Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Starcrossed Escape of the Psychological Cosmonaut

My latest completed painting, the last of 2010 (probably!)

Here are a few close ups:

The face is strange, the hair looks too unnatural to me and there are lots of elements I'm not pleased with, but I'm happy with the expression, mostly joy with a pinch of terror, which exactly suits the mood of the whole painting.

Framing needed the help of some software I wrote for the purpose, to calculate the angles. The cuts had to be made by hand, but they were accurate enough and not as difficult as you might imagine. Here is the frame so far, clamped as the glue is drying...

The joints are good enough to allow me to stain the frame (bad joints might require filling, and so painting over).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kaspar Hauser

Well it's time to finish off the paintings that I'm going to finish and file away the ones that I'm never going to! In a bid to speed this up I've been painting some small watercolours (rare for me) of painting ideas that won't (for various reasons) make it to oil-on-canvas.

This is called The First Emergence of Kaspar Hauser, and is about emergence, psychological and (in Kaspar's case) literal. It was inspired by the film of similar name about Kaspar, a German man who claimed to have grown up entirely in a windowless cell (or something like it). The picture shows a future of sorts, a reflection (inner) of angelic glory and happiness on one hand, and sadness on the other, perhaps of not being able to make it, and thus insecurity. That was the original idea anyway.

I've painted this about five times and it never matches the perfection of the idea sketch (above). It's so hard to translate those flurries of the brush or pencil, but this is the closest. It seems that the best way to do it is to move slowly and carefully, not with a flourish.

The colours are olive green, raw sienna, and black. I think I'd benefit from a sepia.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snow Video

Snow; a montage of yesterday's snow, taken around Nantwich. The video was a bit more complex than my first one Interference because there are a lot more scenes, and I decided to fade the credits using an alpha channel. The music is from my 2003 album The Flatspace Soundtrack, and I've always imagined a simple montage of snowy scenes for it. Thankfully we have snow this year...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do Re Mi

I couldn't sleep last night and became semi-obsessed with writing new lyrics to the Sound of Music song Do-Re-Mi! The rules were that I couldn't use the same definitions as Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Do, some bread, some un-made bread.
Re, a name without the mond.
Mi, and mi, a French girl's name.
Fa, la la a wordless song.
Sol, the proper name for sun.
La, la land a madman's home.
Ti, a game of golf begun,
and that brings us back to...

So that's a bit of silliness. The video work is slow and difficult. My script was too complex, and long (for a three minute video). I'm mostly working on painting plans.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Video

I'm still assembling props and working out the visual effects. The hardest parts so far are the cutting open of the peg doll's head and the rain of money.

>For the dolls head I've considered many options. It's wood and too tiny to show a rainbow inside, and it would need to change into a full-screen rainbow. In its simplest form a bigger model could be used, made of a soft material that has a pre-drawn rainbow on the inside, but making a large peg model is difficult and the pre-drawn rainbow might now work very well when it comes to enlargement. My current idea will use two models, one life sized and one larger, and use a chroma key or other masking technique to reveal the rainbow and zoom to full screen.

For the rain of money I intend to film falling coins/money and use a chroma key to overlay it into the rainbow scene for a few seconds, then a closer view to reveal more detail, then a different view of the showering man. The problem is that coins fall very quickly, and they are reflective too which may well disrupt the chroma key. I thought of retarding the fall of the coins by dropping them through a viscous transparent liquid (I don't have a high speed camera). I'd do that if I had access to a fish tank. I could slide the coins on glass but they wouldn't flip and turn.

More of the other scenes are worked out mentally, more or less. I'll continue work tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Yesterday I compiled a second anthology of poems, of 48, each of which corresponds to a painting. After a trepidatory start, the poetry phase of the week is ended!

