Diary of a painting – Joan Sugrue


Start off with MDF board and glue linen to it with rabbit skin glue. Put on 3 layers of homemade gesso (rabbit skin glue and whitening).

I need to get paint out on the palette fast when I get into the studio otherwise I will start sitting around and thinking and not doing.
Always standing while painting, only sit to look at what is done.

First paint layers are diluted with turps, quickly scrapped over the ground with cheap bristle brushes, Prussian Blue, Naples Yellow, then a change of mind Cadmium Red with Naples Yellow, scrub back, all Michael Harding paints which can stand a lot of dilution. Leave aside.
Start to paint in figure, Ultramarine, leave for a week. I remember seeing a Gainsborough in Russborough House in Co Wicklow very close up and examining the way the trees were painted, start painting more into the background Sap Green, Cerulean Blue, Titanium White, Terre Verte (D-R) and Warm Grey (Schevenings), Linseed oil and Turps, but wipe it all away again at the end of the session.

Leave for a few weeks, turned to the wall.

Reading “Europe in Sepia” by Dubravka Ugresic, a Croatian essayist and novelist. She writes about her homeland – post communism , this feeds into my own practice which deals with ideas surrounding post colonialism.

Started, then wiped off, started again.

Put on Joy Division on the CD . A figure is painted in the foreground with too much detail, scrub back with rags. Repaint the figure with wide flat sable brush, Prussian Blue, Cadmium red, Titanium White, Yellow Hue, Vandyke Brown, Scrub it back again.

I visit the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Repaint figure with small round sable hair brush, Paynes Grey, Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Burnt Umber. Need to leave it alone. After a few hours come back and scrape it back again.

Leave for a few weeks again, turned to wall.

Reading “Solar Bones” by Mike McCormack, no full stops, just like this painting.
Other books that I dip into are “Daybook” by Anne Truitt, “The Prado” Catalogue Permanent Collection, Marlene Dumas “Measuring your Own Grave” and extracts from Merleau Ponty “Phenomenology of Perception “.
Return to Studio– Listen to the radio while I paint, anything that will distract my conscious mind, an interview with John McColgan is on. Paint over again with Paynes Grey, Cadmium red, Titanium White until the marks on the surface don’t need anymore work. Go and watch Game of Thrones.

Return to Studio next day, Sit and look at it for a while and decide its finished.

Joan Sugrue