Frequently Asked Questions
With a few variations, Paul is asked the same questions repeatedly. These are listed in the usual order in which they are asked.
1. How long does it take to do a painting?
It is amazing how many times this gets asked, and most artists must surely get asked the same thing. Some people seem genuinely disappointed to find that a small painting they imagined must take a couple of months could maybe be painted in a week or two. However others seem to be mentally trying to divide the price by the hours to find out what they think must be the artist's hourly rate.
Every painting is a different challenge and a different size and it is sometimes difficult to know when to stop anyway, to decide when a painting is finished.
Also, the process of painting a landscape involves a lot more than brushing on the paint. There's finding the right scene to begin with and there's often research and consultation before and after that to establish what needs to be painted. Then there's the composition, sometimes using sketches and sometimes with photographs, and sometimes including some extensive manipulation on a computer. Then a canvas has to be stretched and prepared - and all that before even putting paint on the palette. And afterwards there's a trip to visit the framer and choose the best molding combinations.
I usually say that when I sign the painting it is finished - but often I still see more I want to do on it over the next days or even weeks. The truth is, there are just too many variables to put a time on how long it takes to paint a painting.
2. What sort of paint do you use?
I use oil paints almost exclusively. (See the Technique page for more information.) I use mostly the Rowney brand, but I also use some Art Spectrum oils.
3. Do you do your own framing?
Absolutely not! I would probably make a mess of it! I specialize in painting and I use a specialist framer to make my frames. In my opinion I think I have the very best picture framer in the country - David Marsh of "The Framing Studio" in Queenstown, New Zealand.
4. Which art school did you attend?
I didn't. I am self-taught.
Actually my high-school art teachers virtually inoculated me against formal art training. Their lack of interest helped me decide in my early teens that formal art training was probably a waste of time. Any attention they did give was in an effort to try to make me paint like one of the contemporary New Zealand artists in vogue at the time - a technique anyone could learn in a few hours.
However I'm thankful for this - that my first high-school art teacher organized a trip to the Auckland Art Gallery to see the John Constable exhibition in 1972. I was very much inspired by that to paint myself, so I worked hard at my paper route and earned money to buy good materials and then began painting at home. When I took several framed oil paintings to school at the end of one school term for marking no-one really believed they were mine. Because of that I think I only got a "C".
The moral of the story: If you think you can paint then push through the hindrances and you'll eventually get there - art school or not.
I do attribute a great deal of my early inspiration to two artists who were helpful to me when I began painting as a boy. They are Randall Froude and John Speedy, and I am thankful for their tips and encouragement during my teens and over the years.
I suppose you could say that inspiration plus hard work have been my art school.
5. How many styles of painting do you do?
One. My style. If you are talking in traditional art-genre terms I paint representational paintings, but I think of the style as being impressionist as I try to paint not just what I see, but what I 'feel' from the scene, especially in terms of color temperature. You may discover 'interesting' colors in unexpected places when looking closely at my work. This is usually because I usually apply warm colors to bright regions and cool colors to shaded areas of a scene or figure - and they are not necessarily the colors you'd expect as I may use complimentaries for effect. So I often refer to my style as "realistic impressionism".
6. Do you only paint when you are inspired?
Yes. But I can be inspired not only by the beauty of a scene but sometimes by a deadline for an exhibition! Or perhaps the desire to fill a beautiful new frame! Besides that, I live in an environment where inspiration is around every corner - and every second visitor reminds me of that!
7. How do you get a painting to look so real?
I tell people that it's just a matter of putting the right color in the right place! Really it comes down to seeing the important detail to begin with. I pay attention to some significant cues, such as the various forms of perspective, especially aerial - to indicate distance, and lineal perspective of shadows. Some would argue that you could use some strange colors and if the values and perspective was right the painting could still look realistic. That's probably true but I generally don't venture too far along that path.
8. How do you paint such detail?
Actually I tell people that I paint an illusion of detail. I try to accurately suggest detail in a few areas and paint repeated 'short-cuts' of that throughout the rest of the painting. For me that's the key to a more 'painterly' painting. I admire the patience of the artists who paint every leaf of a tree, but I prefer a painting which looks complete and detailed from across the room but up close looks a bit interesting with some seemingly random jumbles of color and shapes.