Trisha Hardwick paints highly detailed, realistic still life arrangements of fruit and ornaments including vases, bowls and jugs. Her paintings pay homage to the great still life painters of the past, including artists like Sanchez Cotan of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. There is a timelessness to the work, as well as a stillness; indeed these painting could very well have been executed in the 15th century. Often demonstrating her impressive technical skill, Trisha Hardwick will choose to paint the imperfections of the objects, for example small chips or cracks in a vase, which makes the subject of the paintings seem all the more real. Trisha has been painting for 24 years and shows regularly at Contemporary Fine Art Eton and the Wren Gallery in Burford.
English Plums & Stem dish – 16Wx12″ – oils on linen
Trisha Hardwick on Making Art
Lisa: One aspect of your work that stands out is your ability to describe the surfaces of objects with such sensitivity and delicacy; you must need a very smooth surface to work on in order to achieve this. Please can you tell us a bit about the choices you make about the surfaces you paint on that help you to create your paintings?
Trisha: Although I do always seek out the smoother type surface, my main objective is to depict items in such a manner that anyone not familiar with them would know instinctively what they would feel like to touch or pick up. If something is heavy, then I try to achieve that impression, same with delicate items, and so on. For oils on stretched canvases, I use a fine or extra fine linen, and either oil or universal prime as long as it has a little bit of ‘grab’ to it. I find the better quality linens such as Belgian or Italian produce the best for my purposes.
Lisa: What brushes do you like painting with and do certain types of brushes lend themselves to painting certain subjects?
Trisha: I smile here ..I have a 15 drawer stationery filing cabinet, more than half of it full of brushes sorted into various shapes and types. For backgrounds, I use a fairly wide, flat hog brush. When moving on to the main objects in the painting, I switch to a smaller flat hog or stiffer synthetic, sometimes using a filbert of the same types, and as I progress, the brushes become smaller and more precise: synthetic filberts with a bit of spring, round synthetics, then sable filberts, flats and rounds for more precision or detail. Sometimes, a favourite type of brush will be discontinued, and so begins a trawl through any available to find the nearest equivalent! Hence the drawers full of brushes – some designated as ’emergency only’, but some stockpiled when discontinued or likely to be.
Little Apples – 12Wx10″ – oils on linen
Lisa: What are your favourite brand/s of paint and why? Do you only ever use oils in the studio? And what other recommendations do you have in the studio?
Trisha: At one time, when working with both fine art and commercial artwork, I used acrylics, liquid acrylic, & alkyd.. I have many colours in different brands which, although often named the same, or with the same pigment ID, can vary a great deal. Some years ago, we ventured to try Vasari – at that time only available direct from the New York maker, now with just one other supplier: Jackson’s. These paints impressed in a big way: not only are they just about the most pigment loaded brand, they are just pure pigment and oil. They may be more expensive than most, but being highly pigment loaded, and without extender & fillers, they do go further. Other brands which I consider to be in the better league are Williamsburg (unusual & rather beautiful earths!) & Old Holland, and I also use a few selected colours in Mussini, Talens Rembrandt, Holbein, & Daniel Smith Autograph (now unavailable). For some colours, the pigment load and covering capacity is important, and as such, Vasari is probably my most used brand for those qualities and also the colours themselves. With others it’s the colour itself or the quality of transparency for glazes. As such, there are various brands where I use just one or two colours from the range. As for materials in general, for me, experience has shown me that an artist should always use the very best that they can afford. When I first began painting seriously, all I had were books and magazines, and many had somewhat manufacturer biased tutorials and reviews. I often read that student quality was best for learning, and it was a slow enlightenment that led me to understand that the better the quality of grounds, brushes and paints one used, the better chance of improvement and realising potential. Once I did realise that, I progressed far better and with more purpose. It wasn’t unusual for me to ask for specific materials as Christmas or birthday gifts! I don’t doubt that apart from the better quality materials producing better results, there’s an element of the psychological knowledge in knowing that one is using something a little more precious, and therefore there’s the incentive to try producing better work in order to justify this superior stuff! Even top quality linen can be found on very reasonably priced panels (Jacksons), which can be far superior & cost effective compared to some lesser brands of ready-made stretched canvases.
In the 90’s, an artist told me not to drool over a studio easel I was looking at because no way would it make me produce better work. I continued using the wooden table easels my Father made me, but on a trip to London, saw a fairly basic H frame easel at sale price in a store just hours before we were due to come home. We had a rather uncomfortable drive North that day with said easel wedged between us, but that easel made me so appreciative of what I’d bought, I did all that I could to justify its purchase, and with better results. Some years later at Christmas, my Husband and Father between them bought me a ‘real’ easel: A Best oak studio easel with a crank to raise and lower the canvas: a wondrous thing that put me in mind of a schooner as I pulled it into the centre of the studio each day. I’ve also had a Sorg easel for some years now, and do love the counterweight mechanism that allows raising and lowering just with a light push. Both are in daily use. ..and stored in a cupboard are the table easels made for me long ago.
Trisha’s Prized Easels
Lisa: How do you select a palette to work with for a painting – do you have any ‘must-have’ colours?
