Peter Smith comments on his early life: “I can never remember a time when I did not enjoy some form of creativity; I gaze upon my childhood with a great sense of fondness and looking back I realise why my love affair with painting will never end.
Born in the small town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire my earliest memory is of a present one Christmas that changed my life. It was a small book of black and white illustrations; the book was called ‘The Magic Painter’ and came with a paintbrush but no paints. To this day I remember the exact feeling I had when I realised that this was very, very special book indeed, you ‘painted’ the pages with water and the colours magically appeared – I was hooked!
Holding on to this feeling I wanted others to share in my wonderment so I began painting in earnest. I remember having a small watercolour paint set which I took everywhere. Cats, dogs and people were all painted in the same simplistic form but it was colours and shapes that fascinated me and quite often my attempts degenerated into swirls of colour which I now understand was the start of my art education. Along the way many things added to my development, a few years as a surveyor gave accuracy, a computer programmer added a methodical approach and a graphic artist in the fashion industry put the last piece of the jigsaw together and gave me an understanding of colour and composition, so in some small way they all helped shape my style and in turn my future.
Two years ago I decided to return seriously back to painting, something that had been delegated to a part time hobby, within a few weeks the passion I worried may have dampened was still there – brighter and more overpowering than before. In 2005 I fulfilled a lifelong dream when I was offered the chance to work with Washington Green and within the few short months I have been with them I can feel my potential expanding far beyond my imagination.
As I finish this paragraph sat at my desk I feel a little tremble of excitement and I look over my shoulder at my latest piece and smile…
I can’t wait for you to see it!
IDEAS & INSPIRATIONS
Childhood memories of long summers and cold winters, the excitement of birthdays and Christmas never left me over the years, and it’s these feelings and playful emotions I like to convey in my work.
People ask me where I get my ideas from, the quirky animals, the strong colours and strange concepts, but I see them everyday in the street, the people I meet, the feelings I experience. At the end of every day I have hundreds of images fighting for my attention and the chance to be painted; quite often I get carried away with excitement and fill my sketchbook from cover to cover within hours, which although it can be emotionally draining, the flood of ideas each one linking the next, allows me to evolve my work on paper very rapidly giving me such a rich source of reference material.
The inspiration comes from other artists too, the quirkiness of Will Bullas with his strong characters and whimsical titles but also the surreal Salvador Dali which has offered me a unusual slant on the world, but inspiration ultimately comes from deep inside drawing on all my experiences, the sketchbook contains only my surface thoughts, it’s only when painting I place my real emotions down, each canvas receiving a different layer of emotion with each session
My colours to complement the compositions come from my work within the fashion industry and provide strong visual statements, the compositions come from interaction; I like to include some form of connection between the items on a canvas, and quite often the eyes will play a big part in leading a viewer’s perception, imagine yourself looking from the viewpoint of one of the characters, look around from their point of view inside the canvas observing all the other objects, read the title carefully and try to imagine their feelings – you will then begin to understand what I really felt when I painted the piece and hopefully just like me, smile too!
FROM PALETTE TO PICTURE
My sketchbooks are literally bursting with ideas and I will flick from page to page until an image or even just a title catches my eye – fun is the key and the selection will quite often be the one that raises the biggest smile.
I choose the canvas size carefully and begin to sketch using oil pastels to determine the composition and also apply smudges of colour to help with the balancing of the piece. Here I am looking for a natural sense of form and colour whilst building the light source into the picture, it needs to feel right before I proceed further, I also draw the eyes as accurate as possible; the line of sight has a huge impact upon the final image and I need to get it right as soon as I can.
Oil paint can be a very evocative and sensual medium; just the feel, smell and the intensity of colours remind you of the history oils hold which adds to the stimulation of the senses when working. I begin the background by pushing the paint into the canvas with my fingers, this allows me to feel part of the piece at a very basic level and the movement of the oil beneath your fingers is very therapeutic giving a degree of speed and allowing spontaneous decisions to occur. I then start to work my way through brushes getting smaller until the detail starts to appear. The staining effect is created using transparent glazes of colour and copious amounts of scrunched cling-film which creates a fantastic texture. Sponges, rags and brushes are used to tidy up any areas and to add interest.
For the impossibly crisp edges a thin layer of linseed oil is rubbed onto the canvas then wiped off to help with the movement of the brush across the surface, this allows me to work on the smooth sharp curves without any drag on the brushes, glazes are applied and tonal transitions are smoothed and deepened – it’s this process that has taken so long to master.
Turning a mass of colours and shapes into a picture locked in your imagination is unforgettable experience; I hope you enjoy my world!
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…
I’m an early riser, quite often I will be down in the studio by 6:30am looking at the previous days work and deciding which will get my attention today, the light early in the morning gives you a different view of your subject and allows me to make decisions with colour and depth that can be difficult in the full sun of midday. After a breakfast my wife Jayne heads off to work about 8:00am and I begin to get ready to paint, this normally involves changing into paint spattered jeans and t-shirt, then preparing the studio. This helps to clear my mind before I do the most essential thing of the day – choose the music!
A subconscious bond can appear between the ears, eyes and hand whilst painting and I try to maximise this harmony by listening to the right music, so the selection is very important. I also have my sketchpad at hand so I can put down on paper any random thoughts and images that jump into my mind. I also lay my colours out in the same order so naturally I can go straight to the colour without disturbing my concentration. Today I’m working on a large painting called “Let me see!” a very vivid piece in blues, reds and oranges that immediately made me laugh when I thought of the concept. It shows two of my characters peering back at the viewer from the corners of the canvas looking as much into our world as we look into theirs, both with a look of surprise as if they have just noticed us the viewers looking back at them.
I usually have a quick lunch when I come to a natural rest and I spend a while walking around the studio viewing the piece from different angles trying to be as critical as I can for the afternoon session. Painting usually finishes around 5:00pm when Jayne gets in from work, but I can quite often be found just picking up the brush as I pass my work just to add a little bit more…
A final look before bed leaves me with a little smile and I retire filled with excitement again for the following day.”
Artwork by Peter Smith can be bough at Heart Galleries in Staffordshire.