I have never been happy with completely representational work, if it looks like a photograph why not take a photograph? I can however, appreciate the level of skill which goes into such work.

I started to paint more loosely when experimenting with still life and water-based oils, which I find very flexible and this allowed me to move on to palette knives. Working with knives immediately gives you a tool where you are able to experiment with less detail and a more 'loose' style.

Often I am influenced or inspired by the work of other artists – it may be something very small but a starting point for a new development in my own work. The new influence could be colour, media, scale, subject matter style, almost anything whether an artist from the past or contemporary work.

I never seem to have any trouble wondering what to paint. If I see something - a poster, postcard, or a view - I will keep the image for later use as a painting or part of a painting. I usually work from my own observations; photographs or en plein air. Subject matter varies greatly - still life, townscapes, seascapes ... whatever has recently inspired me, although I do tend to have 'phases'.

I may start with inks and rollers to keep it loose. Then add a few lines and blocks of structure, working from the background out to the final details. At the end I am only putting in a line, a reflection, a shadow or a little detail. I work in ink, gouache, acrylic, oils, tempera, collage or anything which I feel is appropriate for the work. Very rarely do I use brushes.

My best work comes when I am not worrying about it, working in a free way, it keeps its freshness better. One must avoid working over and over on the same area as the colours become muddy and one can 'work the painting to death'. Happy accidents are a particular delight!

I have a sketch book, actually is an old photograph album which I picked up in a charity book shop, I buy these whenever I see them. They are cheap as chips and have thick paper or card which is great for experimenting. I can try out techniques, colours or any development which I might want to experiment with before using it on a piece of work. Playing with materials and techniques is very satisfying and often leads to unexpected results.

Lastly, I must be pleased with the work myself or it is not good enough.


Market Day, Saumur, Loire – mixed media

This painting was a commission on canvass and was from a photograph.

Stage one

To begin with a few rough lines are put down to indicate where the main shapes are for use later. Using P.V.A, Gloss Medium or Matt Medium areas of collage are added for both texture and colour trying to loosely work from the image with both colour and shape. Some edges will be torn and some cut, it is essential to press this down well to avoid any air pockets as this would cause problems. A hairdryer can be used to speed up the drying process. Interesting effects can also be achieved by sticking down sections from magazines, leaving for a few minutes for the paper to start to adhere then peeling off the paper to reveal ares of colour and texture underneath.

During the painting process I continually try to work from the background to the foreground.


Stage two

Using inks and a roller I randomly added colour for the sky, foreground and shadow areas, in colours which I feel are appropriate. If I want a smooth sky I will wet the canvass or paper first and during the process. The ink runs into the collage giving colour changes and deeper colour in the areas which are creased, in the tissue paper for example. I like to cover as much of the white as possible.

Once again a hairdryer was used to speed up drying and create runs. Sometimes colour is added while the previous colour is still wet to blend the colours together or can be dried to have a more layered effect. Detail is not added at this stage, the style remains quite loose, random runs do not worry me as they add to the interest. I have used Brusho inks but any inks should work for this, Brusho are water solluble, I water them down to give different strengths of colour.

Close up of foreground (textured image with orange and purple ink)

From time to time it is important to step back from the painting and spend a little time just observing. Here I have added more dark purple ink as I felt that the shadows were not quite dark enough.


Stage three

The facias of the buildings are developed using different colours, light and dark areas, shadows and highlights always trying to leave areas of the previous colours showing through.

Large areas can be covered using a roller. I start building colour onto the collage areas, quite often mixing matt or gloss medium into the acrylic paint. Texture is built up in layers on top of the collage with acrylic, gouache, oil or tempera. The flat side of a credit card is used not touching the surface completely so that the previous colour is not obliterated. Usually I dry off the previous layer before adding subsequent layers to keep the colours separate (oil has to be left to dry unless used last).

Close up of building texture


Stage four

Here the buildings have started to be outlined and defined a little more, roof lines, gutters and patterns . I have used the edge of a credit card for the lines. I prefer the lines to have random gaps rather than solid hard edges.

Windows are added using a basic colour and dragging a credit card across, again giving the suggestion of a window shape. Darker and lighter shades and colours have been added to the window areas to create the impression of reflections. Once dry the window frames are developed using black and white ink again using the edge of a credit card. This is also a detail which I feel is better if it is not too definate or structured, adding only parts of the frames, less is more.


Stage five

Once I am happy with the background I start to think about moving to forwards through the painting. Here I have added the first layers of the tree starting the branches with various sized bits of card followed by printing with bubble wrap using both acrylic and gouache. The beginnings of the market stall is also roughly outlined again with a credit card to continue with the loose feel of the painting.


Stage six

More layers are added to the tree allowing the previous layers to dry or using a hairdryer to speed this up and keep the colours separate. The corner of a card is used in addition to the bubble wrap to loosen up the impression of the tree form and to create more shadow effects. Once again, I am not aiming for a photographic representation.

For the umbrellas which are an important part of this image I drew and cut several stencils to add some uniformity, highlights are added to give them form. Parts of the structure of the market stalls are developed once again using the edge of a card. Details, shadows and highlights are added to give more depth to the canopy of the stall


Stage seven

A few darker shapes are put into the background with acrylic to give an impression of more figures.

At this stage I returned to collage to add details to the market stalls and introduce people to give the painting 'life'. Magazines were used for random patterned and coloured paper. Using a mixture of plain and patterned shapes for the produce boxes I lay these onto the painting first or sometimes use blue tack to see how I feel about the arrangement. Shadows and highlights are added using black and white ink. Produce on the stalls has been created with cotton buds (environmentally friendly!), arcylic and gouache, I wanted the colours to be opaque and stand out. Collage could also be used for this.

For the people, interesting coloured and patterned pieces of magazines are used to draw the shapes for the various characters. Shadows, highlights and details are used to give them extra form with paint or ink. In the final image (below) I decided to put in an additional figure in the foreground.

Final image

The figures add perspective and interest and movement to the work, the size of the figures is important as this helps to give a feeling of distance. Different sizes and positions were experimented with before I committed myself to the final composition.

This demonstration originally featured on our November 2018 bonus features e-newsletter.

See more of Jill's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.