Trisha: I do have a fairly standard group of paints always on the side bench in a sectioned low wooden box (made by my son years ago), and into a small box go all the tubes I’m currently using on a painting, and then get put away again when finished. Sometimes, I want a particular shade of a colour, and as a result, I have a few brands of the same colour – some better than others. This is where my other 15 drawer stationery cabinet comes in: in the lower drawers are spare tubes of most used colours and various miscellaneous tubes. The top 8 drawers have a colour card in the front slot for different colours. These are the drawers I go to when I want a less used shade/colour, or need to find something a little different from my usually used one. These drawers are full, so I can usually find just what I’m looking for ..and sometimes those which I’d forgotten I have! There are some quite rare (and toxic) paints in there too: Genuine Vermilion, Manganese, and Chrome Green. Smalt, Lead Tin Yellow, Chrome Yellow, and various lead whites. One drawer is rather special: That friend in LA made me some sets of bespoke paint suited to my own work. They include various subtle greens and blues varying from pale to deep hues. He even made me a special warm lead white and a deep warm charcoal grey.
As for my ‘actual’ palette …it wouldn’t inspire or particularly interest anyone. I use the tear-off type and it has blobs & patches of paint in the same sort of places I’ve always put them, but in no order that would make sense to anyone with knowledge of organised palettes. To be honest, they look far from professional! 🙂
I always write the title, size & date in the top LH corner, and make notes on colours/brands used at the side or underneath – fresh sheet for each painting.
Some years ago, I realised that there were times I wanted to paint something in particular and couldn’t quite recall what mix of which colours I’d used in an earlier painting. Seeing I keep comprehensive records of paintings, it’s fairly easy to pinpoint when a painting was done, so I now have palette sheets in box files going back to 2005 ..a file for each year.
Current and two most recent years are in standard office box files, prior to that are in shallower black archive boxes.
Lisa: How much time do you spend colour mixing, do you ever use colours straight out of the tube?
Trisha: I use a few mixed colours – some are the tubed ones made by my friend mentioned above. The most used colours are best mixed in a larger amount and tubed in the studio. Other colours are mixed on the palette as I work, and sometimes I’ll pick up small amounts of two or three colours and blend on the canvas. It all depends on what I’m painting at that time.
I only put out as much paint as I think I’ll use that day. Painting in thin layers, heaps of mixed paint aren’t usually necessary apart from larger areas such as backgrounds.
Muffins, Butter & Spiced Sugar – 18Wx14″ – oils on linen
Lisa: Can you describe the process of starting a painting – what decisions do you have to make before you finally apply paint to canvas?
Trisha: I often find the initial decisions the most difficult part. Unless I already have a really firm idea of what I’ll paint and what the composition will be, I may only have a notion of one particular component ..could be a bowl, jar, or a particular fruit. Not so difficult if it’s a small painting, but anything else needs more thought. It’s not unusual for me to do absolutely nothing but think for a few hours about exactly what I’ll use in the painting before I actually begin. I like to see the whole thing in my mind’s eye first.
The first notion is obviously the main subject of the painting, and then I will mentally add or subtract other items until I have everything in mind that I’ll use. Then I need to select the right size of canvas (I keep quite a stock of canvases in the hope that I can be prepared for most things).
The next step is to assemble whatever objects I intend using in that painting, finding any relevant photographic files that I may have taken of objects or fruit, and deciding on the colours I’ll first use.
If the main object is a jar for example, I will lightly mark the position & outline of it, and the vague position of the table surface. I begin painting the background, and then, using mostly thinned down background colour, begin drawing in and defining the composition with light & shadow, while at the same time tightening the background colour around the items until everything is in the right place and the right size/shape. All this is done while the paint is wet, and it’s then left until the next day when hopefully the lightly defined objects are dry and application of colours can begin.
Lisa: What techniques and mediums do you use in your painting and how do they enhance your work?
Trisha: I don’t always follow conventional paths, so a teacher would employ far different methods – I use what has developed into the best way for me to work. There is no ‘magic secret formula’ for mediums. The old masters developed their own techniques, often experimenting, and not always with a good outcome, but they did pave the way for our better understanding of mediums, including resins & balsams, and how they work. Once I realised that, I stopped looking for something that didn’t really exist, and sought out the best versions of what I perceived to be the most useful mediums etc for me. At one time, I used just paint and mineral spirit! As I learned more, I began using distilled turpentine for thinning or damping my brush, and gradually found the right mediums for my use. I do use a light oil medium for the first layer of the painting. It’s no longer made, but I stockpiled enough to last me for quite a number of years. In subsequent layers, I’ll use a quick drying medium to enable new layers each day if needed, and then move on to a Maroger or glazing type medium. There are many resins, balsams and oils which can be used for various reasons in an oil painting, and studying what each of these does gives an easier understanding of how one can use these to produce better paintings according to the individuals painting methods.
Pears & Wine – 18Wx12″ – oils on linen
Lisa: When do you know a painting is finished?
