For me it is a fantastic but unnerving journey while painting. For all it's certain end results, there is a great deal of uncertainty and freedom surrounding the act of oil painting on canvas. It is a compelling, absorbing and nerve-driven process to direct the painting in the right direction.
It is seemingly open to unlimited ways of changing it. The choice of colour, texture, layering and the kind of marks you make seem endless. You react to the situation as best you can, aiming for a cohesive whole as it is worked on.
There are also many constraints that can affect you such as have you enough of the right kind of paint? Is there enough light in the day left for you to identify colours correctly? Is it peaceful enough to concentrate?
Once you get involved with the painting, hours can pass by without you really noticing. It very often takes me longer than I think to achieve a balanced, whole picture and it never comes easily.
The painting evolves in ways that cannot be foreseen and each painting session is a one-off process when you paint wet-into-wet. It can be urgent and frantic because you are keen to move the canvas towards a meaningful end result.
Artists such as Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff's working methods influenced my early works and the way I work now but with much thinner paint. All my oil paintings are completed within one or two painting sessions but I never know how many oil painting sessions I will go through before I come across the finish line.
While I write this, I am currently choosing the right underpainting colour for a new oil painting. Most of the time my personal approach is to start with a coloured underpainting although I have worked straight onto the white canvas.
This can have a big impact on the final result. Traditionally, many painters have used an earth colour or the complementary (opposite) colour of their intended overall colour scheme to start the painting. Once these few layers are established I will go straight into painting.
Published May 2016