Today it was time for video! Last night I remembered that a video must be amazing and that's all, and also that the inherent benefits of surrealism are that it is amazing and easy to create. Remembering this, I wrote a film script this morning from my unconscious, a series of scenes that flow into the next. This will be the basis of the video I'll make to accompany my music, China Syndrome. It will be my first true artistic film. Here is the script as I wrote it:

Cutting open a tomato, zooming to change the arc into a rainbow. The edge of the rainbow turns into a circular saw blade. The edge of the blade turns into sea waves. A peg doll falls into the sea. She swims underwater and is attacked by peg fish. Her head is cut open like the tomato to reveal a rainbow inside. The rainbow rains money. A man with gold skin showers in the money. He holds up his hand which has a keyhole in the middle. A key is inserted and a door in the hand opens. Flying through the door down a tunnel, the tunnel exits in a forest. Moss grows and moves on the bark of a tree. The bark becomes furrows that stretch into the distance. The furrows become a field with a farmer wiping his brow, he stares at the burning sun. The sun is cut open with a knife like the tomato. There is a rainbow inside but we follow the knife this time. It is held by Zeus, wearing white surgeons gloves. Zeus strokes his beard and pulls a clump off it. He throws it and it becomes clouds on a blue sky. A raining day. A rusting knife in a puddle. A man glances up and sees a rainbow, then walks happily perhaps with a family into the sunset.

There will be no edits or changes at all (apart from spelling corrections!) Near the end of writing I realised that the story represented a quest for a good video, represented by the rainbow. The tomato/peg head/sun was my brain and/or heart. There are many symbols and steps along the way, but writing automatically like this manes that each one is correct, true and fits the story perfectly.

I've spent today assembling and making props (some pictured). Most were quite easy. The tunnel to fly down was at first tricky but I decided to make a cardboard tube and lower the camera down it on a string to simulate flying. The biggest challenge so far has been the sun and giant peg-doll models which need to be sliced open. Rusting a blade in a few hours is not easy either, but I am making progress on that. The hardest parts now are the locations, the furrowed farmer's field will be difficult to locate (but locating the sun in the sky will be nigh on impossible in this dull horrid weather). The forest will be easier. Still, my aim was to make the props today and film it all tomorrow. That will be difficult, especially doing it all alone. I'll try to rope a friend in to help.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Poetry and Panoramas

I've had a week of mixed tasks. First was the design of a painting for the Jobling Gowler competition, a landscape which after lots of consideration became an ancient one. That is now prepared but I won't begin painting until next year most probably.

Task two was to research exhibition venues and this proved time consuming. There are lots around. These range from custom built arts venues that support performances, that may be privately or publicly owned, to small council run theatres, to museums of all sizes, art shops, artist collectives with studios in the public eye, or private areas viewed by appointment only, to churches and private clubs. Each show different types of art and select artists in different ways. Fees vary from free to tens of thousands of pounds per week. The curious thing is how few simply exhibit 2D artworks, with many specialising in installations, performance art or sculpture. This task has taken lots of time so far and will take longer yet.

Task three was to compile a book of poetry. At first I became overwhelmed with the task, becoming self-critical and intending a masterwork. I almost became Sibelius, but then I remembered those very failings, and recognised that the solution was to aim low, brainstorm and try each idea. In the end I produced a collection of fifty-two poems that tell a sort of story of life from birth to death. That's all I need but I'll also make up another book at least, so that I can choose the best to enter for this anthology competition.

Task four was to create a panorama image of my bedroom (and studio). I decided to try this out of curiosity after browsing the street level ones in Google Earth (which I used to scout out the distant exhibition venues).

I used free software called Hugin. It took three attempts but it worked in the end. The pictures were made by mounting my camera on a small tripod on by swivel chair, as you might be able to see in my bedroom mirror! I used a Kodak Z1 video camera. If you want to view it as a panorama, save the image then locate and use some software called PTViewer.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Lark Ascending

A slow day today. It been a slow week. The crushing winter weather seems to have ground Britain to a halt.

I had aimed to make videos but I'm finding it difficult. In the end I limbered up the parts of my brain that know about video formats and editing. I spent most of the afternoon working on the concept for a new painting, the one for the Macclesfield competition. I have an idea now, I think, but it can wait because I've got four months to go.

I'm finding it hard to focus. At times like this I think of the drops. Each day is a drop that will eventually fill a bucket. I don't have to fill a bucket each day, one drop in the right direction is enough.

In poetry I'm writing Spenserian Stanzas. I like this form, since discovering it less than a week ago! Yesterday's poem was for a cheerful sunny painting called The Lark Ascending. Here it is (Oh, I know the last line is not an Alexandrine; I bent the rules).

