One day, I was chatting to a very friendly taxi driver about beautiful places just a short train journey away from London. He suggested Margate and so I went the following day.
The idea of Margate really appealed to me given its history and links with Turner who once lived and worked there. I woke at 5am so I could arrive to see the sun rise and headed straight to the seafront. Unfortunately, the weather was flat and grey, and many of the buildings seemed to be shut for the winter, except for one little cafe in a square just off the front. There, I found some of the old boys having their morning coffee, so I sat down and joined them while they asked me what I was doing with an easel. One joked about whether I might paint him, but as the weather was brightening, I couldn’t ignore my reason for visiting – the shore.
I walked onto the vast expanse of beach, happy that the tide was low, and set up my easel somewhere in the middle. After painting for some time, I looked around and noticed that the tide was circling around me and that I was stood on a sudden sandy island with water either side. Quickly, I packed up and padded out, getting rather soaked shoes!
Lost in painting mode, I hadn’t noticed the river around me at all. It was lucky that my scene was almost finished.
The canvas I had prepared was a decent size. It meant I could have fun with the Margate sky.
Raoul – a close friend of mine whose studio is below my own – and I had decided to paint along London’s Chelsea embankment at dusk one winter’s eve. When we arrived on our chosen day and at our chosen spot though, the rain began to pour. We went to shelter under the Albert bridge, but before we got there we noticed that the door to Cadogan Pier was open. Inside we went, and there we began to paint.
It was incredible to see the bridge so close in the evening light with the beautiful pink-y lights reflecting on the water.
I really enjoyed the challenge of painting the reflections. Not having a head torch to see my palette was far from easy. I was relying more on tone than colour as I could only just about make out the gradations.
I recently painted a talented songwriter friend of mine named Antonio Grifoni. Until then, I had been somewhat doubtful about how I was going to do this as he rarely sits without playing his guitar.
My approach was one that I adopt when painting a landscape – keeping it loose and more impressionist than some of my other portraits. I enjoyed using more colour than I might normally, though keeping them fairly muted.
We listened to his music the whole way through. My Instagram has quite an amusing video of one of the sittings.