I always get the idea for a new painting when I'm outdoors. It starts with a feeling of excitement - a flutter in the stomach or a tingle up the spine. I stop and gaze, quietly taking it all in.
Then it's a rough sketch, usually in biro and usually with freezing cold fingers!
This helps me focus on what jumps out at me - what made me stop and look. I mark down the direction of the sun and the nature of the light and the shadows.
I use a combination of lines and words to remind me how it felt to be here.
I take several photos in the hope that they will help me when it comes to painting. They do help with drawing, but so often they distract and confuse me and I have to constantly remind myself to trust my sketches and memory.
Back inside, I draw a few small versions, trying out different viewpoints and focussing on the positioning of the larger shapes in the picture. I decide which words are the most important to set the tone of the painting.
Next comes a really important step. A value sketch using charcoal pencil. I make a lot of decisions about the layout and I start to establish the tonal range. The subject of the painting, what it is about, has the darkest values and the areas of greatest tonal contrast. Very dark next to very light is where our eyes will go to first when looking at a painting.
I refer back to this sketch constantly as I paint.
Once I have transferred the sketch onto stretched watercolour paper, I start to mix colours. It's important for me to capture the colour combinations I see outside so I spend a lot of time on this.
When it comes to 'painting' I try to use whatever tool will give me the effect I'm after. Big, soft brushes loaded with colour are wonderful, but I also like to use sticks, sponges, ink nibs, stamps, scrunched up paper.........etc!
As I paint, I regularly refer back to my sketches, colour notes and my words. They help me to really focus on what I'm trying to convey. Then it's a matter of deciding what will enhance my main subject and what will detract from or compete with it.
Process is a good servant but a poor master (I read that somewhere..) These stages are what currently help me to move forwards with my painting. I'm certain that as I continue to experiment new ways of working will emerge.
I'll keep you posted!