Richard Hearn

Living with a painting

“Many people browsing on, are probably thinking about a particular wall in their house and how a painting might look if placed there. What size would work best? Do I want colours that are similar to my décor or a bolder statement? What style should I go for?

I can't help with those, I'm afraid. (I don't know your wall.) But as a painter, I use a wall next to our dining room table to help me judge work in progress - sometimes deciding, on a good day, that it's moved from 'in progress' to 'finally finished.'

I paint trees in acrylics, and like to build up the paint in layers. I start with a strong base colour to avoid those pinpricks of white showing through that distract from the colour. My aim is to capture all the different shapes and character that trees can have, but also to keep the abstract elements (strong colour, texture, mark-making) to the fore.

My working method involves re-drawing with paint and allowing previous colours to show through, giving a certain charge. I paint outside, working quickly in any one session. I have to avoid working too much into wet paint or the colours will turn muddy.

The end of a session is where the wall comes in. I will often bring in a current canvas to hang on a couple of expectant nails, evicting the more permanent painting for a while. By bringing it inside and on the wall, I find it helps me to judge what to do next for two reasons.

Firstly, it gives a painting a proper focus. Having white space around it means that I can judge its edges, and see the colours more clearly than when it's on a paint-splattered table or propped against a tree. Conversely, it's when you're not concentrating on the painting at all that you can judge it. When you see it unawares out of the corner of your eye, or first thing in the morning in a different type of light.

My favourite is late at night with a glass of wine. Sometimes you can suddenly see its merits, even when the painting that day has been a struggle. Other times, you realise one area isn't working, or a pair of colours jar. Perhaps a bold colour just needs a little softening.

The best feeling is when a painting suddenly works; you see different colour combinations, textures, your eyes keep getting drawn back to it, all the decisions you took along the way seem irrelevant because the painting just seems as if it couldn't have been any other way. And you think: I might just leave that one on the wall.

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