As I prepare my entry for the Summer Exhibition I seem to be taking some time out from getting paintings together for the June exhibition to try out new working methods which may address some long-term concerns I have about all of my work. I find that I have a tendency to work up to the lines of the preparatory drawing and start filling them in to an extent. This produces a certain rigidity to my paintings which has always bugged me. Whilst I have been doing the early reductive paintings i.e. laying down areas of tone and then wiping away with a rag to produce the highlights etc I have started to do something that I have been thinking about for a while, painting without an under-drawing. I am now no longer interested in finding an image from abstract shapes brought about by random application of a monochrome oil wash and have moved on to developing a new way of working (hopefully!) for all my future paintings.
I am trying out in the painting above just putting in a rudimentary "drawing" in thinned oil paint to indicate the basic design and content and then blocking in a tonal underpainting. Any necessary adjustments can be made by rubbing out the lines etc. with turpentine and re-"drawing" the correction. When dry for tomorrow morning I will then paint over it and finish in my normal manner. I am also going to try taking a painting a lot further in acrylic first as an underpainting before going on to finishing in oil as a lot of textural surfaces can be achieved quickly in acrylic which would take so much longer in slow-drying oils. I am hoping that by starting with a more hand "drawn" and simpler under-"drawing" the resultant shapes will be more idiosyncratic and less photographic on completion of the painting. Success will hinge on having the confidence that I can bring out all the required structure and detail from a much less organised and tight matrix of shapes than I have been previously used to. I have always loved the image quality of etchings and indeed tried a short course a few years ago but could'nt get on with the processes that are involved but as an adjunct to the earlier reductive experiments I have happened upon a painted "look" that kind of mimics an etching. Although the painting below has a slightly dodgy composition, there is something about it that I like and over time I will try more of these.