The Lark Ascending

The ochre rays dance lightly in the spring
like golden strings on instruments of sun,
and high, so high the lark in spiral sings
in beauty blue, an azure river's run.
A misted moon looks on, its mourning done,
its requiem for frozen diamond night.
The butterflies of summer flick and come
in licks and turns, in sprays of ochre light.
A symphony of colour for the day's ascending flight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Humanoid Robot Drawing Portraits

Is this the beginning of the end for human artists?

Alien Christmas

My card painting is complete!

I've had a difficult week or so but now I'm back on track. The end of my painting projects was a relief but now I'm in a sort of withdrawal stage and need something new. At times like this I refer to my monthly goals/plan list.

I've got a couple of options for December. I must design a painting for the Jobling Gowler competition because it has a deadline early in 2011 but, setting art aside, I have a few choices. I think I'll make a video or two, working on promotion. I could continue with the big bang music, but I think I've created enough. Now it's time to promote what I've got, for a change.

One thing I have done today is stretch a canvas, a huge one that really tired me out! I used an acrylic impregnated polyester canvas called Top Gun, which is very warm and plastic to the touch. As it's pigmented plastic it is lightfast and rot proof, but I'll prime it with one coat of gesso, the sandy tooth is always a good idea for oils.

The canvas will become "The Quest for Pity on the Road to Self-Destruction", the second in my "pity" series. It's so large and white and lovely. I want to keep it as it is! I look forward to painting other things of this scale. It will be good practise. That's why I paint at the moment; training. I will paint seriously when qualified, not for several years yet! My painting obsession is less than five years old, after all!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Roman Legionaries Interview

Here is the cringeworthy news piece and interview about the donation of my painting to the Grosvenor Museum. It was a good learning process. My interview was filmed at the Cubby Hole and there are shots of the exhibition I had there. The other gentleman is Peter Boughton, Master of Art for Cheshire. The whole thing was conceived and produced by a journalism student at John Moores University, Liverpool.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Abandoning Someone Who Was a Friend to Me When I Had None

Here is my latest painting to be scanned, Abandoning Someone Who Was a Friend to Me When I Had None. The scanning process was arduous and involved 15 A4 scans that needed assembling. This big painting has an image of nearly 10,000 pixels square!

The picture depicts the end of a relationship (based on fact but romanticised, not real!) and uses colour to convey abandonment. I applied rules inspired by psychology to reflect the current and real in strong chromanance, and the distant and vague in greys. Similar tricks are used in mental visualisation processes to reinforce positive thoughts and dissipate negative ones.

It's 80x80cm, oil on canvas and took over a year from concept to finish! There were about 15 full days work involved, necessarily spread over that time.

The acrylic canvas was a pleasure to paint on but a pain to prepare. I'm going to try some "Top Gun" polyester canvas next (year), which is less heavy and more slick.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Trigonometry of Framing

Imagine you had a triangular wooden painting that measured 300x400x250mm on the sides. You don't know the angles. You have some framing wood with a deep 24mm rebate. You need to know what length the wood needs to be on the internal edge, and at what angle to cut the ends too. Quite a conundrum!

I'm faced with just that (well, apart from those specific sizes) for the painting below so I've written a small program in Visual Basic to solve the riddle. One day I'll probably adapt it so that I can cut the angles for any quadrilateral... just in case!

Thanks to the internet I managed to program this without actual mathematical knowledge. Phew. I can't ever recall hearing of the law of cosines before but now I have.

Alas I don't have a mitre saw so I'll have to saw the angles by hand. Awkward, but possible. I've done it before and the results weren't that bad.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The Starcrossed Escape of the Psychological Cosmonaut is complete apart from the signature (face detail shown). Last week was tough, an emotional and physical strain due to lots of things happening at once, but through it I forced myself to paint and now it is done and I feel calm. My sore throats and ear aches aren't getting better so I'll see what some rest can do. After many months of this I can see myself going back to the doctor for a sixth or seventh or whatever it is opinion, only to be sent back home to rest. I feel so tired of life today.

But I'm pleased with the painting. I have one other underpainting, The Annunciation, but that's quite a lot smaller and not for anything in particular. I'm really so fed up with painting that I'll quite simply stop. I've been ignoring my feelings and whims too often and now it's time to do what I want. No schedules. No plans. At last.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I'm still painting. The Christmas underpainting was completed on Tuesday and I'm now working on the Starcrossed Escape. This is time consuming and the long hours, bad light and cold are proving tiresome. I'm looking forward to a rest from painting after this one.

