I try to paint what people can’t always see.
I love the small old black and white photos usually taken using a Box Brownie Camera – most people have got these family pictures stored away somewhere; snapshots of older relatives in their youth. These are my most favourite things.
While I was studying I would spend a lot of time setting up the portraits I wanted to paint – then one day I realised that I really didn’t care about the background or the clothing, I just wanted to see the person. I remember looking at an intricate oil painting I had been working on for weeks, and I just wanted to get rid of everything that seemed irrelevant. So, I got a pot of black paint and painted over almost everything – the interior background that I had so carefully set up – gone in a few swipes. The objects and decoration – gone. I painted over all the clothing, all the colour and detail obliterated by thick, deep, liberating black. All that was left was flesh and hair – and it was great.
So that’s what I do now. I take the small little beautiful black and white photographs and make them into big oil paintings. I spend time painting every detail of those figures and it’s important that I still paint the clothing and the backgrounds too, but now, when I’ve finished I cover over everything that doesn’t really matter and just leave flesh. By masking over what’s irrelevant it can reveal relationships, emotions, secrets, lies; things that were always in those precious little snapshots but we are usually too distracted to notice.
Sometimes I use thick gloss paint – I love how immediate and unforgiving it is and I think its beautiful in its simplicity. But, mostly I use gold leaf metal. A lot of my paintings are from my family photos and along with the time devoted to painting the subjects, gold leaf makes these paintings precious.
I’m a painter. I love to paint and I have had my distractions from the portraits. I grew up surrounded by horses, they are another passion of mine and I often want to paint them, so I paint them lifesized, dogs too and other animals – using the same idea that by getting rid of the background details the paintings become a much stronger presence. And, I love throwing paint at finished work. I’m happy to spend weeks sometimes months doing an oil painting, gold leaf the background then throw gloss paint at it. It’s a huge adrenaline rush – is this going to make the work even better; seeing the two different materials work together; seeing the painstaking detailed work enhanced by the chance encounter with the impulsive ‘action’ painting? Or is it going to be completely ruined? I’ve had a couple of disasters – but when it works…its a great feeling.
I studied art at Winchester School of Art and Design and graduated from Cumbria College of Art and Design with a Fine Art Degree. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to have work exhibited in solo and group shows in London and America, with paintings selling across the world.