Stephen was born in Leicester. He taught in Buckinghamshire for thirty-six years before retiring to move to the North.
Stephen has worked in the acrylic medium for forty years, initially developing techniques under the tutelage of the professional artist Noel Gregory, and has also produced works in watercolour and other media. His pictures often reflect his lifelong passion for the days of steam railways, but he also has produced works of other technical subjects and landscapes. In his studies he always aims to produce paintings that are detailed and technically accurate while portraying the atmosphere of the days of steam.
Now living close to ‘Head of Steam’ has allowed Stephen to spend time painting at the museum. Having held successful exhibitions at the museum he is now pleased to present an on-line exhibition featuring 30 of his works which he hopes you will find of interest.
A New Painting....
Before putting brush to canvas research is necessary and decisions have to be made; I always attempt to be as accurate as possible. I draw a series of very rough pencil sketches to show various options and then use these as a basis for the final work.
Now to put brush to canvas. I usually work with acrylics. These paints are tremendously versatile and their quick-drying nature allows fine work on numbers, nameplates, rivets etc. to be undertaken. I use the best brushes I can afford, although acrylic paint is tremendously hard on brushes and I get through at least two per painting. This is the point where you face the artist’s equivalent of writer’s block. Sitting and looking at a blank canvas. Where to start?
I always endeavour to cover the canvas in the first sitting, although the resultant splodges may have no resemblance to the finished work. The horizon is drawn in first, all structural lines are painted using diluted phthalocyanine blue paint as this is easier to cover later. To obtain a horizontal horizon I now use a T- square. I think that nothing looks worse than a sloping horizon.
Back to the painting, and having drawn in some lines for perspective I then sketch in the locomotives, trains and structures. These perspective lines are the only time I use a rule in the painting, all future lines being painted by eye. All of this is executed with a small round brush, usually about a number 4. From here I take a half-inch brush and cover the canvas with a very approximate idea of the colour, although this will also probably change drastically as the painting progresses. I usually start with the loco, and then the train and other structures, finally filling in the sky and trackwork. Then I stop.
The next day I review the work. Seeing the initial work with a fresh eye makes a great difference and seeing the first draught in the cold light of day allows a critical appraisal – is the loco/train in the correct position? – does it want to be made larger/smaller? Am I happy with the general layout? After making any adjustments I am ready to start on the painting proper.
The focus of the work is of course the locomotive. If this looks wrong then no matter what follows the painting will not work. I therefore start on the smokebox door, completing the front end and working back along the superstructure above the running plate and then turning attention to the wheels and motion. The smokebox door is critical and seems to define the character of the locomotive.
Work then continues along the smokebox and boiler, care being taken not only with colour but light and shade. These are vitally important in creating a 3-D feel to the engine. Following completion of the upperworks comes the checking of the track and work on the wheels and motion starting at the front and working back, wisps of steam being added as appropriate.
Next comes the track. Once the trackwork was finished the Patriot was completed followed by the station, signals, signal box and other furniture (having checked the date for the introduction of the colour light signals at Rugby!)
The sky is the next part to be worked on. The base colour has already been applied, with more white and some purple/yellow included as I work down to the horizon to give the feeling of distance. The clouds are then worked up with final washes of white to make them look like clouds rather than patches of paint. Smoke and steam are next, again with washes to give a final realistic appearance and then giving depth to the background with blue washes with a touch of brown and white used to ‘push it back’ and give depth.
I leave the painting for a day and return fresh to judge whether anything needs correcting or further work needs to be done. After signing and dating, the painting is complete and ready for two coats of varnish.
The painting is now ready for framing and display.
If you would like to purchase any of the artworks featured in the exhibition, please contact Stephen directly via the email address given below. Cards and prints are also available.
Stephen is happy to discuss the size of paintings, frames and further details about the locomotives and settings.