Over this summer Rebecca Wilson, chief Curator of Saatchiart negotiated a commission for me. The process started with a selection of images to show to a client who was building a boutique cruise ship and was looking for original paintings and some printed pieces for the ship. I provided a series of images from my Bristol Presentiments 1770 series, most of which Rebecca had seen at The Other Art Fair Bristol.
And then I waited. Rebecca let me know when the pitch had been made, and that they loved my work, that was positive. And I was asked to quote for a very large painting 275x110cm and some prints of another, and speculatively for one other spot, even more positive, the works that were the basis for the commission had been selected. So I sent off a quote detailing that I usually did not do prints of painted works, but for this time only I would licence one piece for prints. And then I waited some more.
We were to be told in September. This would give me ust enough time to work in my usual way. I paint in oils in a rather traditional way hand mixing my own paints and they take along time to dry, especially with organic rather than mineral pigments . The piece selected for the large work of course used indigo, an organic pigment.
September passed. I started researching media that I could use that would speed up my drying processes. I even experimented a bit with acrylic. But truth be told acrylic just isn’t my best friend! So I made some experimental work with new additions to the oil, found out how they affected colour, texture, liquidity and of course drying times. I was in email contact with Rebecca, but although things were looking good there was no confirmation yet.
So I had found ways of speeding drying times using oils (it involves the addition of a variety of mineral based oil painting media in sufficient quantity to aid drying without impacting on colour or reducing flexibility too much).
Then I had to work out about getting the surface made. so I had already been in touch with the lovely people at artist surface to let them know about the project, and to get a quote from them for the surface in the first place. However they needed notice too. So I stayed in touch with them, dropping them an email from time to time to keep them in the loop, because once the confirmation was in, I would need them to be as speedy in making it as possible. ... And I was tempted to order the surface in advance, but this was going to be hundreds of pounds, not money I could spend speculatively...not until things were signed on the dotted line...not until the deposit was in...
In the mean time I had been adding to my Cobalt Collection over the summer , and I had noticed the incredible speed with which the cobalt based paints were drying, which set a spark but this was also one of the hottest summers ever, what if it was all because of the heat....
October came along and it was The Other Art Fair London, and so a chance to catch up with Rebecca Wilson again in person. She told me they had confirmed, but we were waiting on the deposit, so nearly there...great news. Just after the fair and before New York I got confirmation to go ahead, and happily by then I knew the new concoctions were working, they were dry and they looked good, and they still operated in ways that I wanted them to. I ordered the surface from Artists Surfaces, they were fantastic and got it too me in record time, and then it arrived....
I was beyond excited, I love working really big and it was huge, that summer I had had a studio built in the garden so that I could work really big again, and here it was the vast, perfectly smooth beautiful thing.....so big I had to get my husband to help me move it to the studio.... Then came the process of painting it, referring back to photos, but obviously not copying them, the new work is still a new work, the piece that the client chose an inspirational stepping off point, not something to replicate exactly. I used the same pigments but had to use the faster drying media, and in the process kept in touch with Rebecca, there was some forwards and backwards, working and reworking....
Then on a visit to the Pitt Rivers museum I found a map of the route of the Beagle, this boat was going to be sailing to the Galapagos too, I wanted to incorporate it
So I added it in another layer of the ochre, but was a bit too heavy, so I pulled it back, its still there but softly, in a little echo.
So here it is, in it’s final form after the go ahead from Rebecca it has been varnished, and wrapped and is waiting for the bespoke crate to arrive, that I’m having made by my lovely local Crouch End carpenters. Then it will be off to Saatchiart to sort out the framing before it arrives in Rotterdam to be installed in the ship. It’s been quite a journey, and it is off on it’s own journey now, carrying with it South American Indigo from the Andes, and European ochres to echo the perpetual journey forwards and backwards that it will make. And that really is something I find very satisfying, given that the starting point of the original piece used to inspire it were the imported pigments though Bristol docks in 1770: imported from Rotterdam, the Carribbean and The Americas.