It was during the Autumn of 2009 that I was first approached by Crowood Press to write a book for them. Although the initial idea for the subject of the book was still life painting, this was rather fluid and they were open to suggestions on other subject matter. Before taking on such a huge project there was a great amount of thought and soul-searching to be done as I knew this would take enormous amounts of time over the next few months. My main worry being that writing would impact too much on precious studio time, already being juggled with teaching commitments.
Always ready for a challenge and excited by the subject of still life things soon moved forward and the synopsis was agreed and contracts exchanged. From that moment I had twelve months to organise 200 images of my own work along with 55,ooo words. In the studio I do work from still life regularly, along with my portrait and life painting. The majority of my teaching though is from the nude or portrait with only a very occasional still life course at West Dean College. I was very much enjoying the prospect of my own intensive and sustained research on still life painting.
During the writing process I had to be extremely organised, with endless self-imposed deadlines to keep to and list after list of ‘must do’s’. These had to be kept otherwise disaster loomed! As there are eight chapters in the book I was working on one chapter per month, or thereabouts which would then hopefully leave enough time to complete paintings and pull everything together during the last few months.
From the beginning, I wanted to include a strong art history element alongside the tutorial/course format and exercises as I continually look to the work of other artists within my own practice and in my teaching. This was to be the basis of chapter 1, and as the backbone throughout the book as a whole where historical background is used to put each chapter in context, be it history of colour theory, the first still life paintings or a look at more alternative subject matter depicted by artists.
The most challenging aspect of the book was to keep on top of the writing and the painting side by side. This became rather tricky during the final three chapters when the paintings are shown stage by stage, and the writing follows alongside as a diary of each step and process. I had to work on one or perhaps two paintings during the day, the work was then photographed and the writing about that days painting began. I felt I had gone back a few years to my final year at University when I would be in the life room all day preparing for the degree show, and then spend the night writing my dissertation.
Sanity was kept throughout the entire process by focusing on one small section, or chapter at a time. Had I allowed myself to think of the enormity of the task ahead I think I would have ground to a halt rather quickly.
The book was published last week, and to finally see a copy after all this time not only seemed very strange but rather surreal. My publisher and many others ask if I will be writing another. Initial feelings of ‘never again’ will no doubt soon subside and as my philosophy is never say never, who knows?