09 Mar 2023   |  Journal

Love’s young dream!… A painting exploring the sentiment behind the phrase ‘when you know, you know’ – which nods to relying on our intuition when looking for the right person to share life with. Read on for full context.


‘When you know, you know’
160 x 140cm
Mixedmedia on unstretched canvas (slightly irregular in shape – as per)


I wrote recently about my early shift from realism to expressionism [LINK], where I also shared my perspective/approach to painting today. I find it powerful, these days when painting, to draw on personal experience – and this painting is no different. For me on a personal level, this painting – ‘When you know, you know’ – embodies just about everything I aim for when painting. Which is probably why I felt impulsed to write about it!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with painting/drawing faces. Throughout the past decade or so I’ve naturally become more gestural/expressive in the way I develop them. When I first started out way back, my ambition was to create ‘perfect’ (or as close to as possible) images that precisely resembled a subject or sitter. But on reflection (long story short), I therefore question whether I was then creating true ‘art’. It took a lot of life experience (rather than art school) to begin to understand what art really was/is and that over time naturally transformed my ambition from precise imagery to a desire to create expressive portraits that are unique to myself and my life… that I could never make again.

Having used to create highly representational paintings using a photo or sitter as a reference, I got to a point (over a decade ago) where I found it not very creative at all – and started to understand the limitations that painting in this manner presented me with. My work back then also didn’t really say anything at all about me as a person or as an artist – which I question if art perhaps should. It was more about coming up with an idea and executing it. Which of course is a tremendous skill, however, for me, true art needs to be considerably more than that. Which is why I worked relentlessly to alter my approach and output to raw, instinctive paintings created in a process that I would describe as a riot of vivid unpredictability. More importantly, a process that is unique to my disposition.

I paint today from a highly personal standpoint and entirely from my imagination (in contrast to my previous approach using photographs/sitters, etc). I have no plan whatsoever when first going into a painting (which can make a blank canvas a rather daunting little shit). I really have no idea what’s about to come out. I don’t even plan on painting a person/people (although I normally end up doing so) which makes it a pretty special moment for me when a character pops out seemingly from nowhere. As weird as it feels to write, it’s like meeting an old friend for the first time. And it can be a pretty special moment when that happens.

Expressionism generally relies on an artist’s personal experience/perspective – and is about visually expressing/encapsulating all that makes us, us. What I’m trying to say is that it’s inevitable that the work of an expressionist artist inherently explores the notion of ‘self’. I guess even a very abstract work that resembles nothing to do with a portrait/person, could be seen as a self portrait. Having said this, it’s perhaps inevitable that the character within ‘When you know, you know’ embodies at least a small part of me – although he looks nothing like me on the face of it. I like for the viewer to take on their own interpretations as to who the people are within my paintings. I try to paint in a connected way, using art as more of a force than a literal objective. This approach I find helps me to achieve my aim of capturing the essence of the ‘everyday person’ through each singular portrait – rather than precisely rendering a specific person/character/image.

The way this painting came together was a special moment for me. As is normally the case, the initial layers of this piece (over the period of two or three weeks) were doing my head in – for want of a better phrase. On the day of the final layer, two figures emerged and I immediately knew what the painting was about – having had a conversation with someone a day before relating to the term ‘When you know, you know’. It’s worth noting that the preceding layers are far from lost… I still see many hidden details including partially formed text and sentences. And the texture benefits greatly. There’s a lot to be said about trusting the process! Following the creation of the final layer, I sat back and smiled, taking it in, for quite some time. Often, painting can feel like a fight (and all of the emotions that go with that), and I immediately connected with this one as soon as I’d put the brush down. It means a great deal to me.

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