'My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.'
Norman MacLean (A River Runs through it)
Today I spend part of my year in the Cevennes, an area of Southern France that I have known well and loved since my twenties. Wild, lonely, inhospitable, with windswept, high plateaus and mountains, it is the antithesis of the bright, noisy sodium lit streets, traffic and trendy shops/restaurant that comprise life in the city. As ever I am attracted to the marks left behind by man, where someone has just left the scene or is about to make an entrance. But now my interest also encompasses the marks left by man on the landscape and the way it has changed over the years.
I chose very carefully the size and shape of canvas that will suit the image I wish to convey. I square up and use a grid method to transfer the preparatory drawings directly onto the canvas using a 4H pencil in order to achieve the detail I require. I can often alter the position of elements in the composition even at this stage and add or remove ghostly figures that are half hidden behind windows or disappear around corners.
My approach to a new subject remains the same. I always approach it obliquely from the sidelines. I wander around my target at all times of day and night, prowling about with a sketchpad, my camera and, these days an Ipad, to record the changing atmosphere. I manipulate the composition by making studies using pencil, watercolour and etchings, also I employ digital technology before finally after weeks or even months deciding to start a canvas.