Trisha: I think that as I work on a painting, my eyes are forever roaming back and forth and assessing things. It used to be a tortuous task coming to the conclusion that it was done to the best of my ability, and I would sit and stare at it from a distance for some time or leave it where I’d see it at odd times. Now I seem to know more instinctively when it’s finished ..I suppose it’s when I perceive nothing nagging for more attention. Sometimes, before a painting gets varnished, I will decide to adjust something if I see a need.
Lisa: What is your studio like? What art materials/art equipment would you not be able to live without?
Trisha: At one time, books and photographs covered every surface in my studio. Since the advances of computing and digital photography, I can keep books in a bookcase, images on my hard drive. It hasn’t made my studio any tidier though ..I seem to have objects intended for use in paintings everywhere! I like nothing better than finding a new item to inspire a new painting.
After the computer and associated peripherals, there’s a phone, L shaped workbenches which combine to give a desk behind the easel and painting materials to the side, a music system, TV (heard more than watched), chest of drawers with stationery & materials, a double office cupboard with smaller canvases, panels, files, objects/props etc; two studio easels, and a two tier shelving unit opposite the easel that I use for set-ups of whatever I’m painting. There’s also cameras & tripod, etc.
It’s well lit with studio lighting to give the best colour control once it’s dark outside. French windows give excellent NE light during the day.
I suppose it would be crass to say I couldn’t live without any of it, but I do value and use it all. It’s often far from tidy, but I do clear up and put things away quite frequently. I don’t like running out of anything, so always try to have spares of most used paint, canvases, brushes, turps etc.
The most meaningful items in here are that oak easel bought by my Father and husband, and my Fathers watch on a shelf. My Father died in 2004, but he was a great source of encouragement and help, as are my family.
Plums & Silver – 14Wx10″ – oils on linen
Trisha Hardwick on Exhibiting Art
Lisa: How did you find gallery representation?
Trisha: From early 1990, I’d been showing with an art society quite successfully, and at the same time began working with a licensing agent. Meanwhile, through magazines, I began taking note of galleries, and where I may like to show when I felt ready. During a visit to London in winter ’97, I visited Llewellyn Alexander, and they agreed to show work in their next year’s Not the Royal Academy exhibition if I first submitted to the RA Summer Exhibition. That turned out well the following summer with one painting accepted & sold by RA, the other two by Llewellyn Alexander, and I began showing with them.
In the preceding spring of ’98, I had a meeting with a licensing client on the Kings Road, and after lunch was taken to the Chelsea Art Fair opposite. I’d never been to an art fair before, and as we looked around, I saw a couple of galleries that I liked and marked them in the catalogue for future reference. Within a couple of months, I’d visited and sold work to one of the most respected art dealers in London, and 9 years later was approached by the other gallery that I’d marked in that catalogue, along with another equally good gallery. I still work with those galleries now.
In ’99 I saw an ad in an art publication for a new gallery in Leeds (Reubens Gallery). I applied, and was accepted for my first solo exhibition in 2000. I worked successfully with them until the gallery closed some years later. At the same time, I also worked with Kranenburg Fine Art in Oban following a recommendation to them by an acquaintance.
It’s all been a combination of early observation and research, luck and word of mouth. The experience of having a painting accepted for the RA Summer Exhibition had made me re-think what I really wanted to do, and preferring the fine art aspect of art rather than the more commercial work I’d been doing too, I decided in ’99 to follow the fine art path and stop working with licensing. It was a turning point that has been an enjoyable journey, and a never ending learning curve.
Lisa: How important is your online presence to your success as an artist?
Trisha: I think it’s quite important. My own website is there purely for information on what is available and where, and it’s a very affordable method of relaying such information.
Lisa: What’s the best thing about being an artist? And the worst?
Trisha: The joy of being able to produce something from a blank, flat white shape, the knowing that the discovery and learning need never stop, not working under tremendous pressure as long as exhibition deadlines are met, the anticipation of producing a painting that is better than the last one ..even though it doesn’t always happen, trying something new that may be challenging to paint, and the sheer pleasure when one turns out better than I’d hoped. Most things about it are a wonderful way to work, and I feel very lucky for the past 24 successful years of progression.
The worst things are the days when nothing seems to gel and a new painting seems just out of reach, the paintings that seem to fight against me with random aspects, times when something else demands attention such as admin, a computing fault/problem, family or home issues, days when I just get settled into my work and a visitor arrives …not many people seem to understand that there’s a need for concentration over long periods of time, and that its work rather than a whimsical, occasional pastime. It needs motivation & dedication, and some days are easier than others in that respect. Once absorbed and concentrating on the painting, hours can pass quite rapidly.
I used to work mainly between late morning and around midnight, but in recent times my main productive painting hours are between 4pm and 2am! The day tends to quieten safely by the end of the afternoon.
Trisha Hardwick in her studio
Lisa: Do you have any future exhibitions in the pipeline, and where can people see more of your work?
Trisha: There are usually group exhibitions and art fairs ahead, particularly between autumn and the end of the following spring. I usually begin working on my solo exhibitions in early spring each year.
My work is currently with two galleries:
My own website always gives up to date information on what is available and where.
Gallery contact and location details: http://www.trishahardwick.com/exhibitions___galleries_paintings.htm