Spall explained that the shoot was roughly three months but preparation began long before totally about six years. Portraying a renowned artist meant that Spall had to learn to paint. He began taking lessons two years before principle photography. But beyond just learning the basics he also attempted to paint in the style of Turner, an English Romantic landscape painter, water-colorist, and printmaker. Turner is commonly known as "the painter of light” and his work is regarded as a Romantic preface to Impressionism. At one point Spall recreated a full size painting of Turner's. "If the character's done something you have to have a working knowledge," Spall said. Though he did mention with a wry smile that he went to visit Turner’s grave in St. Paul’s Cathedral to ask for forgiveness, before, during and after the film was compeleted.
Spall said Leigh encourages you to create a proto-character as a template by observation and references of people you already know. They start by basing the character off of several different people and maybe even mixing mannerisms to create a fusion or a proto-person. Spall said that at some point the character shines through the references and comes to life on screen.
Don’t miss Timothy Spall’s award winning performance in Mr. Turner. http://sonyclassics.com/mrturner/
And check out these reviews from: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/30/mr-turner-review-mike-leigh-timothy-spall
and Variety: http://variety.com/2014/film/reviews/cannes-film-review-mr-turner-1201182098#u=http://variety.com/2014/film/reviews/cannes-film-review-mr-turner-1201182098;k=pmc-adi-31bb2464aad8b905af7a81e1d57b77ae