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"Plein air Painter in oils" or "Stuff I do"
About my work.
During the meanderings of an artist, we will pass by things we think we haven't noticed. They may be small or quite large, but inexplicably become imbedded in our subconscious.
It is as if the eye has taken a photograph without our knowledge. The image may remain there for days or decades, but will often eventually emerge in the work of the artist in some form or other.
For years the sketch book has been the main tool for the painter, followed by the use of the camera as aid de memoir references. But often we ourselves have become the camera !
Another method is called "plein air". A smart way of saying
" Painting in the open air actually on location."
Whatever we paint or however we paint we must remember the maxim for any technique.
"Eyes, Hand and Heart."
USING OUR EYES.
The harder we look the more we will see.
Most people are familiar with the ever changing view of the sea and the sky.
Like most of us, I like to stand on the seashore and stare at the way the ever changing light and weather affects the way the sea looks.
I don't live by the sea but I do get a massive view of the sky.
Our Maker certainly knows how to effect a great sky-scape ! It is a daily miracle.
What ever I paint I try to remember I am painting a miracle.
I cannot over value the action of spending time each day just looking at the sky and seeing its magnificence. Its overwhelming vastness. Its multitudinous colours and its depth of field when thick with cloud. I recommend all to look at the sky for a few minutes every day before and after burying ourselves in our screens. It is both humbling and inspiring to an open mind.
USING OUR HANDS.
We are tradesman as well as artists. We must study our trade. It usually takes years of mistakes and corrections while we learn the tricks of our trade. Most of us will never achieve greatness but that's not so important. If we only learn how to see and be able to plasticise our visions and emotions, that will be reward enough.
USING OUT HEART.
The great flamenco guitarist "Paco de Lucia" said once;
"I practice eighteen hours each day and they call it "Duende"!
He was referring to that magic status when a performer surpasses the norm and appears to be in the realms of the angels.
A similar state is often noted by a Jazz musician in various expressions like;
"Now he's talking" or "I heard him talking to me".
This is the holy grail of all artists. We search for something in our work that might just give us a glimpse of that magic.
This is reserved for the few, but if at least we have learnt a little of ourselves we should be rewarded.
THE WAY I PAINT.
Because of the ever changing light the work has to be a bit sketchy and it can be a hit or miss process. I might do a couple of half hour sketches rather than spending the equivalent time on just one.
Having chosen my subject matter, I select a spot where the sun behind me and where its light affords me the best advantage. Facing the sun tends to bleach out the tones of the subject. However, many painters have created good works by accepting this as a main factor.
I like to set my easel up in the shade if possible and avoid flickering shadows over my canvas. The shade needs to be complete.
Also I like to be able to step back a few paces from my work and see how it looks during its construction, so you can see that choosing the best spot from which to paint your subject is well worth consideration.
I constantly study the subject and muse over what it is that has attracted me to it. In the process of "blocking out" in a selected monochrome or a very limited palette.
Its best to thin the paint down during this process. I might need to edit or dissemble it a little, relocating objects or buildings as I make the initial marks so I don't want thick layers of paint to remove. What I am looking for is the best combination of tones to work with light and dark areas.
I think that the tonal chord of a painting is more important than a photographic likeness of the subject which can look so dead. Tone and scale will help with your perspective if you get it right.
Once I am happy with these basics I can start to develop the composition. Of course I will use a few tricks of the trade and the knowledge I have gathered over the years.
But I don't want to be too "slick" unless I want it for printing post cards etc. Conversely I avoid being too slavish to detail. In either case, works of this nature are usually done when, surprisingly we want to eat! They are called "Pot Boilers", due to their commercial quality as opposed to their artistic aspirations.This in some cases must be acceptable to pay the rent. But it is a dangerous and slippery step which will if too easily taken, dissolve the artist's integrity.
I like to give the painting its freedom. It makes its own demands and I just follow them.
This is such an exciting procedure! Whether the sketch is completed within the hour or two while hopefully capturing the ever changing light. Then you have either got it, or you haven't got it. That's the real buzz!
For me, it is always the actual painting that takes precedence over the subject matter.
If necessary, the sketch can be developed in the welcome comfort of the studio later. And with luck, there might be something worth looking at. But for me at least, it has always been the initial plein air sketch which packs the most punch.
However for me, a painting is never really finished. It is always in a certain state of progress. Knowing when to stop is always my problem.
If ever you are planning a visit to Kent, I would be so happy to welcome you to visit my studio but please advise me of the date.
Raymond Hedley. Braming Oast. Offham Road West Malling Kent UK ME19 6RE.