A Style is Born
The Artist's Perspective, Doug Hyde
It was during my twenties in Bristol that I began to develop a genuine passion for art. My background in technical drawing and illustration had given me a thorough grounding in the technical aspects of painting but my early work was very detailed and "perfect" - rigid, static, and I suppose, immature. As I saw my thirties looming I started to wonder about the real me, not simply as a person but also as an artist, and I longed to break free of conventionality and assert myself as an individual with an imagination and a personality of my own.
During this period I paid my first visit to Tate Modern and it was here that I had a quite extraordinary experience. In a flash of what I can only describe as illumination, all my views and preconceptions were swept away in the space of an instant. What happened was this: I walked into a room displaying three pieces by Mark Rothko and was absolutely blown away. One particular canvas must have measured 30ft by 50ft and I was completely mesmerized by the scale, the use of colour, and above all, the simplicity. The power and the clarity of this work simply overwhelmed me. This experience provided a defining moment in my artistic journey; convincing me that less is more, it sent me down the path of simple, bold imagery painted on a large scale to create maximum impact. In this low lit room on the banks of the Thames I knew that I would never paint in the same way again.
My first step was to give some serious thought to the medium I was using. I had been working in acrylics and water colours but I was no longer convinced that these were the best means to achieve the kind of look that was beginning to form in the back of my mind. In exploring the range of media available to me I used pastels for the first time and to my delight discovered a whole new world of contrasts and textures. Because initially I was almost playing with the medium, I developed an unorthodox style using my fingers and thumbs. This gave me a very intimate relationship with the artwork, making me feel more in control than I had ever been - there was literally nothing between myself and the image and it was as if the artwork was flowing out of my imagination directly onto the canvas. Very soon I felt as if I'd been using the medium forever. I liked the way that while the artwork looked very "clean", on closer inspection you could see the fluidity and movement of its creation.
The next milestone in my career was the introduction of my trademark characters. Working in my studio one day I decided to produce something for my own walls. I had a simple black frame that set me thinking of doing something in black and white and I decided that as this was purely for myself I'd make it truly personal and put myself in it. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was meeting up with friends that night, so taking this as my starting point I began to work on an outline of myself and my friends. I wanted something soft and representational so I used simple shapes blurring in and out of the background and before I knew it I was completely entranced by my own work for the first time ever.
I left the faces of the figures blank as at the time I felt this was the right way to go, preserving a slight air of intrigue. However a few days later I changed my mind on the basis that the night out had been one to remember and these expressionless faces did not do it justice. On the spur of the moment I put a smile and two dots on each face with my finger and there it was. 'Living in Harmony'; a heartfelt message expressing my own emotions in a way that was both artistically satisfying and personally rewarding. It was then that I understood the key to producing artwork that worked for me - I needed paint from my own experience with honesty and integrity.
For some time I experimented with this new approach and was delighted with the results. I felt I had discovered my true style but I knew I wanted to take it further. I just wasn't quite sure how I would do this, until I began to wonder about the addition of colour. This may sound like an obvious step, but I particularly loved the monochrome nature of my images. The creation of subtle shades and moods within the context of a black and white palette was always a challenge but one I relished. Nevertheless I decided to take the plunge and, never one to do anything by halves, to introduce something bold and fluorescent into one of the existing pieces just to see how it changed the dynamic. I picked up a bright orange pastel and set to work on the Smile. Within moments I felt that the artwork was jumping off the easel - the colour brought the whole concept to life and I sensed with excitement that a new avenue was opening up ahead of me.
My first full colour piece was "Bisou" (or "Kiss"), which I created for my wife Suzi. It is still one of my favourite artworks as it represents not only our life together but also a watershed in the development of my artistic style. The scale, the medium, the strong bold colour, the movement, and the simplicity - I felt that with this image my style had evolved into something I could be proud of. Although since then I have moved in various different directions, I look at "Bisou" today with the same enthusiasm as I did that afternoon.