paint workbook

When I began painting I filled not only sketch-books, but also work-books with experiments in paint and mixed media. Today’s images are all from a single, small work-book. Some of the compositional images are partial collages. I was playing with ideas, trying to understand just what was possible. All the images shown were made in acrylic inks, some with added oil pastel. Acrylic inks were the first paints I ever really got to grips with. Originally formulated for use with airbrushes, I used them only with brushes. ¬†Initially I found them difficult to master and frustratingly unforgiving. However once I’d got used to the inks and learned how to handle them fast (they dried very quickly) they were really interesting to paint with.

Here are so many of the subjects that I was interested in at the time. (And indeed still am.) Rather abstract landscapes, blustery weather conditions, turbulent skies, fence-posts/telegraph-poles, boulders, outcrops, thrashing branches, pollarded trees… it’s all here, in miniature. Even Tretower (third and fourth images below) stripped by me of its curtain-wall to simplify the shape.

(Many years later, the image above reappeared in this illustration for Richard Barnfield’s Sonnets, Old Stile Press.)

The work-book demonstrates textures and mark-making: transparency, layering, graininess, scratchy versus silken brushes, compositional disjunctions, the drawn-line overlaying paint. All the contents of the toy-box are present.

I don’t make up paint ‘work-books’ these days. All the paint-work goes on at the easel. This particular work-book dates from when I wanted to keep notes and reminders of how materials behaved. The lessons were absorbed and later became a part of my daily practice. But the book is an interesting little record of how my eye was working back at the start of the journey, and I have an affection for its contents.

13 thoughts on “paint workbook

  1. Clive, I saved this post as a treat to read at the end of a long afternoon of picky design work. Haven’t been able to paint at all lately due to other deadlines, and so this is inspiring, interesting, and makes me extremely anxious to get back at it! Like Phil, my tendency is to plunge in and find myself in a thicket, so I’ve been trying to do more experimenting and trials with new media, and it has more than paid off in cutting the frustration and the spoiled work — besides, it’s fun, and the accidental results and unexpected effects are their own reward!

  2. What lovely little gems ! Gosh if I had a work book like this , I would consider them to be finished paintings anyway! The colours of some remind me of a demonstration you did here at La Crabouille once long ago. Your were still playing with colour shapes and marks , although you were also doing some wonderful paintings back home. You had picked up that striking looking seed pod , do you remember? It has filtered into some of your works. What I find so remarkable is they have your signature all over, there is no mistaking a CH-J, even with pieces as small as these. XL

    • They were just experiments, though I did capitalise on them and made any number of finished works that drew on them.

      I do remember us working side by side in the studio at La Crabouille. (I remember I overworked the piece I was painting, and lost the qualities it had when it was fresh!) In fact, one of the paintings that developed as a direct result of this work-book, was the one you have of Tretower under snow! (See HERE.) I love to think of it well-cared for in your home.


  3. How splendidly ‘other world-ish’ some of the experiments seem, I wonder how many bits and pieces have found their way up into your work over time?
    Love as ever
    B xxx

  4. Wow, so good to see these images of your workbook for several reasons. Firstly because they show me what I could be doing when I try out a new medium – make a workbook of experiments rather than try and make an ambitious finished painting which quickly founders, ends up in the bin, and with the aforementioned new medium going onto the shelf and gathering dust for a few years before I can face it again. Secondly because they are just so beautiful and very close to the things I love and explore in some of my own work. The brushes and pigments create such richness that very little else needs to be added in some cases, so those simple collages are effective as they allow the paintwork to breathe and do it’s own wonderful thing. I guess the brushes are important here too, I’ve seen you have some lovely ones in previous posts.
    I’ve bought some acrylic paint marker pens this weekend for sketching. I’ve never used these before so this post is perfectly timed for me, thank you!

    • A tip. Yes, I do have some beautiful brushes. Massive great hand-made, horn-handled Chinese brushes purchased for the sheer aesthetic of enjoying seeing them on my work-table. Do I paint with them? Rarely. I have had occasion to make collage papers with them, and they give up fabulous marks. But for the most part I keep them pristinely clean and use them as duster-brushes when I’m drawing.

      My working tools are from plastic bins in which I store my wrecked and ruined brushes. They make the most interesting marks. I swear I never throw a brush away. Even the crappiest of them with two hairs left clinging on, can provide just the right mark at the right moment. And when they’re beyond even that, I keep the handles for sgrafitto. I treat my brushes roughly and work them hard. They never retire!

      • that’s intriguing, even using the handles for sgrafitto!
        these are so lovely, full of motion and gorgeous color….such a fantastic style, and i really love the fourth one from the top, three wild animals: two facing into the wind and the third grimacing at us–i can’t believe how much is in that image! i love it!

        • In my early painting career I wondered whether I might go down the path of abstraction, and I continue in moments of reflection to toy with yet pursuing that course. The idea holds appeal for me, though I know I’d always be trying to load the die so that there were suggestions of landscapes, figures, animals, scenarios and narratives.

  5. Valuable and inspirational for me to see, thank you for sharing your process of discovery, of developing your very personal vocabulary. And such a handsome folio .

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