Painter's Process

Sometimes a piece begins with some colour blocked areas.

Sometimes a piece begins with some colour blocked areas.

I paint with a printmakers mindset and one colour at a time on my brush.

I paint with a printmakers mindset and one colour at a time on my brush.

I always paint the edges of my canvases so the image does not always require a frame.

I always paint the edges of my canvases so the image does not always require a frame.

I am grateful to be a full time practicing artist, to be able to engage in creative explorations that can very often dissolve time. No day is the same. I have flexibility in my day; I am my own boss, even though my boss can sometimes be a very hard task master.

I believe creativity is as much about routine as it is about talent. Nobody just gets up in the morning and creates a masterpiece. There is preliminary work involved and this work is fueled by passion. I have had a studio since 2001, I am at the studio every weekday and have trained myself to work around the school day. My children are in university now but my body clock still kicks in for a change of focus at ten to three.  

In my work I aim to challenge myself to uncover a little of the unexpected as I strive to resolve any given composition and this is where play comes into my working philosophy. Creating anything is like training for a marathon; the hard yards make the end result look easy. Enjoying the journey as our process evolves is the key. Just as no day is the same, similarly not every studio day produces stellar results and I have to give myself permission to accept my failures as sometimes a mistake can lead me in a new and exciting direction.

As Artists we each have a predisposition to a particular palette, mine favors clear colours; “brilliant blue” by Liquitex and Golden’s “pyrrole red” among them.

 In the beginning however, I was a blender. Everything blended down to shades of burnt umber, raw sienna and red and yellow ochre. With the addition of black and white I created shades and tints. This palette was useful for my earliest photorealistic beginnings. I have learned however, to see colour as a mechanism  to define the same changes in value.

In Art School I double majored in painting and printmaking. For printmaking we learned to think in layers of solid colour. While I loved printmaking, the toxic oil based inks involved in the process did not agree with me so while I discontinued the practice I did salvage some conceptual approaches from the discipline that I use to this day as a painter. To simulate the layering in painting I began to under-paint in acrylics and overdraw in chalk pastel, thus holding one colour at a time in my hand. Together these ideas developed into my present work which is primarily in acrylic. Acrylic is a forgiving medium. It is quick to dry and could always adjust to my need for flexibility regardless of whether I had a few minutes, an hour or a whole day to work.

I am a creature of habit and like many artists I am drawn to particular tools. I like a flat square bristle brush in it various sizes for larger areas and a thin flippy brush for drawing in paint.

Any drawing is done in paint with very wet paint and a soft thin floppy brush.

Any drawing is done in paint with very wet paint and a soft thin floppy brush.


Composition is definitely a focus of all of my work. Composition is about relationships, how one area of an artwork relates to another. I like to think of my compositions as “Communities of Colour”, where colours pair up, form groups and compete with, react to and/or assist each other.

The aim of which is to move the viewers eye around the surface from one compositional point of departure to another. 

I employ some basic compositional devices in my practice which I find important but not an exacting science: The golden mean for example is a system of defining proportions that I casually refer to as an estimation or guideline when thinking about a work in its beginning stages, as a piece is developing, and through to its completion. My more recent work has more of an intuitive feel with less formal planning but still these compositional guides come into play as a composition evolves.

For simplicity sake I often employ the rule of thirds where these horizontal and vertical (imaginary) divisions provide the basic structure of an image. These “rules” are used as a reference point during the evolution of an image. 

Energy can sometimes be exaggerated in a painting by tweaking or distorting these guidelines. Being “a little off” can be a good thing.

A diagonal path from one compositional point of departure to another can also help the “energizing” process. 

Working in layers the underpainting stage is the most fun. It is free of intention and so carries no expectation for an intended outcome. This is usually done in complimentary colours. As the composition evolves the residue of marks applied during the layering process can become a powerful tool in moving the viewer’s eye around the surface. 

Sometimes I like the under-painting so much the work never progresses beyond that point. .And of course sometimes it is abandoned to become something else on another day. Turning an abandoned piece on its head on my paint wall has been known to inspire some interesting changes.

My paint wall is equipped with studs that allow me to hang and remove multiple panels easily. Painting a diptych or triptych offers the added challenge of multiple compositions which also adds to the problem solving fun.

That fine, “flippy” brush comes into play to transfer my thoughts to a panel or canvas, my theory being, if I am working in paint, I should work only in paint from the outset. More recently the drawing aspect of my painting practice has come into play as a composition progresses to accentuate or clarify something.

Colour and its relationships will always be a part of my work regardless of media. When equal amounts of colours opposite on the colour wheel, or complimentary colours, are placed together the eye is content. The eye reads the proportions as balanced. When the same colours are used in disproportionate amounts their reaction reads like a vibration as the eye attempts to adapt by visually balancing the two. I like to refer to this as a “Popper”. In my compositions there are some places where the viewer’s eye can rest and others where the eye is pushed around. A “Popper “is definitely a pushy little devise I love to play with. 

The end product is an evolution through layers of process.

The end product is an evolution through layers of process.


The absence of black is another characteristic of my work. I make a dark shade by adding compliments together. I find this version of a dark keeps the work active and vibrant. I also wash my brush frequently to keep my colours clear and prevent them from greying down.
Landscape has informed a lot of choices over the years. I am inspired wherever I am and search out potential subjects without realizing I am actually doing it.

I was known as the drive by shooter for many years by my family as I sat in the passenger seat on our frequent cross country road trips to sporting events with our athletic children. These reference images usually gathered in groups, were used to inspire a starting point for a piece or series. There was never the intention to recreate what I had photographed but to collage the essence of this with the curve of that as a project developed. 

Lately I have abandoned visual notes altogether and trust my painterly instincts to work intuitively. As my practice has grown and evolved my brushwork has gotten looser. I feel like I am off my game when my panels are tight but this is usually reflective of having had a break from routine that requires some more diligent practice to get the creative juices flowing again.

My studio remains my sanctuary and though my artistic practice includes textiles and more and more writing, I will always be a painter at heart, constantly expecting the unexpected, mindful of negative space and always at play at work in my studio.

“Colour quiets me, colour lets me sing. It is my language in all its affectations of nuance, of syntax of pronunciation. My voice is most clear in colour”.