The fairly intense period of work on Tom’s 2015 Lafrowda Festival painting, ‘We all live in a yellow submarine’, had finally led to its completion in mid September.
Work on the canvas itself, following a period of playing around with the images on his PC after the mid July festival in St Just, had begun in earnest around the time of our Open Studio Week here at the Lanherne Studio early in August that year. First came the need to carefully plot out the composition with charcoal outlines. That was an ideal job to do in-between studio visitors because its complexity demanded interruption now and again to take a wider view. After fixing the drawing and applying a transparent matt acrylic layer he decided on a deep yellow see-through ground over which he began blocking in the main shapes. This in turn became so complex that, in order to see it clearly in terms of colour and shape and not be distracted by ‘getting it right’ Tom decided to work with the picture and reference material upside-down for at least a week’s worth of painting sessions. Surprisingly, this method can really help with more rapid and accurate shape and colour-hue recognition. He understood that it’s something to do with the different hemisphere’s of the brain working together in a less self-conscious way. “I see you’re in Australia again” was his wife Gabrielle’s comment when she joined him in the studio one day.
Once things were right-way-up again it seemed Tom was on the home straight to resolving it all. Something wouldn’t quite gel however. It was only when he tried the picture on another wall back in the house, glancing across at it as he did the washing-up, that it became clear that the right hand side of the street in the picture needed a scumble of translucent and very light violet. Glazes of various yellows were also needed to pull together the form of the submarine itself. This clinched it!
Such was the curious process of painting this complex piece. Another fascinating aspect was the way that the theme of the yellow submarine, which of course refers to the famous Beatles number and the 1968 animated film, had attracted such a lot of speculation as to its symbolism. That, and his memories of the time when he saw the film as a student are the subject of another blog posting at https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/yellow-submarine-memories/.