Inside the Studio

Jonathan Speed’s paintings capture ethereal landscapes

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I have always been inspired by the natural environment and often spend hours in open, rugged landscapes to take in the surroundings and atmosphere. I’m particularly fascinated by the way light interacts with different elements, such as water, earth, and sky. When I paint, I seek to capture the play of light and use this as a focal point to depict a sense of drama for each scene.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

It all started with my passion for photography, which led me to travel to wild and untamed areas to capture enchanting landscapes and dramatic sunsets. This, in turn, inspired me to paint and I began experimenting with oils on canvas. I discovered that, with this medium, I could produce captivating paintings full of atmosphere with a distinctive abstract and expressive quality.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

I have always strived to achieve a highly refined finish to my paintings through the subtle blending of color and the application of multiple fine layers of paint. As my work has evolved, these techniques have become even more fundamental to my style and identity as a landscape artist.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

My source of inspiration often comes from visiting and photographing areas of natural beauty. This evokes ideas, thoughts, and feelings that I try to recreate in my paintings. Generally, I use photographs and memory as a reference point; but once I start to paint, I allow myself the creative and expressive freedom to apply my own abstract interpretation. Knowing when to finish a painting is definitely a skill and I’m still trying to master this art! The temptation is to keep painting until you reach “perfection” and this is often a challenge, as I’m one of my biggest critics!

Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

Amongst my favorite artists are Turner, Whistler, and Courbet. I draw great inspiration from the work of these past masters, with their skillful use of light and ability to create a sense of atmosphere in each scene.

What are some of your favorite experiences as an artist?

I love exhibiting my work and seeing people’s reactions to my art. It is always fascinating to hear each person’s interpretation of my paintings and what memories, thoughts, and feelings they draw out.

About the Author

Katherine Henning is Senior Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service here.