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Studio Secrets

Tom Ormond


Photo by Paul Murphy

Describe the things and images that you have around you in your studio and how they influence or inform your work.

The reference material I have around me in my studio is mostly made up of books, magazines, photos, drawings, collages and Photoshopped images - I also make notes of things I need to remember. These are all dotted around my studio, which is quite small, so I try to have as much stuff out as possible but in a vaguely organized way.

I tend to have as many books open as I can on a trolley which I wheel around between paintings - books on Stubbs, Gainsborough, Rubens, Bouche, Fragonard et al - old master stuff which I look to for colours and light, and to scrutinize the ways in which things have been stylized and made convincing in paint eg foliage and skies. Ideally I'd have the real thing. I also have stuff on architecture and buildings - Archigram, retro-futuristic stuff and a book on Disney is rocking my trolley at the moment.

I accumulate bits of stuff I've done on the computer and do rough doodle plans for paintings - these tend to get stuck on an area of wall which I guess is my 'to-do pile', but generally they just stay there then fall off and never go any further. I flip between liking clutter and finding it useful, and wanting clean walls and space to think.

When I'm working on something I want to see everything I'm thinking about, or drawing from, in relation to that particular painting or drawing. I find it frustrating not being able to see it all at once - I forget things and then unearth something if I tidy up and wish I'd had it to hand when I was doing a particular part of a painting. I guess I greedily want to have it all there to feed off and don't trust my memory, which is why I make notes - which get lost too - and stick them to the wall or on a painting: 'do a blue layer next', 'add more leaves', 'make thicker' etc - stupid things which I'd probably remember anyway and just end up as bits of paper stuck to the wall or fallen down the back of a canvas; when I find them later they mean nothing. The notes help me get going when I come in fresh to the studio, because they tend to be my last thoughts of the day which were left hanging from a previous session with a painting, thoughts which have benefited from an extended amount of time with a painting, not panicked thoughts like 'what was I thinking? Oh I'll do that... shit that wasn't where this was going' - the kind you tend to make when you look at something after some time away. Those can be good thoughts too - fresh eyes are always good, and ideas grown out of spending too much time alone in a small room sometimes aren't always the best - it's probably the swing between 'planned / developed' ideas and 'throw caution to the wind' ideas which make the process of painting interesting for me.

Which single item in your studio is most important to your work?

It's not a piece of reference material - I can manage without most things in my studio, (I'd just get more if I lost things), but it's a toss-up between my brushes and palette, and this hand-rest contraption I've set up so I can rest in my hand in the middle of a painting and paint straight lines - I copied it from a Richter book - it's like a deluxe marl stick thing. I say that because when I've tried to paint elsewhere I've always missed my set up - I can't stand using scrappy palettes and brushes, and I hate working on a painting at the wrong height without my special tool. You know what they say about bad workmen and their tools...

Which artist/s most influence your work and which recent show has been inspirational?

'Archipeinture' at the Camden Arts Centre last year was a good show. Matthias Weischer had a piece in that show but I was really taken by his work when I first saw it at the Venice Bienale in 2005. Other people who I really loved the first time I saw their work are: John Currin, Neo Rauch, Paul McCarthy and perhaps guilty pleasures Euan Uglow and Victor Willing - I remember being really taken by their work. I haven't seen any of the latter for years though, so I might be disappointed to see it again fresh - I'm not really bowled over by much work to be honest. Apart from them it's really the old guys who I can really look at and look at again and again - drink it up, disappear into their worlds. Loved the Hogarth show recently.

Is your studio a refuge or a place of torture?

Both, but refuge more often. I go there to get on with stuff and like to have it comfortable, but not just as a place to hang out and drink tea and chat to neighbours, although tea is important. A by-product of getting on with stuff can be an element of torture - maybe not torture, just frustration - when things don't go the way I want them to, but that's important too. I've never been the kind of artist that just has an idea and puts it into practice - bish bosh done - I admire those kind but can't do it myself, my work takes time. I tend to start, thinking something is a great idea and it might be one for a while - I enjoy covering the canvas in one go and often wish I could have just left it at that, then I fuck something up and create more work for myself - I guess that's the inevitable frustration bit and that is painting for me. Then it's a repeat of that process until I end up circling round a point which feels right or I reach a deadline.