The eclipse part is shown. Those rays are difficult to get right. The slightest mark in the wet glaze remains eternally visible so each touch and stroke must be perfect. I aim to finish this layer on Sunday.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The First Alien Christmas

Here is the first glimpse of my Christmas card painting. It's taking a long time. Those cloth folds and facial features would take a while irrespective of scale (in actuality the faces are about 15mm across). I expect this 23x33cm underpainting to take about three days.

The violet base is acrylic, which I had to apply in this case because I don't have enough time for an oil imprimatura. The strong mid-tone is an accidental first for me but it worked well. The surface was rather more slick than it should be but it was okay. It's watered down liquid Dioxazine and was done a few days before painting began.

>Only earth oil colours have been used; the blues are cobalts, with the sky being mars violet based. Don't pay much attention to the odd sizes... the photograph perspective is strong and irrational.

The first half of the month will be busy and full of painting as I complete this, then the large triangular Escape painting. I aim to have both complete before the 15th.

>At some point I want to start approaching galleries. I'm thinking that A C.V., examples of work as photographs and artists statement sent through the post would be a good starting point. Not sure whether to follow up with a phone call or not, or whether to phone or email first. Can anyone who has done this offer advice?

Emailed images would be a no I think. A photo in the hand is worth two on the screen.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


A busy day today. In the morning I had a video interview about the Grosvenor acquisition for www.jmu-journalism.org.uk, a news website run by John Moore's University in Liverpool. I suggested it be held at the Cubby Hole because my exhibition was up there, and so it was, and the brilliant interviewer Louise Parker showed great interest in my work and the story.

It was the last day of the show there so after that I took down the exhibition with a little help from my friends, and shipped the work home and spent some time putting it away.

Then I measured and cut some wood for the Gethsemane frame which I'll make tomorrow, and put together a package of artwork and promotional material for my computer games Taskforce and Gunstorm II, soon to be available on Impulse. I like Taskforce a lot and there are lots of in-jokes, a good plot and generally good ideas in there but it's not been a popular game. Its lack of success lead directly to my interest in art. Ironically, my games now thanks to Stardock have been more successful, and I await to see how the game does now that I've polished it up a bit. Taskforce and Flatspace II are, to date, my greatest achievements as a game developer.

After that I archived the vocal recordings Steven McLachlan made for my songs because I needed the CD case for some Sibelius CD's that arrived today (grr, in cardboard sleeves, I want a CD case please. I'd happily pay a few quid more for a plastic box - although I know that I'm in a minority and that most people want cheap cheap things instead of paying for quality).

After that I went out to the Lyceum to cover a painting that was too lewd for the sensitive eyes of the local denizens, and at the same time bought some tools specifically for exhibition hanging in future. Now it's blog time. Each day is going to be a rush for quite some time.

I've got another art opening to attend tomorrow, but this time it's not for me but a new artist exhibiting at the Cubby. I wonder what the art will be like?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lyceum Exhibition

My latest exhibition is now set up at the Lyceum Theatre, Crewe. It's a joint exhibition with Ray Perez and runs until the 16th of December. Setting up was a challenge but a good day and I learned a bit more about the best way to do these things. I'm slowly accreting a set of tools especially for exhibition hanging.

Today was the annual general meeting of my group Art Support, which is now so large that we've decided that a waiting list needs to be imposed. I'm press officer there and I'll be in charge of publicity for three exhibitions next year, but my first is an announcement about a small display at Burland Stores, Wrexham Road, Burland, Nantwich.

Now I must get on with the Christmas Card.

Other Lyceum pics...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Christmas 2010

For the past couple of years I've designed a Christmas card to give to my friends. I've been drawing that out today. Card number three began with a dome and the resulting design looked rather like a scene from Star Wars (not much of a surprise as that film was practically a direct cross between Flash Gordon and The Greatest Story Ever Told). So Christmas will be alien themed this year. I must make haste with this one, I've only got a few weeks to paint it, dry it, scan it and print it!

In the evening I set out the paintings for my exhibition set up tomorrow in the Lyceum Theatre. It'll be a busy month I think.

