After a number of different jobs Alexander Millar settled down in 1988 to become a professional artist. After many years of developing his own style in art he turned to images remembered from his childhood and used the local Tyneside ‘Gadgies’ as models in his paintings.
From Palette to Picture
After I’ve chosen a figure from my many sketches and photographs it is transferred to my canvas and blocked as a dark silhouette. Each layer of paint is then added gradually to separate tones; the figure is almost complete before the background colour is added.
Having lived in the northern half of Britain all my life I try to capture the subtle light that is particular to that part of the country. The under painting is predominantly blue and then each subsequent layer added is a touch warmer than the last and lifts the painting giving the misty almost ghostlike quality to the background. When this is complete the dark figure leaps out of the canvas. To finish off and give the figure movement I leave the painting for approximately a week and then I take away some of the background colour and feather the legs and soften any harsh edges. I’ll leave the painting in view for a few days in order to see if any adjustments are needed – they usually become apparent to me by then.
A day in the Life of…
I start work, if you can indeed call it that, around 9am although I am not disciplined at all. I will stare at the canvas for a while then mix some colour on my palette, which is a beautiful large kidney shaped one made from solid mahogany and is a joy to mix on, before putting brush into action. I live in a small stone cottage in picturesque Northumberland so each layer of painting is punctuated by a stroll in a nearby field.
I always work in natural light so there is nothing better than being able to sit outside, despite the cold, with a glass of wine, whiskey or something stronger like Earl Grey Tea with classical music playing in the background. It’s at times like this when inspiration kicks in and getting into a flow becomes easier – the subconscious takes over and the painter and the painting become one. I try to make this precious time last as long as possible as I’m able to produce a great number of canvases with the minimum of effort. When this creative spark wears off it is then time for another long walk!