Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Autumn Painting trip to Shrewsbury

Part of the challenge of this project has been how to fund the national tour of 'Year of the Boat' and our wages whilst holding back the work produced, in order to have full impact exhibitions of the journey throughout 2013 (see details of the exhibitions here).

Our voyage has only been possible because of a superb year of gallery sales, from long-term stockists in Staffordshire, Barewall, and a remarkable first year with the new Shrewsbury based gallery Millard and Lancaster.

The success of working with Millard and Lancaster (M and L) has meant the luxury of developing a deeper knowledge of Shropshire. After returning back from Oxford to Staffordshire with the boat, Shrewsbury was the first port of call to build up a stock of local subject matter for M and L. The gallery had arranged for me to have use of a town centre flat in Shrewsbury which  allowed me immediate access to the subject matter (much the same as travelling to a town on the boat) and the precious daylight hours this time of the year were not being lost commuting. The set working hours in the town allowed me to develop a flow over the week working across 4 canvases in a day over the five days, each having a daytime slot -

8.00am - 11.00am The morning painting was entitled 'Kingsland Bridge'

I have used the span of the bridge and it's reflection to form a loop that tunnels us into the painting our eyes naturally leading down the park's tree lined riverside path. The river is the River Severn that horseshoes right the way around Shrewsbury and with the Quarry park gives a relaxing green space within easy reach of any part of the town centre. The morning slot for this piece meant I was mixing with the hoards of early morning dog walkers and joggers.

The painting captures some of the autumnal colour in the bed of leaves formed on the grass. The buildings on the opposite back are Shrewsbury School and the boathouse. The school has quite a commanding presence on top of the steep sloping bank, overlooking the river.

11.30am - 2pm The War Memorial

This one was a bit of battle with tackling the statue and the pillared housing literally head-on, almost perfectly symmetrical on the canvas. This meant it was an exercise in expressively painting accurate perspective.

Quite a sinister subject matter, a striking statue of St Michael that captivated me enough to warrant a painting. He seems to have a dark side silhouetting against the light portland stone, one schoolboy on his way to the nearby swimming baths told me not to stop looking at the statue, because he thought it was a 'Weeping Angel' from Doctor Who, and would attack if you turned your back.

St Michael is there, also in The Quarry Park by the river, to commemorate those from Shropshire who lost their lives in the two World Wars.

I was photographed by the friendly Ian Sheppard of The Shropshire Star whilst painting this piece.

2pm - 4.30pm Wyle Cop

Although this was mainly an afternoon piece I spent a full day on this one at the beginning of the trip. This was the subject matter in Shrewsbury I knew I wanted to tackle before arriving here. I had walked up and down the Wyle Cop on previous trips searching for an angle that summed up the whole street. This main old thoroughfare into town steeply snaking from the English bridge over the river up to the spires of town at the top of the street is packed with character and sums up Shrewsbury as a whole. This was the best composition I could find, flipping the composition to a portrait and a slight abstraction on the buildings to accommodate them on that plane, really worked to communicate the steep angle of the street, giving an instant fun almost a cartoon feel to the painting. It is a concept that immediately communicated to the passing audience and was in turn very popular making often making people smile with a shared communicated statement about an experience. I am pleased with this piece although I had initially set out to 'move' vantage point as you scan up and down the street so it is possible to see the bridge and river at the bottom as well as the spires at the top. David Hockney's journey photomontages and paintings are an influence as is Tim Hyman's studies of whole streets.

David Hockney - Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio

Tim Hyman

6pm - 9pm The Monklands

A quick interior study for residents about to leave their flat in The Monklands, Shrewsbury for a new home but wished for a record of their living room in particular. Apart from the human sitters we have a Jack Russell called 'Gio' and a whippet called 'Pencil' in rather relaxed poses on the sofas. The whippet painting brings to mind Lucien Freuds wonderful studies