For a while, I’d been wanting to make a whole collection of work. I wanted to create an extended thought – a series of paintings that told a story. Such a story must naturally evolve and change as the work progresses, and the weeks pass, but I wanted to create something over that time that also remained constant and true to the original vision. A story that held its path, however meandering. A story of me, in those weeks or months that it would take to create it – something that would tell what I was about at that moment in time; who I was, what I was interested in, how I felt, what I loved.
A bold idea, for sure! I’m full of them. But I can’t say that I knew exactly what I was doing at the start. The truth is, that in the beginning, it was a whole mixture of thoughts and ideas, that solidified as I went along. I love planning, but in painting I do feel that sometimes one can be too planned, too regimented. Better perhaps to explore as you go. I did know, however, the paintings would be faces. I knew they would be women. I’m fascinated by both. I thought 20 paintings might be a good number. I’m the sort of person for whom, once decided, that’s it. So, 20 paintings it was.
I started to paint. I just got stuck in – sometimes it’s the best way. You can always start over if it goes ‘wrong’. Just making a beginning is the hardest part. I have piles and piles of sketches from life and imagination, so it was great to flick through all those and rediscover some of my old favourites, re-imagining them in paintings. I was immediately sucked in again to the stories behind the sketches. How did I feel when I drew that model? What music was playing? I can usually remember all those details. I became fascinated in rewriting the story of each sketch, and overlaying those stories with a new, up to date, narrative. How do I feel now, what music am I into now, what’s inspiring me now, what’s in the news, what am I passionate about today?
All of that began to mix with the sketches and create something fresh in this new work. It was intriguing. Patterns started to appear, and details, and a pure love for colour and shape. I got excited about the edges of the panels, and the texture you can create by scratching out areas of paint with a craft knife. The joy of the painting was intense!
Every painting, as I did it, became the focus of a highly concentrated sort of passion. Each one was like an out- pouring of all my best effort. Think of the North Star – the brightest light in the sky. The thing your eye is drawn to. Useful for navigation, and very important. Each painting, each woman I painted, became like the North Star for me; the only thing in the whole sky I could see or think about. A point from which to plot direction. The start of a map, the beginning of a journey, the opening chapter.
And when each painting was finished, however long that story took to tell, I put it down and started the next, on and on and on, maintaining that high energy over weeks and weekends, days and sometimes nights. As the series grew, I was constantly referencing back and forth, making sure that the colours of all the paintings worked together, that the mood was right, that the technical details were consistent. I am obsessive, it’s true. It’s what makes me good at this sort of thing, in some ways. Was there constant thought – yes. Angst – yes. Sleeplessness – yes. Doubt – yes, never ending. Great joy – yes. Am I horrible to live with when in this state – I daredn’t ask! Temptation to give up – yes. Giving up – never! It’s always worth it.
The packaging for this series is so beautiful too – a gift box and velvet ribbon.
Towards the end of painting the series, I began to feel nervous. I didn’t know what the conclusion of the story would be. Would my collection of work be a ‘success’? What would ‘success’ look like? Who even knows? What comes next? All thorny, difficult questions that keep me awake at night.
At the end, I fell into an exhausted little heap for a few days. Just truly shattered.
The truth is, I have no idea what’s next. Does anyone? My main hope is that others might see the joy in this collection of work, the love of the colour, and the passion of the thought. I’m so proud of it. I would hang each painting on my walls, but I hope each one will find a new home, a home that is powerless to resist its charms. I’ve managed to hold a thought over weeks and months, as I wanted to. I’ve told a story (and it didn’t meander too much). It’s all of my heart. I hope you like it.
All the photos of this series of work were taken by the brilliant Yeshen Venema during a day in his studio – he’s such a pro. Go pay him a call.