The methods of the painters: Euan Uglow (1932-2000)

Euan Uglow
Reclining Nude
Pencil, c.1980
9 x 14 ins

Euan Uglow
Potifer's Wife
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 152.5 ins

Approaches to painting will vary according to, among many other equally important things, personality and preferences. To ask the art student to be aware of process before results is to indicate that the process itself must be incorporated into the result, that the result is nothing else but the result of a given process.

To anticipate a “desirable” result will most of the time lead straight to “painting hell”: the student will measure his own work using the wrong scales and criteria, as an activity beyond his reach for which “shortcuts” will have to be found in the most expeditious manner, leading to mis-recognition, a false voice for false notes, frustration, etc. The price to be paid when we forget that it is in the very process of painting that the artist will discover, as in a sort of “after the fact recognition”, the real object of his efforts, what the artist was looking for without “really” knowing…

The following is one example of a methodical approach to painting that does not preclude, for the artist in question, discovery and invention. Within the restrictions of method, freedom will appear as a sort of transcendence of the subjective and the fortuitous, an experience in which the artist is the “servant” of a process of artistic invention and discovery. It implies the pride of “humility”, the courage of self-effacement, all the contradictory “virtues” (and some “vices”, most probably) related to that process of active receptiveness, passive readiness, blind faith and skeptical disposition that constitutes the mental context of the art of painting.

The following is taken from an article on Euan Uglow in Wikipedia.

“With a meticulous method of painting directly from life, Uglow frequently took months or years to complete a painting. Planes are articulated very precisely, edges are sharply defined, and colors are differentiated with great subtlety. His type of realism has its basis in geometry, starting with the proportion of the canvas. Uglow preferred that the canvas be a square, a golden rectangle, or a rectangle of exact root value, as is the case with the Root Five Nude (1976).[1] He then carried out careful measurements at every stage of painting, a method Coldstream had imparted to him and which is identified with the painters of the Euston Road School. Standing before the subject to be painted, a brush would be held upright at arm's length. With one eye closed, the artist could, by sliding a thumb up or down the brush handle, take the measure of an object or interval, to compare against other objects or intervals, with the brush still kept at arm's length. Such empirical measurements enable an artist to paint what the eye sees without the use of conventional perspective. The surfaces of Uglow's paintings carry many small horizontal and vertical markings, where he recorded these coordinates so that they could be verified against reality.”

see also:

EUAN UGLOW: Controlled Passion


andrew said…
Very nice writings! Eaun Uglow is one of the greatest figure painters. His work is a major acomplishment in the "history of figuretive painting".