Stanley Royle artist

My Attitude Toward Painting

Links to:

'Self Portrait in a Trilby Hat' by Stanley Royle, 1934
'Self Portrait' 1934

Of all artists, I think the landscape painter the most fortunate. He goes where he likes, paints what he likes, as he likes. He can move mountains, trees, rivers, rocks, oceans, to any position he requires them to be on his canvas, and can give rhythmic emphasis to his subject matter, if he so desires, to the point of what would be considered distortion in portraiture or figure. Nature, in her many moods, gives him a wealth of material to select from. He can select just those qualities he requires, and discard what he considers unnecessary, thus creating a new beauty.

This selection, of course, is influenced by the medium in which he happens to be working (oil, water colour, tempera, pastel, chalk, or pencil); also by his response, emotionally, to certain moods in nature, according to his temperament and personality.

'Evening Stillness, Prospect, Nova Scotia' by Stanley Royle, 1934
'Evening Stillness, Prospect N.S.' 1934

Much controversy,on the part of the art critic and the public, has, in consequence, resulted from this freedom of the artist from set convictions. Generally speaking, the art critic of today, partly in protest against the art critic of the Victorian period who usually approved only the obvious, supports work of a more experimental nature. The public (again speaking generally), having little understanding of the aesthetic qualities in painting, and desiring recognisable subject matter, leans more or less towards photographic exactitude.

The artist, whose only concern is self-expression through paint, just hopes that someone will be sufficiently interested in his particular outlook to purchase his work. Neither the critic, nor the public, can tell him what he should do.

What exactly happens to the artist during the process of painting a picture, ia a question I have often been asked, so will take this opportunity of trying to put into words my hopes amd aspirations in paint.

'Sun Rays After a Shower' by Stanley Royle, 1920
'Sun Rays After a Shower' 1920

To me (and I think I can safely say to most artists, particularly landscape painters) painting is just a glorious adventure; the urge to interpret through the medium of paint an emotional reaction experienced through vision.

The choosing of a subject is quite an adventure in itself. So much depends on so little. The time of day, the angle of the sun's rays, the cloud shadow on the middle distance, the cast shadow on the foreground, any of these and other phenomena can turn the most commomplace material into the most inspiring subject matter.

'Winter Scene, Shepherd and his Flock' by Stanley Royle, 1927
'Winter Scene' 1927

Immediately on seeing a subject that excites my interest, my mind at once gets to work making adjustments, thinking in terms of rhythmic patterns of paint relative to shape of canvas, analysing tone values, colour patterns, reducing the material to simple areas, and so forth.. Then, if my mind's eye can see the completed picture, I make my first study. This is in the form of a colour sketch, size sixteen by twelve inches, which should contain the vital aesthetic qualities, stressing rhythmic flow of contour and shape, colour pattern, values of planes, and the more important accents. This is painted within an hour's time, at fever heat, whilst the impression is dominant, and is of primary importance for reference when making the final painting.

 

'A Bridge in Longshaw, Derbyshire' by Stanley Royle, 1928
'A Bridge in Longshaw' 1928

I return to the subject a number of times, when the effect is similar to that under which I made the colour sketch, and make pencil drawings of all the material I may possibly require, thus making myself thoroughly familiar with the locality. This is particularly necessary in my case, for, as much as I like and value design, colour, and spontaneity, I must endeavour to make my forms have their particular textures and stand solid in space.

'On Ringinglowe Moors' by Stanley Royle, 1920
'On Ringinglowe Moors' 1920

My first consideration, in painting the finished picture, is design. Everything really depends on this first planning of the basic rhythms. Referring to my colour sketch, I then introduce subordinate rhythms, making a more or less abstract pattern of colour. In introducing the details which I consider necessary, and working out the planes to solidify the forms, I endeavour to echo the big rhythms, and thus keep my canvas a unified whole. Colour (in conjunction with tone values) is of vital importance to me, and I thoroughly enjoy working out subtle relations of colour against colour, and tone against tone.

Granted, a painting going through this process, although retaining vigour and vitality if the craftsmanship is good, has not the dash and verve of a quick sketch. Yet I feel that the particular qualities to be gained, by this organised build up to full orchestration, are of definite value and well worth striving for.

'Old Houses, Prospect, Nova Scotia' by Stanley Royle, 1940
'Old Houses, Prospect, N.S.' 1940

All this discussion of my technical methods can only begin to suggest what I feel and strive to express in my painting. I go through the same struggle that I imagine many other artists go through, striving to acheive the balance between rhythm and representation. I enjoy working out the patterns of contour suggested by sunlight and fleeting shadows across the meadow and rocks and ocean; but I also enjoy the feel of the grass under my feet, the solidity of the rock, and the feel of the paint as I apply it to the canvas. Trying to get a perfect fusion of these interests will keep me happily employed for the rest of my life.

'Boy in a Red Hat, by Stanley Royle, 1932
'Boy in a Red Hat' 1932

The possible range of expression through paint is so great - from the combining of pure abstract forms rhythmically grouped and spaced (producing a beauty closely akin to music) to stark realism. Many approaches and changing styles result from this freedom of selection, which is all very confusing to the young artist desirous of benefitting by the latest contributions. To him, then, just a few words of advice.

Don't imitate nature or the "latest style", but develop your own emotional reaction by analysing nature for yourself and building up from a basis of sound craftsmanship.

'Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia' by Stanley Royle, 1933
'Blue Rocks, Lunenburg Co., N.S.' 1933

Then when you really have something to say, you aren't incoherent. To quote the late Sir Charles Holmes, former director of the National Gallery, London, England:

"The artist who does not cultivate his emotions and keep them active must run to seed. No swiftness of hand, accuracy of eye, or technical experience can make amends for their loss. Yet emotion by itself is worthless to the would-be painter, as it is to the would-be violinist. Without technical experience and constant exercise, his hand and eye will fail to express the idea he has in mind. He must therefore be master of the rules and principles of his art, before his emotion can turn that art to profit"