John Waterhouse's Biography Continued:
Growing up in a rural Staffordshire village helped me to understand the beauty of the countryside, which I still feel so important in order to portray its true character. Being close to the subject matter is of great advantage to me for the constant reference I need to support my work.
I gave up the part-time position in 2000 in order to teach painting two days a week to young offenders in a local youth prison. I then reduced this to one day a week as the demand for my work was increasing. I have found working with these young people very rewarding, as there is so much talent that would normally be unrecognized. I have tried to encourage them to see this as a new adventure, and knowing that I may have contributed something towards turning people’s lives around has made the job worthwhile for me.
Although I was initially concerned about giving up my so-called ‘proper’ jobs, I finally got the confidence to turn to painting as a full-time position after seeing the quality and value of my work rise through doing various commissions for art collectors.
Once painting full-time I started showing my works by exhibiting my paintings in one of Washington Green’s Partnership Galleries. This gave me a steady flow of commissions and an increased following for my work. It also introduced my work to Glyn Washington of Washington Green and has since led to them publishing my work. Teaching myself how to draw and paint has taken many long hard hours in the studio to perfect, and it is now that I am finally starting to feel the benefit from it.
IDEAS & INSPIRATIONS
Many things inspire me to paint - from walking the fields and woodlands that surround the area where I live, to simply watching people going about their daily lives. New ideas for paintings constantly enter my head and I note many of them down on paper, so as not to forget them.
When painting a landscape, a lot of the information is there, but more often than not something extra needs to be added, or changed slightly. A cloud formation, a distant figure, or perhaps the way the light is falling. With landscapes I feel it is not so much an idea, but an ability to balance and compose, to a certain extent, what is already there. I find the English countryside very romantic. Fields and trees to me have their own character and history, just as a person does. By taking plenty of time to study the view that I am about to paint, helps me to decide the areas that require toning down and the areas that need to be made more vivid, if any, in order to emphasize it’s character.
Although I paint landscapes I also enjoy painting people. I find this work a challenge, which is part of the attraction for me. Just by sitting on a park bench watching the world go by can fill my head with plenty of new ideas. The store of ideas is endless. As with landscape painting, it is just a matter of looking, thinking and using an imaginary form in my head. The image then needs to be etched into my mind, as unlike a landscape, the subject matter may not stay still for very long, leaving me to reconstruct my ideas using models etc.
FROM PALETTE TO PICTURE
Before I start any painting I have to feel confident about the composition and balance of the picture, sometimes spending days or even weeks producing sketches and collecting reference material in the form of photographs, as well as using my memory. This may even involve producing a very detailed scale drawing and watercolor sketches. I then proceed with the painting, working mainly in oil. I can usually cover the whole canvas or panel in one or two days, showing the basic composition. The painting is then left to dry. The following stages of the painting involve adding atmosphere and detail. On very fine paintings, this may involve many weeks of work using a variety of different brushes.
When I feel that I have completed a picture, it is put to one side and out of sight. Then a week or so later I will look at it again. The reason for doing this is to detach myself from the picture, so that when I next see it, I get a fresh look at the impact and atmosphere. This will be my final stage of the painting, before making any minor adjustments, resulting in the final image that I am happy with.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOHN WATERHOUSE
I start the day at around 7.30am with a walk with my faithful friend Sally, a 14-year-old Border Collie. I feel that this walk at the beginning of the day is very important, not only for the physical side of things, but mentally I can prepare myself for the days work ahead of me, sorting out what I need to achieve by the end of the day.
Upon my return home I have some breakfast, and at around 8.30am I enter my studio, which fortunately for me, is at my home. The studio is very minimalist with plain cream walls and a bare wooden floor. I don’t like lots of clutter around me. I would find it very irritating, as I like to have space to move freely. I do like to stay isolated as much as possible when I am working, as I tend to work best this way. However, I am occasionally tempted away from my easel, by the sound of Mel and Niamh - my beautiful wife and daughter - playing and laughing, and I simply can’t resist joining them for ten minutes or so. Like many artists I listen to music while I work. I feel at my most creative when I am in an emotional mood and the music helps me to achieve the results I need.
At the end of the day I normally sit down and watch the television and chat to Mel about her day, usually about the little tricks Niamh has been up to (it is also at this point where Mel brings me back down to earth by informing me that I have absent mindedly forgotten to do the washing up!!).
It’s a rewarding feeling leaving my studio at night, knowing that I have achieved my day’s goal.