Simon Goss works as a graphic designer, but in his spare time he steps away from the screen to attend live model classes and paint the human form in watercolor. Using a pencil to sketch their outline, Simon balances the composition with soft spreading colors, creating incredible representations of real people against an empty backdrop.
In this month's Artist Focus, he shares the process and mindset behind these simple, beautiful character studies.
What's the first thing you can remember creating in watercolor?
I trained initially as a technical illustrator and I think the first thing I painted in watercolour would have been an illustration of a BMX rider for a college project.
Where do the subjects in your figurative works come from?
I attend weekly and monthly life drawing groups and the models come from these.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I consider myself to be a draftsman in the classical sense i.e I draw first, then colour the drawings. My linework has been influenced by my background as a technical illustrator, describing depth and form by varying the strength and thickness of the lines and edges. I work with a sharp soft pencil to allow maximum variance in the quality of the line.
My painting style can therefore be relatively loose because my drawing is tight. I like the contrast this gives and it gives me freedom to use strong colours. I would summarise the style as "coloured drawing."
Who was the first person you ever painted?
Do you have any specific routines or habits necessary for the creation of your work?
I obsessively sharpen my pencils beforehand, then do some five minute warm up sketches in graphite before working in more detail on longer poses. I have worked in the same medium now for the past five years, a handmade paper called Khadi which is made from cotton rags and bound in a hard cover pad. The beauty of it is the variety within each pad, some sheets are waxy, some more absorbent and with more bite for the pencil.
What sort of thoughts run through your head while you're painting?
I don't measure as much as I once did but I think far more carefully about comparative angles and proportion and negative space. This is the phase of drawing that demands the most concentration and when I'm happy with it I flood in the shadow areas with a chromatic grey based on the model's body colour and then look at where I can introduce stronger colour to bring balance and life to the piece. This is all an intellectual process but I often find my mind wandering if I'm 'in the zone.' It's a state of bliss.
What do you hope to convey about the people you paint?
I think that if the painting is successful, the person's character is as obvious as if one were just looking at them. I don't actively try to 'portray' any specific mood, it's more observational. The character becomes apparent in the pose and the facial expression of the model.
Who are some of the artists you admire most? Do you feel they played a role in the creation of your own style?
It's a long list - David Hockney, Chuck Close, Andrew Wyeth, Euan Uglow, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert, Jenny Saville, Egon Schiele, Evan Walters, John Peter Russell, Lucien Freud and Stanley Spencer. I am also a fan of the illustrators Chris Foss and Victor Ambrus.
My own style is probably most influenced by Schiele and Hockney's linework and Euan Uglow's approach to comparative measurement. My initial analytical drawing approach was inspired by a book on the Foundation Program of the Basel School of Design ("Basic Principles of Design" - Manfred Meier). I don't know where the painting style comes from, it's just developed along the way but probably owes a fair bit to Victor Ambrus.
Which online tools do you feel are the most valuable for an artist in today's Internet age? Which websites or platforms do you frequent most often?
Because I work as a Graphic Designer on a daily basis, utilising a computer and the internet for most of my design work, I tend to steer away from it when considering drawing or painting.
I have, however, designed my own website (www.simongoss.com), and placed my work on several online galleries. I like Artsia's ease of use, I have a portfolio on Behance, and have just joined a French online gallery, Artquid. I am also currently spending way too much time on Pinterest!
If you had to give art students entering the field just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Draw as much and as often as you can. It is the root of everything and something you can always come back to.
See Simon's work on Artsia here.