What Makes a Painting?

It is always so encouraging when people take the time out to write to me and share with me their enthusiasm for my work. It fills me with great joy when someone can find some inspiration for their own work in my paintings and I am always happy to provide any advice I can to help.

The essays I wrote for 'Work Small, Learn Big' and 'International Artist' are now almost 10 years old but I put a lot of thought into the articles and think they still stand up today. My work has moved on in many respects but essentially my approach to painting remains the same.

A few years ago, for the first time, I gave some painting workshops and this has caused me to deconstruct my working methods in an attempt to pass on to others not only 'how'  I make my work but also my thought process as a painting progresses.

When you are looking to make a painting, the subject matter, in my case, fields, farm buildings etc are only important in that they have stimulated you to want to create. Once you have begun your painting, once the first mark is made, the subject ceases to have any importance, all your attention should now be on the surface of the painting. Only make marks, add colour, draw lines, splatter paint which you think make the painted surface look better. The world of your painting is your world, you are the supreme being and only you get to decide what looks 'right' and only you can decide if something is 'wrong'. You have the power to make grass red and the sky black, or even the other way around but you must also apply your  own internal logic to your creation.

You probably know what you want your painting to look like, don't let your knowledge of the natural world inhibit you as you create your new personal world. It will be difficult at first to make complete paintings which satisfy you but parts of your work will be everything you hoped so treasure these parts and try to develop and grow them until you are making paintings which are expressing your inner vision.

I hope that doesn't sound too 'spiritual' and helps you a little. Happy painting!



Why Sketch

Sketching isn't just about drawing, it's all about 'being there'. The experience is more than merely visual. Sounds, smells, the weather, are among lots of factors which make up your  experience of  a place or  a moment.  How you feel inside yourself; happy, sad, stressed, relaxed will all effect your memory of the experience when you try to recall it in the studio.


Taking the time to sit and sketch will not only give you a visual record but the time spent in one place even if it’s only a ten minute sketch allows the other factors an opportunity to have an impact. Taking time to sketch means staying in the same place, looking at the same thing for an extended period. 

With the hectic pace of life today, taking time for passive absorption is almost unknown. When was the last time you stood still and observed any of anything around you for more than a few seconds before shifting your gaze or moving on?


In a car or a train the experience becomes similar to the sort of subliminal advertising that was banned a few years ago. The images flash into your mind almost without you being aware of them but they are implanted in your memory and are a resource to be used.

It would be great to hear you thoughts on sketching, get in touch at boagart@btinternet.com.