Experiments on paper

"Sophie's Collar", 8" x 6", oil on Arches oil paper

“Sophie’s Collar”, 8″ x 6″, oil on Arches oil paper

I’ve been enjoying using Instagram for the last few months. I pretty much keep my activity entirely related to art, and have discovered some great inspiration from the people I follow. Recently I’ve been noticing quite a few artists working on Arches oil paper. I have been intrigued to try it as a surface, and when I discovered it was stocked by Pegasus, my local art shop, I bought a few sheets to try out.

The result… well, I like it. It is different to other surfaces I’ve used, but was easier to get to grips with from the start. You can put down a colour and it will stick almost in a gouachey kind of way, but if you want to remove a mark, turps will do that effectively too. The surface is smooth but not slippy, very even and subtle in texture. It’s tricky to photograph because it catches the light in a slightly different way to other surfaces, but not necessarily in a negative way. It’s difficult to fully explain how it feels to work on, but I would recommend it to anyone who feels like experimenting with different supports.

This is my first painting on Arches, and is a personal picture to mark my continued thoughts of Sophie. It’s nearly 4 months since she died, and the memory of her remains so vivid in my mind I still find it very surreal to acknowledge that she’s really gone. Maybe because she’s buried in the garden and I have so many photos and reminders of her, her presence still feels very strong to me. I’m not necessarily sad to think of her. My memories make me smile and I enjoy them. I am sometimes just struck by an emptiness and realisation that a relationship I valued so much is gone. My shadow has left me and it provokes a particular kind of loneliness at times. The sight of her collar, still on the coat hook in the kitchen alongside her lead, is an obvious, physical manifestation of this. I’m not going to put these items away, I like them being there; and I liked meditating on these things as I put her collar centerstage of this little painting.

A few days previously, I had visited Vanessa Arbuthnot’s interior shop in Cirencester. In there I found a bin of fabric scraps that I plundered for possible backdrops and props. Amongst my spoils was this small off-cut with a couple of swallows outlined. The allusions to the spirit flying free, while sentimental, nevertheless gave my intention some added resonance.

More experiments on paper will continue in the coming days.