The process? It’s back-breaking. Drawing is easy, but painting … when I’m painting, I’m at the coalface. I don’t mean disrespect to all that – my dad worked 20 years on the oil rigs – but painting is a hard thing too. I had to work a lot to move from drawing into painting, to learn the techniques and raise my level. I’m thinking of taking lessons from a watercolourist – I love that wash, that watering-down.
After the sign-writing, I trained as a film editor and it’s the same as that: I either do something in a short rush or I take time and come back again and again. With me, it’s 4 hours or it’s 40, nothing in the middle. There’s a pace to it, a rhythm – some of it goes fast and some parts are really slow work.
When you sleep on it and come back to it, you can feel like it’s no good – your brain plays tricks on you. Cezanne – he never finished a painting, was never happy with anything he did. I feel the same. I just abandon it – I know it’s OK and that I have to stop.
Life-drawing classes, art meetups and such – they can be intimidating. People turn up and they’ve got all the best gear, and they look so confident, but then once you all get down to working, you realise that you’re as good as some of them.
I’m observational and I like to work with light, to catch an atmosphere, but I know I’m shifting to be less photographic realist. You reach a moment when you think, what’s the point, might as well take a photo, and then – and that’s where I am now – you begin to rough it up a bit, break it up. I’m breaking up the textures lately – flicking paint, flinging it about a bit and stuff, and I’m also breaking up the scenes that I see with imagined things. No, you can’t see anything yet – it’s not ready.
I did 9 years working and travelling, then 3 years film school and film-making. I was in Asia with a mate, and we lost everything. I had nothing left except my fake Vietnam football shirt and my passport. My mate, he was a wee bit sensitive, and both of us were on a downer when this all happened, so I said, let’s do something daft, and then think about what to do when we get back home. So we went and got our hair bleached and brainstormed some ideas. We got back, he dropped out completely and I went to study film-making. See, I’ve gone through different moments … you’ve got to break yourself a bit. I talk to people, I do stuff, I’ve got no scruples or fear now. I’m always moving, improving and I feel I’m still finding my style. I know I’m not a brilliant artist but I’ve never had a total disaster. I keep thinking about Kerouac: they say that book took 7 years to study and 2 weeks to write.