Do you remember being a kid and painting by numbers? I do, and a few years ago, I helped my kid paint one of those. You just have to fill in the colours in the correct places and voilá, you have your work of art. When I started painting what became known as my Flower Faces, a.k.a. Flower Portraits, it was exciting and interesting. It felt new and challenging and I picked the flowers in accordance to the season and symbolism. Each flower placed in accordance to light and shadow and I even did a black and white one to explore the influence of light and shadow on the painting.
I called this painting Titanium (2019) and it was influenced by the BBC series Killing Eve. I painted Jodie Comer's character Villanelle and I wanted to depict her two facets - after watching season 3, this painting became even more apt. It was probably one of the first Flower Faces that didn't feel so much as if I had been painting by numbers. The coloured faces on the black background I would find the precise colour, mix it on the palette and then paint the flower. I never sketched in advance other that the placement of the head. I find it easier to paint the face in.
Listening to artists being interviewed on podcasts and giving tips on painting has been extremely useful. I once learned about the uses of Payne's Grey from an interview with David Stoupakis. From then on, I avoided using black as much as possible when adding shading and darkening colours. I also learned that you can use the opposing colour on the wheel to darken/lighten colours, when appropriate and depending on my needs. However, my absolute favourite artist/teacher is Alyssa Monks. I came across her on Instagram around 2015/16 and fell in love with her art; I found it very moving and the style was very interesting. In June 2017, I had the opportunity of viewing her art in person in London's Pontone Gallery. My friend and I spent quite a long time just staring at her paintings on display because they are absolutely mesmerising and in person, you really appreciate the close up abstraction with the long shot realism. I tried to take a few pictures depicting this, but they definitely don't capture it as well as seeing them in person.
These two images are a close-up of the painting Integrate (2017) by Alyssa Monks. You can see the thickly laid that then becomes a beautiful piece when viewed from afar. The pieces we saw are also quite large, so we basically stood in the center of the room to appreciate each and every piece in all their intricately, finely conceived glory.
On the left in the piece Integrate and above, Grit. Both were painted in 2017 by Alyssa Monks. This is when I fell even more in love with her art. But it was in the beginning of the lockdown, March 2020, that I first heard her talk about art. In September 2015, Alyssa was interviewed by John Dalton for his podcast Gently Does It... and then again in May 2020. I listened to both podcasts multiple times because they are filled with nuggets of gold. Listening to her talk is wonderful and if you weren't already in love with painting, or fell out of love with it for any reason, she will definitely put you right back on that path. I absolutely love painting, but I am never satisfied with what I am painting. The feeling of painting by numbers was still there, gnawing at me. She then said those magic words "juicy sensual delicious paint" and those words just triggered this lightbulb in my brain of THAT'S IT! I had already read and heard about mixing the paint on the canvas, but now I had that missing ingredient of not being afraid to just lay it thickly, partially mixed and just letting those colours emerge from the canvas. That abracadabra moment where I started by playing around with impasto and also letting go of that back background and trying to limit my palette.
The first painting I did with some impasto and trying to limit my palette and not use black was Romance is not Dead. Lockdown had just started and I had just come back from an amazing holiday with one of my favourite people and I thought it was a good opportunity to try to experiment. When I started painting her arm, I went for that loose impasto Impressionistic look, but the other flowers still felt like painting by number. That was closely followed by several other portrait studies where I decided to then paint actual proper faces. I was so delighted by the results that I stuck to that for a while. And then, Alyssa Monks started releasing two hour long videos exploring the different aspects of painting. That's when things started to click a little further in my brain. Watching her actually laying down those thick lush juicy layers of paint. I painted Between Us, Around Us and became less afraid of using impasto layers. The following pieces also have thicker layers of paint. But I still have to try to loosen it up a bit more and be more confident with my strokes.
The journey never ends and there is not destination. Just painting for as long as I am able to.
To view more works by Alyssa Monks, please visit https://www.alyssamonks.com/