I have a need to express myself artistically, I am not yet sure how that need will eventually be fully expressed. I have drawn and painted since I was a small child, art is a natural business for my hand and my eye, and I am driven to do this to help me to understand and relate to what is happening to me and the things around me.
I paint or draw on a daily basis. It is both a release and a challenge. A release because when I am being creative, I am at peace with myself, a challenge because I am forever in a competition with myself to surpass my previous efforts. I think the challenge is the greater part, man against canvas, it is a performance, more often than not behind closed doors to an audience of one, but always a performance requiring high levels of concentration and freedom of movement as I dance at the easel.
Since 2013, I have become more serious about it, taking courses, doing an online degree in painting with the OCA and at the suggestion of my tutor doing a diploma in painting at the Norfolk School of Painting. I am almost at the end of the second year of the degree and have completed the first trimester of the diploma. I am also study drawing with a professional artist as a mentor, I find this highly inspirational as it teaches me less about techniques and more about attitude towards art and my own work.
What I have learned about my attitude towards my artwork is that although the craft and technique is a very serious part of the process, no amount of either in a work can compensate for having fun and a sense of enjoyment in the process of creating the work.
I am currently working on a series of paintings that consider the scientific use of colour using limited palettes, the series is called Recycling and there are twenty-four paintings in the series. The series considers the harmonic and the complementary colours. It is also an investigation of space and flatness in particular the space and air between the forms.
In my painting Recycling#9 (Happiness) the space and air between the four objects is achieved by the various temperatures of the red hues in the monochrome study , in comparison Recycling #15 uses the complimentary of red against the various temperature greens to achieve far greater space between the objects.
I look for inspiration in the everyday, I understand that my paintings have a life of their own and I cannot predict, nor do I want to, what the viewer will connect with. For this reason, I name my paintings with descriptive titles, so as not to sway the viewer emotionally in any direction.
I have been making work from the natural forms in the woods and the way that light falls on them through the various seasons of the year also forms of Architecture and the built environment and, perhaps most of all, people; the human condition is endlessly inspiring, sometimes I feel like an alien sent to investigate mankind.
I draw more than I paint because it is more convenient, and I mostly draw in a pocket sketchbook using a rollerball pen. I draw the things that I notice in my everyday life, it could be a still life, a landscape or a cityscape and genre or portrait of a stranger I see.
About one in twenty of these drawings I would develop further into a larger charcoal drawing and maybe one in a hundred would form the basis of an oil painting. Once a week I go out fully equipped to draw or paint and my favourite place to do this is in a stretch of ancient woodland on the edge of London.
As with my small sketchbook, on my painting expeditions, I paint the things that I notice and want to draw other’s attention to I am born storyteller illustrating my stories in tones colours and shapes rather than words, that represent biographical or local detail that help in understanding this very special place.
As a student artist I am experimenting with different approaches and genres. Although I do quite a bit of still life work, in my heart that is more a sort of practicing the scales type of thing when I can’t get out there or there is no model. I do have a preference, however for landscape painting, wandering wild and free with my pochard, which is of course central to the British landscape tradition. This is when I feel most at home and hopefully, I will eventually find a place within that tradition, perhaps with a narrative element. I enjoy the colour and light of the English landscape which is probably at its most moody and brooding during the winter months.
I have been painting the changing seasons and I am starting to paint the time of day but I will need to keep my ambitions high and introduce into my paintings more drama and extreme weather conditions as Turner and Constable did. As I am beginning to struggle less with my techniques I can concentrate more on my feelings and emotions. Ever so slowly I am inventing more and more of my landscapes as the elements of the landscape embed themselves in my head, there are some fields beside the M25 that I pass daily on my way to work at seventy miles am hour that inspire me. I have done several sketches from memory and it is starting to become ready to paint mostly though my inspiration comes from walking in the landscape. Gainsborough’s agent once declined a commission to paint a country estate claiming that Gainsborough had better landscapes in his head. Bertram Priestman and Edward Seago both had such a light touch as to create a paintings out of almost nothing, I have done studies from both, and with each study I have improved and can further appreciate their genius. I have also done several studies from Joan Eardley her brushstrokes have such a tactile quality it is almost like touching the landscape as you look.