Every five days or so I'm hit with an itchy throat, sore throat, burning face and night fever, then it passes. It's been that way for so many months now that I suspect I'll have this for the rest of my life. The doctors can't find anything wrong and have become convinced my symptoms are psychological. I suppose only time will tell what will happen. I must focus on positivity and work.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Over the past two days I've been updating my music software NoiseStationII, adding the ability to fade between one parameter and another with a single command. This doesn't make anything possible that was impossible before, but it makes it much easier. I can, for example, set a start point and an end point to fade the song out or in, or fade the tempo down, or a filter, on the song, or any track or any instrument playing. Anyway, the changes took two days.

Today I've been trying to write a little tune about black holes but it's been a struggle for production reasons. The tune is fine, and I've got lots more noted down, but the sound isn't right. I imagined something big and booming like Mars in The Planets Suite, but a bassy lead sound like that is quite tricky because the bass marks a beat more than carries a melody. I've tried a strange brassy distorted sort of sound here. It'll come eventually. The melody is a little too slow too.

In the end I lost interest in it and went back to the "fugue" track in the post below which now sounds a lot better, thanks to some timing changes and the addition of a proper fugue, that is two melodies not just cycles of chords. At the moment it does have a sense of growing and good dissonance contrast but it's not got much to do with the big bang (although it's definitely approaching mathematics).

I need to add the next layer, which often comes at about this stage. This requires visualisation of the thing to convey, and new music bits and/or changes to what is there already to portray and represent the things in the scene.

Now, other news.

Tomorrow I plan to switch jobs completely and get back to painting. It's time to design this year's Christmas card for my friends. I'm pleased to say that the Thinking About Christmas painting raised £95 for the Resources For Autism charity I donated it to. I'll be attending a reception event in London next month where the total will be announced. There were quite a few famous names in this auction like Sir Peter Blake, Lord Norman Foster and Anish Kapoor.

My painting is now hanging in the Grosvenor Museum too. I'm in the local paper woohoo. The write up was very complimentary, I must send a thank you to the journalists. They mentioned my next exhibition too which starts on Tuesday. Tick tick. Tick!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pause Button

Okay, here is the music so far, after the post below...

(here once lay a long dead link, so you must imagine the joy and wonder of its tones!)

I think that more melody and more contrast is needed. It's interesting that the slower tunes in here, the random-like notes, do present a melody but the faster version sounds more babbling. Timing has to be just right, it seems.

Regularity of the timing is a problem. Not just here, but in electronic music generally. There are things that are best conveyed regularly, but there's a lot of missing expression without it. In many ways the fact that an orchestra is lots of individuals playing at once adds feeling in a way that is very time consuming and difficult for one composer/producer to add in a sequencer.

I programmed my own music software, mainly because I could afford a book on programming but not any expensive music software, but I've been very pleased with the results. I want to add a feature to slide and interpolate parameters automatically, notably tempo. Currently I can modulate a parameter using a waveform or set it to a fixed value, but to slide it automatically to a target tempo should make it easy to add timing expression while remaining in control. If I can do it (it's not easy...) it should work for any parameter too and might lead to lots of new effects. Sliding the wet or decay on a reverb effect would be easy and might sound cool.

For now though I must rest. It appears that I'm dangerously anxious and need to recuperate. I've cancelled all but one of my future dates and feel better already. I aspire to be Raphael in all ways but his demise.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Banging On

I've been working like crazy in vain on this music and I'm getting rather frustrated. I've now got three production fragments of tracks, basic beats with chords that can be adapted to a variety of tunes.

Most of my work though has gone into a strange new tune that uses strange new methods! I began with the golden ratio and converted it to base seven, using the C major scale for notes. The idea was that this would represent chaos. I played the stream of notes along with a basic pulse in C, and added a similarly nonsensical chaotic counterpoint. This continued in F and then alternated between the two growing in intensity.

Then a new arrangement of chords began, a simple familiar cycle; A min-D min, G maj-C maj, F maj-Bb maj then E and E. This sounded like order and beauty by comparison.

But alas, this hasn't worked very well and I'm not pleased with it. There are a few problems.

Firstly, the tune lacks drama. It has a regular rhythm and the stream of notes, chaotic or beautiful lacks timbre and volume contrast. Injecting more contrast was/is difficult.

