Sketch from my Catalunya notebook, made as a background study for The Woman Taken in Adultery.
The drawing was done on the spot, but below is a photograph of the village taken from just about the same viewpoint, to illustrate how I change realities to serve my vision as a painter. In the drawing I’ve made the village appear to be on a steeper mound than it really is, because that’s the shape I need for the part of the composition it’s intended to fill, right at the upper edge of the painting. I want it to loom high, and the roads crossing below will be painted almost as though they’ve been tipped up toward the viewer. I like landscapes that almost feel like maps, and often use flattened perspectives to get that effect.
I never use a photograph at the easel. Drawings made from life are my favoured studio aids, together with notes made at the time. If I use a photograph at all for reference, then that happens at the drawing board-stage, where there’s a process of endless re-drawing to get the image locked in my brain, so that I no longer have to look at any photographic source. Fast, rough little drawings on thin paper, reduced almost to scribbles and full of life. For me photographs as direct reference don’t work. I find them to be deadening. I need to have filtered the shapes, colours, tones and modelling through my own sensibility before I can work them successfully into the stylised world of a painting. I need the alchemy of the drawn line.