canvasses I'd bought a couple of years ago. They sat, snowy white taunting me. Last year I painted them terracotta, in the back of my mind I was thinking about colour theory and how if the underpaint is a complementary colour to the colour you use on top it sings through the little breaks in the pigment and makes the colour glow brighter. Yellow ochre behind a blue sky, chrome green behind a rosy cheek.
I then very quickly sketched three hens . . .
And mixed a shade of verdigris to paint in the backgrounds . . .
When I packed up work for the day they looked like this . . .
This morning I was itching to finish them, but I wasn't in the zone. I got carried away with more colour and texture and ended up somewhere far from where I wanted to be . . .
I stomped about for a while and felt cross with myself for stuffing up what had been going so well. Then I put the first little canvass to one side (it's going to get a coat of terracotta paint later).
I turned my attention to the other two hen canvasses, they only needed a few lines in dark grey and they were already there . . .
I think I've broken through the barrier, there'll be a lot more painting in 2010.