Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Evolution of Style - My First Painting

When I decided to write about the evolution of my painting style, I had to take a large step back to try and gain a sense of perspective. I doubt that I have ever taken the time to consider the style with which I paint.  

After much thought, I identified common stylistic traits in my work as follows:

- Bitumen and recycled materials oriented
- Minimalistic
- Geometric / Line based
- Focused primarily on color and texture
- Stenciled
- Multi-layered
- Industrial in either style or content. 

To try and understand the evolution of my style, I have gone into some detail about each of the above points:

My First Painting and the Use of Recycled Materials and Bitumen

As previously discussed in a prior post, I like to use bitumen on the majority of my paintings in some way or another.  Whilst I enjoy using bitumen because of the texture, it is not the reason that I choose to use it. 

I remember my very first painting, which I made back in the mid to late nineties, when I was in my late teens. It was a horrendous piece that was made in a sudden burst of confused inspiration.
It was made from recycled materials from my parents garage, namely on old water damaged framed print of my grandfathers that was ready to be sent to the rubbish dump. So rather than waste a perfectly fine board, I ripped the frame off and used the particle board backing as the base for my first painting. 

I distinctly remember searching through my parents garage trying to find anything that would help recreate the image that was stamped in my mind's eye on to the recycled particle board.

After a tenuous morning of going through a whole lot of junk, I ended up finding a various array of bits and pieces that would probably have been better found in a recycling depot.

I started the process by gluing some eggshell foam to the backing board and covering it in a thin layer of instant cement. I then added parts from a broken pair of binoculars, some fencing wire and a busted lamp shade fitting, among other things. Somewhere along the line I found some old green paint and a broken butter knife, so I cut and painted some geometrical shapes into the foam to create an industrialesque landscape.

My first abstract painting had now come into being. In all honesty, it was crude, awful and simple, but I really loved it. It was genuinely inspired and I was happy.

Unfortunately though, with time, it deteriorated terribly. The foam disintegrated and the cement cracked. It was so bad in fact, that I no longer have the painting - I had to dispose of it.

So, I figured that the next time I painted, it would be without the foam and the cement. 

After spending quite a bit of time pondering what to do next, I realized that whilst it was terribly impractical and limiting, I really did love using the cement. I then decided that I needed something like cement - but more flexible. Quite literally. And that it where the bitumen/rubber cement came into play.  Ever since, I have used bitumen/rubber cement in most of my paintings.

Work in progress November 2012 (image 1)


I have always loved minimalism, as it is refined, reserved and efficient, something that is the total opposite of who I am personally. When I was younger, I spent countless hours in art galleries, refining my tastes and understanding more and more about myself as a person through interpreting the art of so many other artists before me.

Indeed, a lot of my favorite photographers are minimalistic in their style and it is clear to me that it has carried across into my work.

A favorite saying I love is 'Minimalism is not about the lack of something. It is simply the perfect amount of something'.

I can definitely say that the way I measure when a painting is finished, is by identifying when the painting has attained that 'perfect amount of something'.

Work in progress November 2012 (image 2)

Color and Texture 

With color and texture, I wade deep in the colors of the simple and everyday things that surround me. Generally when I take photos, the object of the photo is of very little significance, whereas the color and texture means everything. 

Sometimes, I just want to take a dive into some of my photographs, and absorb and touch the color and texture as it envelops me.

My desire was to try and carry this over to my paintings. 

Composition plays a large part in making the color and texture interesting. In my experience, the choice of contrasting colors can either bring life to the piece, or kill it.

Stenciling, Lines and Geometry 

Stenciling has become a core part of my paintings, as I have found that it enables me to add lines, shapes and dimension to each of my paintings. With stencils, I am able to create what ever shapes I choose. It also helps me to create the atmosphere, story and environment that I am wanting to establish.

Together with multi-layering, stencils help to add depth to the piece, and it can help enhance the color and texture also. 

Put simply, lines and geometry just make me happy. It gives me a sense of creative order and a means to keep a painting on track. It is a focal point, and it gives me a way to keep a point of perspective. 


The layering in my paintings was inspired by my wife and her artistic style. Felicity is a printmaker and painter and her work focuses on a style known as 'mark-making', a minimalist approach consisting of one-of-a-kind marks, to produce beautiful and minimalistic abstract pieces. Felicity primarily creates works on paper, and layering is an inherent part of what she does.

When Felicity and I decided to create a collaborative painting back in 2005/2006, we combined different layering techniques to produce a wonderfully detailed piece that we have kept in our personal collection ever since. From then until now, I have continued to use multi-layering in my paintings.  

Work in progress November 2012 (image 3)


The industrial theme in my paintings is the possibly most difficult to write about. Ever since I was a child, I have always been a vivid dreamer. My imagination was so intense it was almost life-like. By that, I mean that when I dream, it is usually very detailed and hyper-real.

Some of my favorite dreams were in an industrial environment. To this day, one of my favorite places to visit when I meditate is an industrial landscape from my dreams. I guess it was inevitable that it transferred as a visual style into my art.   

Evolution of Style 

I must confess, I have enjoyed looking back to see where my style has evolved from. If anything it gives me a greater sense of focus. 

But like most things, my style will is on a constant evolutionary path. It will be interesting for me to see how it changes as time goes on.

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