I have a shelf at home that is full of my old sketchbooks that occasionally I flick through to recall and relive my past. It occurred to me that my sketchbooks are the nearest thing I have to a diary, which is very useful as I am liable to forget the past. However, when I browse my old drawings and paintings the memories revive themselves and much of the detail comes back to me.
My sketchbooks are also crucial to my work because I use them to develop my ideas they are my life too.
Musing on this gave me the idea of making a short video about my life with my sketchbooks.
I am an artist that likes to travel because no matter where I go, there is always something to paint. These scenes can be hugely diverse – out in the wilds somewhere, a metropolitan city or a small, quiet costal village.
There is something very special about getting in front of a subject, getting in touch with its environment, space and the community that holds it all together. You get to meet local people who can share their thoughts or personal stories, and these reminiscences often find their way into my final artwork.
Sketchbooks and A painting of the Greenwich waterfront
I was commissioned by The Trafalgar Tavern to paint the waterfront in Greenwich. It was a rather unusual commission in the sense that the scene needed to be set in 1931.
That said, the core of the scene was still there so I spent a day or two on site to draw the overall scene and the key buildings. It was tricky as some of it had to be done from the opposite bank of the Thames in Island Gardens. I recall a very cold and windy day.
Other drawings had to be done from the Greenwich side, with the key sketch being The Greenwich Observatory. I could, of course, trace it from a photo but that could look a little ‘dead’, and besides, I adjust the proportions of all my subjects. To me it gives them a greater sense of themselves. There is no rule to this adjustment, I just play about until it just feels ‘right’.
Along the way I made a few colour notes too. I paid particular attention to the colour of the Thames. At this point the river is very much a tidal river and thus, always a bit muddy. A fine murky soup…
As I was working, I drank up Greenwich and its muddle of streets and markets to get a sense of ‘place’ I could take back to the studio.
Armed with my drawings and references I had enough in the bank to paint my large studio painting. Thankfully my client was pleased with the result and if you want to see this painting, you will find it hanging in The Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.