|The River Vltava with National Theatre and Charles Bridge.|
This massive impressionist picture of Prague was painted over 100 years ago ...or at least it feels that way. The truth is it is only two inches across and just a detail within the picture I painted below.
|Prague: Ballarina. Oil paint on canvas.|
I know...it's cracked, and I don't mean it has cracks - I mean its a mad painting really, I see that...but so what? I painted it and it's unfinished and it's quite mad in its own little way.
|Czech Parliament with glazing.|
I can't quite believe I worked on this on-and-off over 8 years but it must be about that now. I finished it (I thought) in about a month or so. The face was very life-like at the time and in terms of likeness I thought I'd done ok, better than usual. I'm never happy with my paintings, not really. I had painted her against a dark backdrop, a curtain and the more I looked at the darkness around her the more I felt like I should have painted her in a well lit room.
I had painted this picture as a gift to close friends, it is based on their granddaughter. Knowing how much our friends love Prague I suddenly had the epic compulsion to paint the whole of Prague in daylight as a background to this little girl. It wasn't easy to paint the city in the background now that the foreground was complete. But I felt up for the challenge. Normally you'd begin with background and work forward.
|Oil painting detail.|
It took a long time and in the process I damaged her face. It wasn't a fumble or anything like that, I tried to adjust something about the light on her face and I blew it. So I repainted her face again from scratch and it was terrible...so I repainted it again. I then re-painted it again. I think I then re-painted it again. Then...I re-painted it again and then again. In fact I lost count. But the days in which I could sit down and work on a painting for 12 hours straight and repeat that the next day have long gone. I think this painting was started about the time that approached stopped.
|Pastel on paper on wine coloured ground.|
|Pastel on paper.|
|Colour print from pencil doodle.|
I had made other sketches of the girl in pastel meantime. But they were sketches and I wanted this painting to work and it didn't.
As things worsened for me with the child I found certain things happening in the background that I liked. A depth of colour emerged and the sky had a curve-linear appearance that I liked. By this I mean I felt it folded out (or unfolded out) in the way that real distance in space does.
|Cloudscape and the roof of the national theatre of Prague.|
I built this picture up in successive glazes. I also scraped back much that I'd painted. In the spire of the Czech parliament I tried in some ways to replicate a look you might see when you look through imperfect glass. You see it in some glass in Prague, you don't see this warping and shifting in modern glass, only through old windows. I also wanted it to look like it had rained and the sun had broke out over wet rooftops.
The couple didn't see anything wrong with it. All they saw was a little girl they love very much. So it goes.
The incomplete areas of this picture are the hair, face and neck...and everything else besides.