I have not posted any paintings in the last couple of weeks: I was working on a commission for a series of 14 paintings for a gallery. Here are four of the pieces

After completing the commission, I felt a bit numb when facing a blank board.

I have talked before about having strategies to kick start or open up new possibilities of working but since I’ve been asked a few questions from viewers of my more recent video, I thought it timely to give some details about how I sometimes work.

The tile of small studies below are each 4.5″ square that might inform larger pieces but are essentially a way to free up.

They are a series of acrylic bleeds on 2 sheets of heavy watercolour paper, size A2, which I have then cut up into squares. Once they are cut up, I enjoy turning them upside down or 90 degrees left or right till I see a possible opening.

This seemingly haphazard way of working, apart from the regularity of cutting up the same size, is a great way to free myself up.

It is really important to have fun with paint and colour, to keep an open mind and a child-like attitude to play with no expectation nor structure.

Giving time to explore helps me replenish the well of creativity.

To see something from “nothing” is endlessly fascinating.

In the photo, the square studies have been jumbled and worked on with oil pastels and paints.
www.JohnOGradypaintings.com. Paintstudies

I have mentioned in a previous post how Da Vinci had a similar approach. He looked for imagined landscapes in the stains on walls.

Below, I’m looking for landscapes in the acrylic stain on board.
www.JohnOGradypaintings.com. Paintstain

The poured “crazed” part of the initial process is an acrylic fluid made by “Golden”, a leading brand of liquid acrylic paint. It’s an excellent product with a high pigment saturation.
www.JohnOGradypaintings.com. Goldenpaints

When working on this part of the painting I use all sorts of tools and implements. Straws, cotton buds, Sponges, rollers, paint knives, my nails and of course, rags.

First, I spray the board with a mix of water and acrylic flow extender to facilitate a watercolour-like bleed and encourage the colours to blend into one another.

Then, as you have probably noticed, I move the board around.

The action and flow of the paint can give me a glimpse of something. When that’s the case, I follow it to see where it takes me. An arrangement of colour or tone appears, often a vague outline that triggers a memory recall or something from my imagination.

What is real and what is imagined, I could not tell you.
www.JohnOGradypaintings.com. PaintingDemo

I leave the acrylic under-layer to dry for a day or two. The colour saturation gives depth and complexity to the finished pieces.

I then proceed to work in oils over the top, completely covering the board in either glazes or textured paint.

This way of working acts as a catalyst dredging emotions or feelings from the past of places seen or felt.

When I see and feel nothing at all, I wait a day or two and look at the paintings at different times of day. Often when I see things in the half light of morning or evening, I see an opening into the work.

This is just one way of refilling the well.

I would love to hear what you think.

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