Loaded with Atmosphere

My paintings reflect my life, and they tend to be opportunistic, depending on where I go and who I talk to. I take a camera with me always, and I’m as likely to take a photograph of my daughter’s breakfast as I am the harbour at dusk.
I spend a couple of days drawing what I am going to do. I draw a grid on the image and scale it up on the canvas with a biro. The advantage of biro ink over, say, charcoal or pencil, is that it is permanent and will not subsequently mix with the oil paint and sully the colours.

Oil paints work best with a palette knife. A key rule is to apply paint wet-into-wet, so once the painting is started you have to stick at it until it’s complete.
Paint what is in the distance first, gradually working to the front. If there will be a need to paint over something in the background, you should plan your painting so that it will still be wet by the time you do so. I keep my colour palette to an absolute minimum: phthalo blue, lemon yellow, permanent rose and titanium white. I don’t use any browns or blacks. The only other key technique to palette knife painting is to lay dark paint down first (wherever possible) and put light colours on top, as this will further aid the feeling of depth.


DEMONSTRATION: Lobster and Crab at Chummy’s







Tony Pie, who runs Chummy’s fish stall, spends his life doing seafood displays, so I left the composition of the tray entirely to him as I wanted the painting to reflect his experience.
Once he’d done it, I spent about ten minutes taking photographs in order to get the right angle with the boats, light and shadows. I then spent a few days sketching the scene on the canvas in biro









While it is important to be as accurate as possible, detail – especially in the background – should be avoided. Look at the objects, break them down into only a handful of colours and then apply them thickly with the knife. The objective is to create the illusion of detail









I looked at the colours in the background and faded them so that when the foreground was in place it would be more vibrant. I picked out the green in the water so that the lobsters would be vibrant when finally in place (red being opposite green). I continued to paint the things furthest from me, working towards the front










Still following the principles of furthest to nearest and dark to light, I worked towards completion. Because my palette is so limited, I often ‘borrow’ paint from areas of the painting or palette that are still wet – this stops the painting looking like it has been painted in stages and gives it balance



Lobster and Crab at Chummy’s, oil on canvas, 24x30in (61x76cm)

This extract was taken from an article by Shane Record, The Artist April 2009 issue.