|really bad photo of two new smaller works in progress featuring skulls © christine mercer-vernon|
Please talk me through the process you follow when designing your drawings and paintings Do you work instinctively, directly onto the canvas, or are your works pre-planned, using sketches and photographs?
I actually work a number of ways. I spend a lot of time just thinking and conceptualizing ideas, sometimes, I have a title, then work backwards to create the still life. My larger paintings develop out of experiences and moments and are rarely crafted ‘just because’. I have a small sketchbook I’ll record thumbnails in as ideas come to me, then I can come back to them when I’m ready.
I work both from life and from photographs that I have taken of my setups. For the majority of my works I begin with a very detailed drawing on tracing paper working quickly to address the major shapes, then just layering a new piece of tracing paper overtop of my rough drawing to refine it further. I keep going like this until I am happy with the drawing. After transferring I try to tackle the more difficult areas first completing as I go, although sometimes I will utilize layers and glazing if needed to attain the effect I desire. For some smaller works, I’ll just begin with a blank panel and work directly.
Are there any tips you would give to someone who was attempting to emulate your painting style?
Other than copying another artist’s work for study (with proper accreditation), I generally advise against emulation of another artist’s style. Learning their technique is a great way to understand how they work and a valuable learning tool but spending time at the easel and taking all you’ve learned and developing one’s own style will benefit the artist greater than trying to emulate another. Finding one’s voice and style as an artist takes time and experimentation and a lot of time at the easel. I paint the way I do, not because it’s how I’ve wanted to paint, but because I’ve spent a lot of time just painting and letting my style and preferences develop over time.
Do you always paint/draw first hand, from a photograph or from your imagination?
I am a realist artist, therefore, I always work from a reference of some sort. All my still lifes are set up in my studio. Sometimes I will photograph them if lighting/time of day are important or if the possibility of the set up changing over time is present. I always work from life on my skull drawings, using a pair of close range binoculars to see the details. Accuracy and detail are important to me, but I also like to make sure that in the end, the viewer realizes they are viewing a painting, not a photograph.
What is your favourite material to use? Do you like to experiment with any other utensils or products?
I used to experiment a lot, but I’ve simplified and now I work exclusively with charcoal, graphite and oils. Sometimes I will still work in watercolors, but mostly for my own enjoyment, or to use up old supplies!
Which artists have influenced your work? In what way has your work been shaped by others?
I am drawn to the old masters and can never spend enough time in front of an Ingres painting, Rembrandt painting, or any of the dutch masters floral still lifes. I’m particularly fascinated with vanita's and keep a pinterest board of them here: http://www.pinterest.com/mercervernon/vanitas/
I’m more interested in a painting if it has something to say, even if the message is merely to convey beauty, and strive to work this way in the majority of my paintings. My work has been more influenced by todays amazing realist artists only because their works force me to constantly evaluate each painting to be sure I am putting my best work out there. There are so many amazing artists out there today and I keep another pinterest board of works that I find inspiring here: http://www.pinterest.com/mercervernon/art-that-makes-me-sigh/
Here's a rough photo time lapse of the drawing for my new onion painting, taken in 15 minute intervals.
© christine mercer-vernon
Can you show me work in progress or semi-complete artwork? I would love to understand the process you go through and how you apply media at different stages of your paintings?
In progress works can be seen on my blog and my instagram feed:
Are you currently working on any new paintings? I would love to hear.
Of course! I’m a slow painter, but I usually have several works in progress at one time. Right now I am working on a small still life with an onion I grew for 6 months and let die down, as well as 4 smaller works, two of which contain skulls of a fawn and a turkey. I have thumbnails fleshed out for seven more larger works once I complete these, plus a series of small alla prima studies of all the skulls in my collection.