Despite being self-taught Robert J. Wyatt is a painter in the classical tradition. Robert learned his craft over the course of many years using the painters of the Northern European Renaissance and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites as his inspiration. The techniques used to create the paintings are similar to those pioneered by the Old Masters but applied with a contemporary and unique approach. Each piece is the result of a painstaking process which requires extensive planning, accurate draughtsmanship and the use of many layers, or “glazes” of paint. Although realistic rendering of form and texture is a key factor in Robert’s work, this is not the sole aim. Many of the paintings have a strong narrative and are paintings “about” rather than simply “of” things.
Alongside National commercial gallery representation Robert’s work has been selected for exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery and with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters at the Mall Gallery in London.
Notes on technique
Every painting begins with an idea, I have a collection of sketchbooks full of ideas and plans, some of which made it to the easel and some didn’t quite work out. Once I have a plan which I’m confident will work I make some loose sketches on a small scale to sort out the general composition. If these sketches seem to work I draw the composition on paper in its actual size, working from life where possible. I make almost continual alterations to the position and arrangement of objects until I’m happy that it can’t be improved.
Having the full size drawing allows me to then prepare the actual painting. Like most of the renaissance painters who influenced my style I work on wooden board rather than canvas, I dislike canvas as the weave or “tooth” of the fabric can interfere with very fine detailed work. Once the board is cut to size I treat it with Gesso primer, a synthetic version of rabbit skin glue, usually I apply ten coats to each side of the board sanding between each application. Using this many layers of primer on each side prevents the board from warping and flattens out any imperfections on the working surface. This type of painting support can be very unforgiving so every brush stroke has to be carefully considered, there’s nowhere to hide when the surface is so smooth.
The next step is to construct the drawing; I measure all the centre lines and positions of objects using my drawing as a guide. The drawing stage of a large painting can take a couple of days as a mistake here will be impossible to correct later.
At last I’m ready to paint, I always work in oils and, using a diluted mix of paint I begin work on the background. It’s not unusual to apply four or five coats or “glazes” to achieve the correct effect, the paint must be completely dry before each application so patience is the key here. The technique of building up layers of oil paint continues with the rest of the composition, although I’m eager to see the finished piece I’m always fighting any urge to rush, I don’t believe that for a painting to be expressive it has to be done quickly and in the back of my mind I’m always trying to impart an atmosphere of absolute stillness in my paintings, as if something is about to happen. I much prefer to work from life as I find work done from photographs can appear a little “flat” and lifeless so items such as fruit can often be worse for wear by the time the painting is done!
The days, weeks and sometimes even months pass and finally the last highlights are applied to the painting and it’s complete, cue a glass of wine or two. Once my name is signed bottom right the picture is left to dry for a few weeks before the final varnish is applied.