Take Two Influences

Initial Thoughts

Immediate idea Barbara Rae  and Dylan Thomas  .  My thought was based on the fact that I really like Rae’s landscape style, and that we had recently visited Thomas’s writing studio at Laugharne.

I quickly realised I knew very little about Thomas’s work and time didnt permit thorough research.

This then led me to familiarity.  Who painted in a wet, loose style?  Who’s work did I know well, who was not a painter?

I had recently been introduced to the work of Marlene Dumas, and again she featured at the OCA.  I watched the video of her at work in her studio several times.  There was a clue to her process but nothing more.  

 It would be enough.

For my other influence I decided on another poet/singer, Leonard Cohen, whose work I was very familiar with.  The day I met my husband I had just bought his latest album.  Both keen fans we have been to many concerts around the world, the latest and most memorable was last year in Lucca.

80 last month, I wanted to capture the man at his peak.  The intimacy of a performace in the style of Dumas.

My Process

First I selected an iconic image007, then set about familiarising myself.  My first work was a speedy watercolour (45x65cms) using indanthrene and scarlet lake, simply aiming for the essence and complexity that I might encounter.010

I felt I needed to be more certain of the image and I thought that charcoal, a medium I am not familiar with, might be good for darks and lights.

In an attempt to keep the work loose, I worked with the photo at a distance 003(45x65cms).

I felt this was too removed, so I repeated the exercise in charcoal (45x65cms), with the photo close to hand, much as Dumas would work004.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working in this way.  I draw very little in my work.

Dumas works in ink, so I felt I needed to replicate her process.  I have never used ink.

Using cheap shiny paper (45x65cms)006, I played with the medium.  What fun!

Finally, I was ready to work on watercolour paper.  Dumas uses Arches 300lb.  I had to make do with Bockingford 140lb (38x56cms).  011


First of all, I enjoyed working to a specific task.  Just enough freedom to feel I was in control, but clearly following direction.

Loved the charcoal.  The harshness, the boldness, the focus on line and mark.

I needed an element of structure.  I felt uncomfortable without a guide to the image (charcoal for the watercolour and candle wax for the shiny paper).

Ink ‘slides’ more than watercolour.  To paint in the style of Dumas is certainly possible.  She works with the confidence and surety that comes with time.  I am at the stage of still needing to produce a recognisable image.  Perhaps that desire will fade with confidence in my own ability.

Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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