Monday, January 21, 2013


Untitled, oil on canvas,116x89cm, 2012
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Mainly a series of oils on paper right now. I'm about to move, so I'm a little wary of bulk at the moment. Storage is always an issue. I'll be working in the countryside for a month or two in between moves and I'm looking forward to working on some large canvases there.
Can you describe your working routine?
I work most days, simply because I'm not a very nice person to be around when I don't, although how much time I have is very variable, with my other jobs and having kids. There's always an in-between time of doing nothing when I first arrive in the studio. I often start by finishing up the crossword puzzle I've started on the way up in the bus. It's funny but I know a couple of painters who do that and I suppose there's something visually satisfying and no doubt reassuring about a finished crossword. I suppose we all have our different ways of appropriating the space and re-appropriating the work itself. It takes a bit of time, looking at what's in there, what interests me in what's gone before, what I'll allow to survive and what hasn't made it through the night. Coffee, and cigarettes. So many rituals of approach, and the inevitable preparation of paint, brushes…There's an in-between time, which is more about setting aside the outside world and a letting go than it is about any technical preparation. At some point I turn the music up loud and just get on with it, and stop when I run out of light or time or floor-space.

Erin Lawlor - Paris 2013 from Calvin Walker on Vimeo.
Can you describe your studio and how, if at all, that affects your work space?
I've been working basically in the same studio for the last sixteen years, one room with lots of light and a very leaky roof in eastern Paris. It's small, which inevitably effects the size of what I do there, and even the amount - as I work on the ground there quickly comes a point when there's just no more room, I have to wait for things to dry sufficiently to lift them up. Luckily, although I work in oil, the dissolvent I use considerably speeds up the drying time, so that's not quite as constraining as it may sound.

I only work in oil up there, and the whole place is covered in it, the floor is encrusted with a build-up from over the years, a bit like a Eugene Leroy painting. I sometimes work in a slightly bigger space out in the countryside, and I do find it easier to work on the larger pieces there, partly because I can have a few down at the same time, even if I still tend to work on them one after another rather than going back and forth. I also find there's a freedom in that it's less encumbered with past works; whether it's that or the fact that it's further south means that I find it easier there not to overwork, or over-stifle the colors. I don't yet know where or what my next studio space will be, so I'm curious myself to see if and how it will affect the work.

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
One painting very much leads to another. There's a certain amount of background work that goes on before I get down to the nitty-gritty, so that takes the pressure off the starting point, helps the warming-up process. It's not that these don't matter- they do, in terms of initial choices of format, tonal values, but it's a build-up over days or weeks. There's a gradual build-up before the culminating phase of work. I think it was de Kooning who said that painting a picture was like crossing the road, and at some point I find I have to just have to propel myself into it and take the leap. In that final phase it's more a question of being attentive to what's going on in the canvas for me, there's an internal logic that's takes over, the moment Guston described as leaving even yourself at the door. And of course I never know it is the final phase. Despite the quick drying times there's a few days when I can still erase the whole thing and start over, and I do that constantly. It's only over time that I ever know if I think a piece is really finished. And even then, not so much finished, as satisfactory, if it has life of its own, and one that interests me. I self-edit constantly, destroy a lot, I'm very wary of complacency.
The changes there are are gradual ones, I'm not really aware of any ruptures as such. I know my colors have got brighter recently, perhaps the influence of my recent trip to California for a show, but I think it was on its way prior to that, perhaps more a question of confidence. And I sense there's a freeing-up at the moment, of the brushwork and space, as well as the chromatic range, but again its a gradual evolution.

What are you have most problem resolving?
I'm not sure I really think of things in those terms, at least not any more. I certainly don't have the conceit to believe I'm resolving anything, and it's the endless fascination with paint, and what transpires on the canvas, and precisely the things I don't control, that keep me wanting to go into the studio every day, and that have brought me to the point I'm at now. Over the years I think I've begun to accept the fact of being the painter that I am, rather than the painter I'd perhaps had an idea I would have liked to have been when I started out, and that perhaps makes it less of a struggle as such. A recent stint at curating brought that home to me, too, working with other artists, bringing together other people's work and highlighting dialogue's between them, makes it that much easier to come to terms with all the valid and interesting directions I don't take in my own work.
Of course there have been various technical issues, over the years, finding a satisfactory replacement for turps, which I developed an allergy to. And size - the relationship to space and volume changes dramatically according to format, but those are points of exploration and interest, and choices, at the end of the day, rather than problems as such. The only constant struggle, again, is probably complacency, avoiding the facile, trying to go beyond what works merely in terms of color and composition to something that has presence or sense of its own.

Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I experiment very little with other materials, at least not in the studio. I came back to painting through a love of oil, I'm an oil junkie, the endless possibilities of color, the light changing with the direction of the brushstroke, but also the texture and smell of it. I draw and paint with felt-pens or ink outside the studio, but that's through being an obsessive mark-maker. And I do some work on silk, and ceramics, but those are parallel activities to me, rather than part of the process, even if they are inevitably informed by what goes on in the studio, and vice versa.
What does the future hold for this work?
As far as the work in progress is concerned, I have no idea which will survive or where they'll go next, but surely that's the point?
On a practical level, some will hopefully be heading out to the States. I've recently started working with the George Lawson gallery in L.A. and he's just opened a new space in San Francisco. There are also a couple of group shows coming up in France in the next few months. Inevitably a lot will be going into storage at least for now while I work out exactly where I'm going next myself…
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just thank you for inviting me - I've discovered the work of so many wonderful painters through your blog.
Untitled, oil on canvas, 65x50cm, 2012


  1. great ! No Nonsense Erin Lawlor style !

  2. Wonderful works and style of artistic working

  3. Thanks for this.
    Really enjoyed seeing this wonderful painter's work in process.

  4. Very good! Thanks for the behind the scenes glimpse of how Erin makes her moves.