Christopher Pratt refers to himself as a painter and a printmaker. Most of his larger works are oil paintings; they outnumber his prints by three or four to one. Pratt always paints with oil paints on a board or canvas surface. His early paintings were all watercolours, a medium he now uses most frequently for smaller works, studies or foundations for mixed media.
The beginning of Pratt's process for making a painting is the same in all media. First, he makes a series of sketches or studies. These studies are often based on memory and are, at first, very rough. Usually an image will change a great deal between its inspirational spark and its final form. This is seen in paintings like Young Girl with Sea Shells (1965). This painting, one of Pratt's earliest figures, began as a study for a painting based on a childhood memory, which he intended to call A Gift of Stolen Apples. The subject of the first studies was a young girl in an orchard with a boy placing apples into her skirt. Pratt says he became uncomfortable with the "Adam and Eve" overtones of these studies. Eventually, the boy was removed from the image and the girl was placed in the doorway of a house overlooking the ocean. Pratt thinks of it as being the same house he imagined in the earlier painting House and Barn. Appropriately, the apples were changed to sea shells.
Once the studies have been completed and Pratt is satisfied that he has arrived at a point close to the finished image, the process of actually painting the picture begins. First a board or canvas is prepared to the required proportions and size. A drawing based on the final study for the painting is then drawn on this surface, often using a traditional "grid" technique. Frequently, in recent years, and with Pratt's direction, his studio assistant then fills in an 'underpainting' for the work. A studio assistant is a person who completes routine technical studio tasks, such as preparing screens for the artist to stencil on in the silkscreen process, and from priming boards and canvases for paintings, to helping with the underpainting for a work.The underpainting serves as a preliminary base for the work. Pratt tells his assistant which colours should be established where in the painting to serve as a foundation for later development. The colours and tones may be the same as, or opposite to what they will be in following layers (for example, orange under blue, black under white). Often, the underpainting is deliberately "rough." An assistant has to have the ability to understand the artist's instructions and objectives as well as possess the technical skills to carry them out.
Once the underpainting is completed, Pratt will set to work on completing the painting. Frequently, at this point, he makes changes or adjustments to the image in response to the "feel" of the underpainting. The painting begins to take on a life of its own. Decisions, changes and adjustments,are made in response to the demands of the painting itself,and not the 'reality' of things portrayed.Slowly, the work gains the subtlety and detail that makes Pratt's work so distinctive. Nuances of light and perspective, of distance and time, of form and texture are developed within the painting until the finished work emerges.
see the process of completing a painting in reference to a specific work,
look at the page about Young Girl with Sea Shells. This
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