Sometimes I am asked where I get my ideas from - a question that is not always easy to answer. It is often a long journey between the initial idea or inspiration and the finished painting…
There is often a gap of several months between different painting stages. New life experiences and/or painting techniques may influence the further development of the work. The final result often looks different from what I may have initially envisaged.
The painting above was inspired by a small paper collage I made in 2019, using inks, seeds and fabric on Khadi paper. I was pondering what Jesus meant when he compared spiritual transformation to "the wind that blows wherever it pleases."
The collage "blew" into someone's handbag during last year's exhibition, so I decided to explore the idea once again - but in a size that would not easily fit into a handbag!
I picked the largest canvas I could find – at almost 60cm by 60cm, it is around four times the size of my initial collage. I did not simply want to upscale what I had done before but find fresh ways of conveying a sense of mystery and movement. (Intriguingly, the word for “wind” can also mean “breath” or “spirit”, and I reckon that Jesus used a word play that his original audience may have grasped much more easily.)
For environmental reasons, I decided to avoid traditional acrylics. Progress was slow, as I got to grips with materials I had not worked with before. Acrylics are effectively coloured glues so are easy to collage with, but some of my first attempts with oil paint and feathers created an unworkable mess.
Progress was only made 9 months later after I learned about the properties of egg tempera, which allowed me to incorporate organic and non-organic materials.
I wanted to use plant materials and sand in memory of a winter walk by the seaside. As I walked against the wind along the seafront, the sand had collected in my shoes. I tried to keep my head down and my eyes half-closed, while sand pricked my face. In the far distance windsurfers raced past, enjoying the ride with the wind. It gave me a tangible experience of what it is like to be caught by a strong wind: It can be an exhilarating or terrifying experience, depending on how we respond.
It took a further 3 months to figure out how to combine my spiritual musings with my experiences of the wind and the sea.
Here are some close-ups of the resultant painting. I have named the painting “Spirit wind” to capture some of the word play – I also felt that “The wind blows wherever it pleases” is a bit of a mouthful as a title…
However, the painting is best experienced in person. The finished painting will first be shown at this year's summer exhibition in Portsmouth Cathedral. The preview is on Friday, 29th July 2022.