Antony Bridge is the best kind of painter – a curious one! His work explores not only the landscape he depicts but the alchemy of colour, experimenting with colourist palettes, bold shapes and inventive mark making. Who finer to interview and ask about painting en plein air?
Lisa: Where and when did you start learning to paint?
Antony: I live and grew up on the Malvern hills. I started painting very early, concentrating on a photo-realist approach and producing paintings that people actually thought were photos. I then tried heading outside to paint which destroyed all my confidence. I thought I was good at painting when I really couldn’t. You only really learn painting when you study from life. Technique is one thing but having energy and life in your work for me is so much more important. However painting isn’t a competition and there are no right or wrong ways to do anything, all that’s important is for the work to be enjoyed by the creator and the viewer.
Lisa: On your website there are examples of work where you pare down landscapes into an arrangement of coloured squares and rectangles as well as other, more traditional landscape paintings. Can you explain the thinking behind the 2 different approaches?
Antony: The more traditional looking paintings are my ‘plein air works’, painted on location. I have just recently started to become excited about painting in the studio from these plein air paintings, sometimes painting over original paintings to achieve the more abstract pieces. I am learning how to place colour and shape, asking questions such as ‘should a shape be larger in the foreground making it larger for perspective or should larger shapes be in the background as they have less detail?’
Lisa: Do you paint all your landscapes in front of the subject?
Antony: I spent 2.5 years painting every day outside for a project and have painted outside ever since, right up until last year. Its only recently I’ve started working on the abstract landscapes from location studies.
Lisa: What tools do you put your paint on with? Do you have a favourite brush, and do you ever work with a palette knife?
Antony: For plein air I sketch with diluted burnt umber (thinned with turps) to get basic shapes, then use a palette knife to mix and push the paint onto a canvas in block shapes. I find this gets the best and cleanest colour. I then go over the whole painting adding any detail with a round size 6 hog brush. This is pretty much the same process in the studio using the same basic palette of colours. Cad yellow light, cad red, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, burnt sienna, titanium white and sometimes rose madder and viridian if needed.
Lisa: Do you have any hints and tips for anyone contemplating painting “en plein air” for the first time?
Antony: Never worry what others think of the final painting, it shouldn’t be for anyone else, just you and the experience of being outside looking. If you just do 1 or 2 good brush strokes be happy, in the next painting you may do 3 or 4 and so on.
Lisa: What qualities does a subject need to have to make you want to paint it?
Antony: I tend to favour a good distance in my landscape, a horizon line and good natural colour. At the moment I love rape seed fields or any thing that buzzes with colour.
Lisa: If a painting feels like it isn’t going well, is it ever worth carrying on?
Antony: For sure, most paintings that are going very badly normally for me work out the best. I think you push yourself more if its going wrong and look harder. If it was all easy and going right each painting there would be no reward and a little boring.
Lisa: What kind of Field Easel do you use when you go out to paint en plein air?
Antony: I have around 20 pochade boxes and easels of all different sizes. I have however 2 favourites. A little canvas bag with my watercolours and moleskine in and a 8×10”pochade box with 2 canvas panels in and a few tubes of paint. I used to carry so much equipment as I thought I would need it but its now nice to be super light and keep to the basics.
Lisa: Which painters do you most admire?
Antony: I have over the years almost liked every type of painter for different reasons, currently I love sketchers, people that just go out and draw. Many can be found on the urbansketchers.com
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we see more of your work?
Antony: I place my available paintings on http://www.antonybridge.co.uk where you can also look over sold pieces.
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