I’m opening my new blog with the first in a short series of “throwback painting” posts, looking at the making of some of my older art. The idea came when I was sifting through image files on my computer and I found photos of a few old paintings - not many early pieces escaped being ripped up or painted over, so I was glad to find a few photos. I’ve always been a harsh critic of my own work, particularly if things didn’t end up looking how I’d pictured them in my head. I thought I’d share some of the back story and progression of those paintings…
“Irie, Man!” was a mixed media piece I started as an exercise in intuitive, abstract background painting in an online class with Anna Schueler. I have a fascination with abstract art; I don’t like much of it, if I’m honest but I’m very drawn to what I do like. I’m never satisfied when I try to paint abstracts myself. I admire the harmony of colours, shapes and textures in other people’s work but if I come close to creating similar, I can’t just leave it there. My mindset is such that I see my own abstracts as unfinished backgrounds that need me to add something on top.
I was determined to paint a proper abstract in Anna’s class! I did two paintings: one became “Retreating”, where I added a barn owl, and the other was the original incarnation of “Irie, Man!”. The original never got a real name; it was simply “that abstract foliage thing” (scroll to the second image above to see what it looked like). I never liked it - probably because I lost the looseness and fluidity by trying too hard to make it look like foliage. After living with it for quite a while, I spotted a marvellous Rastafarian man lurking in the paint, surrounded by dreadlocks, giving me the thumbs up - and that’s how “that abstract foliage thing” became “Irie, Man!”
Almost as soon as I shared him on Facebook, a lovely lady spotted him and fell in love, so he was sold and now lives happily with her. It’s funny how some pieces just capture people’s attention! These days, I leave the abstracts to the abstract painters and I admire them from a distance. I still try to paint them occasionally but I’ve mainly resigned myself now to mixing realistic elements with intuitive backgrounds, and I’m content with that. In acknowledging that, I feel my personal style is taking on a shape that I recognise and quite like. It’s been a journey though and plenty of my art still gets “upcycled”.