I recently started a new project called the Mini Collection. I first got the idea a few months ago when I was drifting off to sleep (which is how 90% of my ideas are born) I had become frustrated with painting one theme for weeks on end, be it London or Bristol and wanted to find a way to stay motivated and excited about painting every day.
I get a lot of ideas throughout any given week and am constantly thinking “oh that would make a great painting” or “I’d love to explore how light breaks through trees at sunset” but I was always committed to doing something else, so had to put all these impulses on the back-burner. So, after my 4 recent shows were over, I decided to give it a go and paint one 18 x 18 cm painting every day and put it up online. This daily painting practise is not a new thing, it was first popularised online by Duane Keisar who sells small daily paintings on eBay. I remember looking at that work and thinking how lovely it must be to rapidly experiment like that, plus the work was good.
I made a wet carrier to hold eight 18 x 18 cm boards and went out to Severn Beach in North Bristol to start the project off. It was a windy, wild day and I had an absolute blast. I’ve always loved painting small, there’s something wonderfully intimate about a little painting. The small scale means you have more time to plan a composition and mix really good colour because you’re not worrying about trying to cover a large surface, you’re just focussed on making every square cm count.
Another reason I wanted to do minis, was it finally gave me a chance to capture all the day-to-day images I see while riding my bike, or out with the kids on a weekend. I can whip out my phone and grab a shot of a view in a few seconds which is great when I don’t have my painting stuff with me. I recently got a new smartphone that has a very good camera on it that shoots in RAW mode just like a proper camera, so I can edit the pic back in the studio in photoshop and get something incredibly close to what I saw when I took it to use as reference. I’ve always had a very good visual memory and have enough experience of painting outside, that interpreting a photo with oils is not a struggle.
Now, this isn’t painting from life, it’s not traditional plein air painting, but who said every painting has to be? These days, my main priority is producing images in oil paint that scratch my itch. I’m interested in making beautiful pieces that are love letters or poems to the visual world. I’m not obsessed anymore with doing everything on location. I want to interpret a scene more and use my creativity and skill to tell a more engaging emotional story which comes from me and from a state of empathy, rather from a place of mere literal recording.
Does that make sense? It’s easy to get stuck in your own Dogma about how everything MUST be done. This was the case for a long time with me and initially it helped in a lot of ways. I painted from life for 5 years, forcing myself to learn in a lot of very difficult circumstances. But after I’d put in my 10,000 hours, I decided I could experiment with studio painting and it’s been a revelation. There are just things I would never have learnt if I had painted outside exclusively.
Drawing has been one new change to my working practise and it’s been so wonderful to get stuck into again. One 2B pencil and I’m in heaven. Coming from a background of illustration, the muscle memory just kicks in and I’m off, trailing lines around and varying the pressure and wobble. It’s another dynamic that just adds to the painting, as the pencil shows through the paint film and gives another layer to the story.
I’m planning many, many more minis, so keep and eye on the website and sign up to my mailing list if you want to be first to hear when new pieces are uploaded. They are selling well and the reaction so far has been fantastic. It seems there’s a lot of people out there that feel £200 is well worth a punt. Plus they really hang well as a set, so you can just keep adding them.
Making the packaging for the Mini Collection was also an integral part of the project. I got great satisfaction from designing a new logo and screen printing it onto my new boxes. Presentation matters and it just feels good to send work out knowing it looks awesome before they even open it.
Ive never been this happy as a painter.