My extreme interest is in the 5 mm above the area of the canvas or board of my current painting. I start a painting with a great deal of planning regarding the size and composition, tonality and colour of the painting. This part of the process is fairly time consuming would take up probably three quarters of the total time involved in the creation of the painting. The rest of the time involved in the creation of the work, the actual painting part is hardly ever continuous as it is dependent on the number of layers and drying time of the paint. All the above are carried out with copious amounts of either coffee or wine and of course music, for it is only with music that you can dance at the easel.
Art is of course, something I find magical in all its forms, I am seriously interested in beauty and the aesthetics of a harmonious composition. Although I use most media to create, my favourite mediums are charcoal and oil paint. I just love the way that the tones the charcoal and colours of the oils become objects and take on a life of their own.
I enjoy the process of creating, but like Dorothea Tanning I see a clear distinction between the painting and the dries, drawing and painting are verbs not nouns. Once a work is finished, I do not hold it in much regard, because I know, somehow, that the next one will be better. It is flattering if someone chooses to buy it or selects it for an exhibition or even likes it on Instagram, an account my daughter maintains. I lose my primary connection with the completed work, I no longer have to feed it with paint and oil and no longer caress it gently to see how dry it is and perhaps more specifically worry about what it will do while I am not looking at it. The completed works are the steppingstones in a lifetime practical research, sometimes changing direction but forever striving onward.
Looking back on my work, the thing that ties everything together is sculptural form and that in most of my work the compositions are underlain by the Golden Section. This is a system invented in ancient times that predicts the points of interest on the picture plane that the eye will focus on, allowing the artist to direct the viewers eye around the picture plane. I think it helps the viewer to understand what I think is important about the painting. I can see the thread of an investigation running through the completed works because to me that is what they are, even though they have long since answered their particular part of the quest.
Research and study also provide inspiration for my practice and I am an avid reader of art books and a frequent gallery visitor.
The history of art is important to me and while I am well versed in the biographies of the artists, I am far more interested in the techniques that they used to achieve their works. As part of my diploma studies I am required to make studies after the masters in the age old artistic training tradition of going to the gallery to see and understand how the original painting was created and then attempting to employ similar effects in your study of the work.
Some of my favourite study resources are the National Gallery Technical Bulletins and books written by artists from as long ago as the1400’s and of course I spend much time in art galleries looking for clues to the techniques used in the paintings. I do a small amount of my research on the internet but prefer to do it from books, as much of the information in books, particularly the older ones, is not available on the internet. I have consequently built an extensive art library.
Art is, of course, primarily about vision and so I am an avid reader of scientific advances that investigating the workings of our vision. I could be wrong, but it does appear to me that the distance between science and art in these investigations is narrowing.
As I have already said I am attempting to create an apprenticeship model for myself using research, short courses and a mentor as well as my degree studies and I am enjoying the technical fluency and the technical skills that I am beginning to master feeding into my work.
I am currently engaged in learning techniques, skills, methods and experimenting with materials in my cocoon in the hope that I will settle on my own process, that although derived from historical greatness, will be truly my own and I can emerge fully winged to fly and paint my very own definitive work.
Most people know about Vincent’s Sunflowers, but few people know that Vincent’s early works were based on techniques that were 500 or more years old. The breath-taking change in technique from the antique to Post Impressionism occurred over the course of Vincent’s short seven year artistic career. Hopefully with more practice, reading and research I may discover some of the whys of Vincent’s change and progression and may embody some of this advancement into my own practice.
My long-term goal is to keep on striving at the search that is currently my process in the hope that eventually I will find what it is that I am looking for. Most of all I understand that I am Mickos and I am fully aware that no one can paint a Mickos’ better than I.