7 painters tell us their secrets

Next week the 25th winner of the John Moores Painting Prize, the UK�s largest contemporary painting competition with a first prize of �25,000 and total fund of over �35,000, will be announced. The Times’ Nancy Durrant rounded up seven leading painters, including former winner Peter Doig, to “reveal the secrets of their work.

Peter Doig: “I draw with paint, it’s a slow process of layers and accident. I tend to work with the paint very liquid to begin with and then thicker as the painting progresses. It’s not very healthy at all, it’s so toxic, there are lots of fumes, it’s not a good way to do it. I’ve been doing it for years now.I work on a lot of paintings, on rotation. I have some sitting around that I started at least five years ago.”

Maggi Hambling: ” I paint from life or from memory, I’ve only ever used a photograph for a portrait a couple of times and it’s a photo of someone laughing, because Max Wall was the only person who could ever pose for me laughing convincingly for three quarters of an hour. I think photography’s a dead, mechanical thing. It’s easier, and cleaner, less confrontational – there’s something ugly, and raw about painting, and that’s much more challenging. Photography’s the easy option. Boring.”

Jack Vettriano: “I don’t paint from life; I’m far too scared to do that. I don’t know many artists who do, apart from, say, Lucien Freud. It’s really to do with, sort of security. I don’t want somebody coming in here to the inner sanctum who I don’t really know or who hasn’t been recommended to me. I’m far happier with somebody who I’ve been introduced to and who knows my work, and furthermore, somebody who understands that it’s not a pervy old man trying to get his thrills, and that what I’m actually trying to do is put across life as it happens.”

Gary Hume: “I don’t have a sketchbook. I draw very rarely. I draw to compose paintings, or to get ideas down, but I don’t sit and draw a vase of flowers or anything. I use it to try to make the composition work. I draw on to the surface of a painting, then I go straight in with the paint. I work on about five paintings at once, and I have them surrounding me as I work.”

Cecily Brown: “One thing I do is to play around with scale. It’s amazing how even just changing by a couple of inches can throw you completely. There are certain shapes, like an off square, where you almost can’t make a bad painting. Extend it by a couple of inches and it’s almost impossible to make anything half decent. I also try to constantly challenge colour. You’re not supposed to use black out of a tube but I nearly always had, so I started teaching myself to make very rich blacks using other colours, blues and browns and greens, that led to a whole series of paintings that were mainly grey, but rich, and when you do use a bit of colour it’s incredibly exciting. I now nearly always use these blacks and they inform one’s knowledge of all the other colours. The longer I paint, the more nerdy I get.”

Tomma Abts: “I have quite regular studio time, five or six days if I’m in a working phase and then maybe I go for seven, eight, nine hours a day, and the way I work is quite timeconsuming, so I actually spend a lot of time really painting, rather than some artists, who do a bit of painting, then stand back and look and think about it again. I spend a lot of time actually making the thing.”

Chuck Close: “No one works on the paintings except me, and frankly I don’t know why artists want to give their work to someone else to execute and then be businessmen. Why would I want to give away the fun stuff and be a CEO? So I get my assistants to do everything I hate to do and just sit there and paint, which is what gives me the most pleasure.”

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One Comment

  1. I like this. It shows what a wide variety of approaches there are.

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