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An interview with Roger Dellar

13 April 2016


You describe how you are going back to the essence of something in your paintings. How do you do that?


What I am looking for, is for the shapes in my paintings to be as abstract as possible, without losing the figurative element. I am looking for where a shape can connect to another shape without actually losing its form. There will be a point where I will ask myself if I have too many shapes, and judging it as an abstraction. But my theme always has a figurative origin. There may be areas in the painting, that are too dominant, or not dominant enough. So I question my composition, and ask if it will make a strong pattern of shapes, I also ask, ‘Does the colour scheme within the painting have a theme? Is it complimentary, is it analogous? Does it describe a mood?' The tertiary colours can conjure up a chilly feel, like a minor or augmented chord in music,whereas primary and secondary colours are rounded and full. I am always trying to get one thing playing with another.

You say you like to be able to view your paintings from standing back, but also moving in to see the marks. Why is that?


The big thing is to judge it from about ten foot back at least, and then what I am hoping to do is that when you look at it in close inspection, you can see it is only a series of dots, or marks, so instead of it being a wall for instance, you are thinking of it as a series of shapes, tones, colours, and textures. But there are a lot of subliminal things that I am trying to put in. Leaving the marks, reveals the process. I leave everything from the underpainting, through to the final marks, showing. There is a process there, not just a flat painting, a pretty picture. A bit like my sketch book, there are marks there that I have found,  but then leave in, not tidying up just to get that smoothness of surface. But leaving a part of myself there.


What is the hardest point when doing a painting?

The hardest point is knowing at what point to leave it!  Even to leave it for now. Probably not doing anything at all, just looking for subtleties. The thing with pastels is that you are putting them behind glass and with a mount and frame, and then you want to take it out again.


Your paintings often have the feeling of human presence, as though someone has just left the room. It that deliberate?


Yes, I imagine myself in the setting. Also from years of observation and drawing, I have come to know the way someone will move a chair into a space, for instance, as if they were reading, or talking to someone there. If there aren't figures in the painting, you can tell that they were there by how things are left.


Can you describe the quality and importance of light in your paintings?


The light describes the form. As it comes in, it will hit something, and then meander over other surfaces. That intrigues me. I find that the quality of the light is important, is it subdued, is the sun bright? Seeing something as a haze of light, breaks it up into different colours. For instance, looking at a warm spot, in fact it could be made of purple, blue-greens, yellow. Not just the obvious yellow and white.

Do you feel like a bit of scientist?

Well yes you analyse.   Looking around this room for instance, it is white, but look at all the colours, there is yellow there, blue in that corner, areas of purple. When you are looking, it is to ask, ‘What do I see?’ When you look at the light, you can see all the colours.

Do you look at everything from an artist's point of view?

Yes, I can't help it. You train your eye. For instance, if I was going to paint your portrait, I would see that there is a bit of green there. It's like music, you will hear people say that they can't sing, but if you are trained you can hear a note. It's the same with training you eye. As an artist, you are there to tell the viewer, things that they perhaps haven't noticed. Showing what is there.

You also like the viewer to engage their imagination when looking at your work?

Yes, I want them to have their own experience. You can say a lot, but the trick is to say a little, so that they can say something.


How would you encourage younger artists to use pastel?

We have prizes for young artists here at the Pastel Society. But I think the answer is to have primary and secondary colour assortments. So they learn to mix colours. That's what I have done, I have learnt how to make colours.


How do you finish a painting?

I look at it in a mirror, I turn it upside down, or on its side. If I feel something is too explained, then I will hatch through it with a neutral tone and colour. So when you look at it, it has a reading, but not defined. I squint my eyes and look at it in a different way.


When you do a painting that you are really pleased with, what defines it?

It is usually something I have not brought into a painting before, and I will want to hang on to it, not sell it. Then I analyse why it works.  But I am always moving in a new direction. It is going into the unknown all the time. It is a personal challenge, a journey, always discovering something new.

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