Watercolour. I began concentrating on watercolour in the early 1990s. I was interested in rendering detail (having read a lot of Ruskin), and I persuaded myself that it could come off the paper in an easy or 'given' way, compared to the worked or assertive quality of oil paint. Precision is also a characteristic of watercolour: a flat wash or a flat brush mark has a clean edge. It can, of course, be softened or made splashy but I value the precision (as it is found in Durer, or Cotman, or Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to take three very different examples). And with the precision, the lack of substance in the paint leads to an expressive economy and, perhaps, vulnerability. There is also the well known claim that watercolour's strength is in its rendering of light, because light is given in the white of the paper. This is not the dramatic light of chiaroscuro nor the heightened colour of impressionism, but a subtle rendering derived from the assumption that light is in everything, and it is revealed by carving into it with darker tones.
Filaments or Striations. The beliefs of the last paragraph led me towards a linear art: line drawing filled in with flat colour, in which the accumulation of detail in certain areas would provide variety and movement. It was too simple; and at least ten years ago I was drawing, with pencil, or crayon, or pen and ink, in what was clearly a post- engraving manner (while continuing to paint with large areas of flat wash). Finally, in 2014, I came up with the idea that the thread or nerve-like lines, the filaments, should be separated by a 1/2 or 3/4 inch bands of paint from each other. The painting would start by laying in these bands of pale under paint, executed in a relaxed, hand-drawn way, establishing dynamic directional lines across the whole surface. Sometimes the lines 'follow the form', sometimes the direction of light, or wind, and in one painting (so far) their direction is completely arbitrary (to see whether that works. Answer: yes, I think so). Once the bands and lines are established the representational painting can continue in the usual way, more or less.The lines are honoured but they are also frequently washed over; it is amazing how they survive, probably because of their length and parallel repetition. They are embedded in the painting. I think of this as a very important characteristic; and perhaps best achieved by watercolour.
I hope I have replaced stillness with movement, to varying degrees in different paintings. Just as important is the disruption of naturalism. The visible and material world, the source of all my ideas, is still there but something else is going on. I hesitate to say what that is ... may be just the playful invention of the artist, or a recognition of the complexity of things? However, I like the way the images, at some distance, look slightly out of focus but when you get nearer they are clear and precise. And I am pleased that they seem to work better on a larger scale: watercolour is usually thought to be a small scale medium.
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