Hullscapes - Introducing Paul Boyle

Tig Gallery is proud to introduce Paul Boyle, a Glasgow School of Art graduated now exhibiting with us.In this blog we get to know Paul,find out about his methods and practice and discuss his inspirations.




From my Glasgow art school days I have been interested in ceramic glazes and surface texture in general. My maternal grandfather was a shipyard worker in Glasgow and my father a boiler maker.

I am as much influenced by Matisse, Picasso, Klee and Miro as by photographers like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Walker Evans and Hiroshi Sugimoto. The work of these painters and photographers invites the viewer to consider the formal structure of the image as inseparable from the subject. Ansel Adams’ work on exposure and development has been a particular influence on my concern to preserve an appropriately balanced tonal range in each image.


I see my creative photography practice sitting comfortably in the company of screen printing, lithography, block printing and other fine art printmaking forms and I prefer to use artists’ papers to print the images.

In the Hullscapes series my objective is to create a series of poetic and lyrical images by discovering, observing and framing selected markings on boat hulls. These boats are in dry dock awaiting or undergoing overhaul and refitting, the workers seemingly ‘apprentices of Neptune’ creating marks with grinders and scrapers that I interpret as images of the sea.

Study of very small areas of the hulls’ paintwork can be readily perceived as sea, coastal scenes, water patterns, conveying mood and expressing a sense of the sea normally associated with painting – a flake of paint becoming the turn of a wave or a rock on the sand. 

Visually the works display the kind of distillation and synthesis of subject matter more usually associated with painting or printmaking. That they are lens based products of photography, the ‘objective’ visual medium, is a continuing fascination for me.




After leaving Glasgow School of Art I spent many evenings of the following 2 years, 1973 – 75, printmaking at the (original) Glasgow Print Studio. Techniques included photo silk screen, block printing, lithography and etching. Later I spent a short time in Orkney learning to paint in watercolours. I had always had a parallel interest in photography which I took up seriously aged 14, and worked studiously at becoming technically proficient and well rounded. Subjects included portraiture, fashion, sports and event photography – all firmly rooted in the standard photographic canon.

However I began to think about, and work towards, finding a common space for painting, printmaking and photography to inhabit. In my teaching career, as well as working with traditional art forms and media, I taught both chemical and digital photography as part of the Art & Design curriculum and explored innovative (for me) printmaking practices, working towards developing synergistic contacts between photography and other artistic disciplines.

As artists do I had long developed the practice of describing subject matter using the language of the visual elements – lines, planes, colour, mood, as well as seeing the subject objectively in terms of given names - trees, sea etc. As a youngster I had also readily perceived faces in clouds and trees.

In 2009 when I was wandering in a boatyard and flitting visually between these dualities of observation I became aware, quite unexpectedly, of the presence of ‘Hullscapes’ (albeit in embryonic form) as well as, indeed instead of, weathered boat hulls and surface texture.


I want these prints go beyond being literal records and become expressive works that will engage the viewer and suggest many locations and moods. I would be happiest if the viewer would invest these images with their own memories and experiences, and by creating a personal narrative, develop the aesthetic experience.




I am finding Hullscapes rather than creating them and that is where the pleasure and excitement lie. I am also aware of the aesthetics required to make a successful print, something that people will respond to, so I need to judge that the chosen subject possesses a balance of visual elements to be able to stand on its own as a print.  

The observer does not learn anything from a Hullscape about the nature of the boat, or its location. It’s not about the location of the boatyard, but rather the thoughts, reactions and memories that the prints may stir in the viewer.

On site I am in a very intense frame of mind and assume that if I don’t photograph a piece at the time of seeing it, then it will not be there the next day, and it is often the case that, on my return, it has been ‘ruined’ by further work or been completely painted over. Paradoxically I take in the bigger picture as well and usually enjoy a stroll along the line as any tourist might do showing an interest in the goings on in a working boatyard.




I get the necessary humdrum routine out of the way first. My studio is small and oftentimes, after fighting my way to my work station, I clear any outstanding office work. 

However, in stark contrast to the above, selecting images and working on them is a hugely dynamic and creative activity. There are only a few actions required, the fewer the better. In my chemical darkroom days I would make test strips to establish exposure, choose a contrast grade of photographic paper, burn and dodge any parts of the image that required more or less exposure, and fine tune as necessary.

On the computer I replicate a similar small range of procedures. I do test prints and make minor tweaks. When I’m satisfied I produce a full size artist’s proof and leave it to dry for a couple of days. It may be fine as it is or require further work to be done.

I print on artists’ water colour paper for its superior visual and archival qualities using Epson K3 pigment inks, and leave all mounting and framing to my framer – that’s his job!

I then fight my way back out of the studio and emerge blinking into the daylight! Repeat as necessary.

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Ruth's Exhibition opens on 8th September and runs to 7th October. We would be delighted if you could join us from 2pm for the opening.
Gallery opening hours:
Sunday - Friday 11am - 4pm
Saturday 10am - 5pm.

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