From memory

Since I seem to be going through an experimental phase, I thought I’d try painting from memory. These are buildings that I know well and have drawn from observation before, at least once, not least Tower Bridge which I’ve drawn and printed and continue to be blown away by each time I pass it or cycle over, my head drawn up in wonder. My amateur enthusiastic ‘slap it on’ paint technique continues, with no real concern for colour yet. Instead I focused on extracting what I knew of these buildings, what outlines, form, feeling, light, had been burnt into the back of my retinas like a bright sun, and retained in my memory. I suppose I could loosely call it Impressionism of a sort, where the subject is clear but the emphasis is on perception, a strong reaction to weather and shadow, and detail is sacrificed for atmosphere and the pure enjoyment of brush strokes. But I’m hoping to avoid any sleekness or technique that many contemporary painters seem reliant on above atmosphere (for example, I was bored rigid by the Ken Howards at this year’s Royal Academy Summer Show). I’ve reproduced these quite small because they are tiny sketch studies on board.

I’ve so much to learn about the intimidating and unpredictable world of colour (‘Pure draughtsmen are philosophers and dialecticians. Colourists are epic poets‘ said Baudelaire). In fact as my diploma draws to a close I feel the more I learn, the more I have even more to learn, it sometimes makes me panic, and I understand Bonnard’s observation ‘A painter should have two lives, one in which to learn, and one in which to practice his art.’  There are strengths and weaknesses in all of these, but I now love my mistakes as they teach me so much.  I’m pleased. I feel my natural draughtsmanship has served me well in recalling these from memory, it’s liberating to be left with just my head to work with, free from the ties of working from reality or drawings.

Tower Bridge. Some days it seems solid and robust, others it feels dynamic and in movement at the smallest shift of an angle. Though iconic, it’s never a straightforward silhouette, and often changing weathers imply a chemical reaction between stone and sky.

St Paul’s Cathedral, looking westwards from the choir. I’ve been working on a big drawing from this spot quite regularly, and there’s a wonderful separation between choir and nave, they align like layers in a theatrical set.

Memories of Eleanor crosses

A rushed paint sketch of the building site at Leman Street, which I’ve drawn already but love cycling past at night and wanted to recall the eerie glow of the orange machines against the fading light.

That’s enough waffle, I’d best be off to finish my last week of my diploma, followed by my very first experience of landscape painting en plein air in the Lakes next week. Eek!

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