At what point did I start to think of myself as a fine artist? I started as a freelance Illustrator in the early 1990s. After 17 years of work as a commercial artist and all the challenges and frustrations that come with the advertising and design industry, I decided I needed a change in career direction, I still wanted to create images, but I didn’t want to work in the creative industry with its deadlines and endless client revisions. I embarked on an ambitious personal project to produce 100 paintings. I wanted to create images with my style and concepts and set my deadlines, even if it takes an extra month to finish a painting. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve enjoyed the challenges of being a full-time professional artist. My style has evolved since my first painting in the series “Decision” in 2009. The graphic style has given way to detailed brushwork, adding to my style, but the concept/story underpins my artwork. I’m not simply working from a photograph.
There is no quick path or shortcut to producing these paintings. People ask what the magical formula is, but there isn’t one. I work long hours, and I persevere with the task at hand. I methodically work my way through each stage from concept to completion. I set day, week and monthly goals to ensure these tasks are realistic and completed on time.
Every concept requires a different set of skills, and it feels like I go through a relearning process for every painting. I’m constantly refining my technique and craft.
I have two distinct and different parts in creating a painting: head and hands. The first part is the creative (head). Concepts start in my sketchbook either as scribbles or titles.
My first and only full-time job was as a visualiser for the Wellington-based advertising agency Ted Bates in 1990. The job involved producing sketches in markers for presentation to clients. The renderings were quick and slick, and this was an excellent platform for me to learn how to get my ideas down on paper and not be too precious with the outcome.
I develop sketches further if I see potential, or I can bank them for a later date. I revisit old sketchbooks to recycle previous compositions or add to an existing story.
I like to problem-solve compositions. However, I’ve never found working from a single photograph practical. Whilst I appreciate the skill other artists display when working from single-source images, it doesn’t work for me. I want to flatten or force the perspective and play with the light source and direction. Furthermore, not every scene must be at the same time of day.
An excellent example of this is Karman. The image is right and wrong. I have tilted the pond so we can see the fish and lilies and flattened the house. I have chosen to show two wheels of the car and not include the far side wheels. As a result, the vehicle has a 2d feel in a 3d environment.
My most significant influence in picture making was discovering the classic “View Master” 1970s toy. The flattened layered images intrigued me. The View master images changed by simply looking toward or away from a light source. Taking the concept of the Viewmaster, I found I could build my ideas in Photoshop. I refine these PSD files over time and can create an entirely new image with an existing scene. I revisit compositions adding and deleting from the idea until I reach what I think is “The Story.”
Now for the project’s second stage, “The hands” is the craft, and I enjoy the pace and process of painting. Whether grass or water, some parts of a picture will require a significant investment in time, and I don’t shy away from this.
Detail is one of the cornerstones of my style.
When asked what my style is, I call it imperfectly perfect, which is fine by me.