This demonstration was a great example of how spending time on preparation, not cutting corners, and working slowly, step by step,  allows you to achieve very complex results. Tony showed how he creates his meticulous and moody oil paintings from photographic source material.

I felt like my understanding of painting had really deepened. That may sound glib, but I think most artists will understand how rare an experience that is. Even though my art work is very different from Tony’s, I can definitely see how the skills would transfer over and improve my own working practice.

From a practical viewpoint, he demonstrated how to grid up the photo and the canvas. He drew the composition in with pencil, which he then sprayed with a satin matte varnish so that the pencil lead didn’t mix with the paint, and so that if he loses where he’s up to in the painting, he can wipe back and find the original drawing. He talked about looking at the photo as abstract, and about paying more attention to negative space than to recognisable objects, when you are working from a photo.

Tony’s years spent developing his own black and white photographs have given him his highly developed sense of the richness of blacks and monochrome, and this comes through in the way he mixes his tones. Monochrome, but with such a careful attention to the nuances in the colour, getting the exact mix of ivory black, burnt umber and titanium white. (Michael Harding is Tony’s preferred brand). Also, Tony has a very careful attention to the marks he was putting down. I was surprised by what a large brush he was using (Da Vinci Grigio synthetic flat size 20, FYI), on a small canvas (Belle Arti 30 x 40cm oil primed linen), but he was able to get a huge variety of marks from it. Take home message: work slowly, being attentive to what you are doing.

Julia Gorman 2013