As much as I enjoy the conceptualizing of my large, oil-on-canvas series, Dangerous Career Babes, the execution is something else. As I've written elsewhere in this blog, it's slow, rigourous, and tediously mechanical. Every brush stroke has to flow ar a measured pace across the canvas so as to leave no trace of itself in the surface of the paint. Every outline (drawn freehand, with no arm brace or ruler) must be overpainted two or three times until it looks machine-wrought: smooth in texture and directionally precise. After a few days of this, I am ready to scream. My body aches as if wracked with rheumatism, my eyes are bloodshot and scratchy, my neck muscles are wire-taut and my right arm numb from the relentless tension needed first to suspend it precisely over the right place on the canvas then to move it without tremor.I have to retreat regularly to watercolours and drawing, and the almost anarchistic sense of fun, intuitiveness and imaginative freedom I discover every time in them. Each mark suggests another possibility, a hint of something else, if you dare to explore it. Control of the paint is illusive: it blotches, thins or clogs in unexpected ways within the irregular fibre of the paper. The unpredictability of the materials encourages fluidity and speed but enforces long, thought-laden pauses (for drying). Beneath layers of aqueous, transparent colour, the physical traces of human expressiveness, including passion, uncertainty and fear, are preserved in smudged pencil or charcoal marks, erasures, accidental drips and smeary fingerprints.
The contrast to the painstaking, technical, and highly disciplied process of my large oil and enamel works is necessary – and even when it doesn't quite work (as in the image above!), revitalising.