I’VE RECENTLY ENJOYED BOTH BOOKS BY JOE FIGG, INSIDE THE PAINTERS STUDIO AND INSIDE THE ARTIST STUDIO. HE INTERVIEWS DIFFERENT AMERICAN PAINTERS ABOUT THEIR PRACTICE. A GOOD LIGHT READ IN TIMES OF PAINTERS BLOCK. WORDS BY ADAM DAVID TAYLOR WWW.ADAMTAYLORARTIST.COM @ADAM_DAVID_TAYLOR
I live and work in a rural village a few miles outside of a town called Narberth in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It’s only a couple of miles from the coast. Before living here, I’d always lived in cities. There’s isn’t an art scene or any trendy restaurants or bars in this corner of the country but the coastline is probably one of the best in the UK and it’s quiet and peaceful here. When I first moved here I got a job with a foraging company collecting wild food. I’d spend hours on the estuaries and coastline and it definitely crept into the work I make now.
I had a studio built in my garden so I only have a short walk to work! I’m hoping for a bigger space down the line but this works well for now as I have a young daughter, so I’m flexible with my time. Art is my path to a more interesting life. I get to travel and see amazing places and it’s given me freedom. It can be frustrating and exhausting when things don’t work the way I’d like them to; but it’s given me the only life I could live.
My beginnings? I imagine a lot of painters answer this the same way, it started as a young child at school. I was of fairly average ability but art/drawing/painting was something I always excelled at. I used to draw cartoon characters and dragons and the other kids would think it was cool. I’d copy movie posters I liked in oil pastels and think they were amazing!
When I was a teenager in the 90s, I was gifted some oil paints my grandmother had kept after she’d been on an oil painting course in the 1960s. Most of the paints were still fresh, and I just got into using oils from that time. Today? I’m currently working on some very small A5 paintings for an upcoming exhibition, playing around with different shapes on a black background, all very abstract and there’s around 17 in the series at present. I have this production line where I paint ten pick the five best and then sand off the bad ones and try again.
What is more interesting for you, the original idea, the process or the completion and seeing the finished work? For me it’s definitely the completion. I love seeing my work hung together at an exhibition. My studio is small so I don’t really get an idea of a body of work until is hung in the gallery. It always surprises me and there’s a disconnect that I love. It often feels like it’s not my work anymore and I’m looking at it for the first time.
I usually don’t enjoy the process of painting as it’s a battle. I never go into a painting with an idea of how it will look finished and it’s just a case of figuring things out and fighting with it, lots of rubbing out and repainting. Without being too dramatic, when a painting isn’t working it’s a really low feeling. Every time I begin a new painting it’s like starting out for the first time and everything I’ve learnt has gone, it can be very frustrating.
Any secret that can be told? I start with a base layer or ground of usually blue or pink with is a mix of oils and various mediums that gives the paint a gloss enamel finish which I love to paint over once it’s dried. I usually then grid the painting into 9 sections which I feel helps with composition and I like the disjointed feel it creates. My secret I guess is once my blue ground layer has dried I paint the whole piece with bitumen (it’s like a tar for preserving wood) and then using white spirits and a rag remove most of it. It tints the ground layer a warm yellow turning the blue to a turquoise and the brown bitumen remains in the recessed areas giving a distressed appearance. It’s horrid stuff but I’ve not been able to emulate it using traditional oil paints.
Once I’ve finished the grid over my blue/pink layer it’s just improvising. I find that when I have a set idea of how a painting will look, it usually doesn’t work or disappoints so it’s a lot of mark making and then rubbing out. Often the mistakes, once rubbed off leave a slight ghost that will take me down a different path and create something interesting. It sometimes feels like I do more looking and considering than actual physically panting. A painting can sometimes take a few hours or a few weeks, depending on how things go. Most of my work will start with lots of busy marks that I then remove to make the painting as minimal as it can be. I’m very attracted to minimal painting.
Motivations? I think it’s probably trying to prove myself and doing the only thing that I feel that I’m ok at. I’m not sentimental for the past at all and have always had this belief my best work is still to come. I’ve spent so many years in terrible jobs, painting has been a life raft out of those situations and I’m so much happier as my own boss. It’s a strange ‘job’ to do really – you’re making something nobody has asked for, you’re just hoping it will resonate with someone.