Secondly the tune lacks melody. Melody melody! is vital, and here we have a stream of notes instead. There is something hummable in there, and the beautiful part does sound pretty but I'm frustrated by the lack of tune. Adding a tune later is quite possible, but there are only a certain number of combinations.

Finally there is a lack of overall structure. I managed to fade the chaos into the pretty part quite well but the two parts are rather different. One key to creating drama is to lead into the key element. Once the target theme is set, lead into it. Alfred Hitchcock tried to sum up each film by setting one scene, one key that represents the whole film. It's the same in music, and this must be set first and built towards. How much of Beethoven's 9th Joy appears before it? Lots.

I need to rethink.

I also need to redecide from the beginning exactly what I'm doing and aiming at. I've been over thinking this! I must avoid getting tired before the race begins.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Big Bang

Now now! I've been writing music all day, well trying. It's difficult. I want to write an album on the big bang, the beginning and fate of the universe, something like Albedo 0.39 by Vangelis crossed with the planets suite by Holst.

Now, I'll let you into a secret in that the majority of my music isn't written for a subject, at least not at first. Generally I'll play with sounds and melodies until it gets quite far. I'll often start with a rhythm. After a while it might sound or feel like something, at that point I'll nudge it towards that thing and title it as such.

The Train is a good example. It began with a jaunty rhythm a little like the pop song Steppin Out by Joe Jackson. It sounded like a train on tracks, so I added the chack-a-chack background and other parts.

At other times I've written melodies beforehand, such as the music for The Infinite Forest, but usually I'll pick tracks from the half complete sketches, then push them towards something to make them fit. As such, it takes a long time to write an album, several months of toying and slight changes. Much more like sculpture than the way I paint.

This time thought I've got no sketches, so I must begin from the start. It'll be a new experience then, and after the experimentation of Pi I wanted to include some more atonal parts to clash with the melodies which I tend to fill my music with. These options are proving daunting.

I've begun by listing the main stages of the big bang and must now try to summon feelings for each event. This isn't that easy because it's all so mathematical and mechanical. Could Holst have written music about the science of the planets? No! He had to use the mythology because the passion and humanity was there. I will have to make this album metaphorical, or at least present my thoughts and feelings about the universe into it.

The coldest music there is is by Bach, and today I wrote the coldest organ fugue you could imagine! Incidentally I do not totally believe that his famous toccata and fugue in D-minor (BWV565) is by Bach... it's got passion and despite his genius, it is the one thing his music never has.

Anyway this has been day one and not much progress has been made but I have made some. I will keep trying. I'm not sure if my cold fugue will make it, but it is an ideal form for mathematics... the main problems being both the lack of passion, and that such things are often not beautiful (although Bach's concerto for two violins in very beautiful).

Tomorrow I will again attack Forces and Unification, the very start of the album which is about the part of the big bang where the fundamental forces of nature coalesce. I hope to represent this by having four different musical parts that overlay. I've been trying all day though without success. Music always takes a long time, partly due to technical matters (even Beethoven didn't have to cope with balancing tracks in a recording environment) but it is enjoyable and I feel strongly that I've not nearly shown what I'm capable of.

It's odd that in output terms I'm nearly on par with Jean-Michel Jarre. I do find that rather comforting. He's on tour at the moment (I'm following him on Facebook, which he updates daily, it's very interesting to see). I wonder if he would have been a better composer if he was less successful as a performer. He writes with flair but not brilliance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Time for a quick update! Today I've completed day three of glazing Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None. It's looking good so far and I think it will be my greatest painting to date. I should complete it tomorrow.

Despite being my largest painting it's not taken very long at all. Sometimes I work and toil like mad and fight to create something I'm not at all happy with, and sometimes great things happen with no effort at all. In fact it seems like my best work is often the easiest and quickest, and my worst is the hardest and slowest... yet I seem to have no clue which is which until it's too late! Rules are of no use because they would be restrictive. Perhaps the rule should be a time limit... but then, my best work is also unforced, and painted with due care...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I've been thinking about the Big Bang recently because of Horizon. It struck me that expansion is not explosion and that thinking of the big bang as an explosion is misleading. We're in the big bang now, as much as we would be at the start of the universe... it's not like this is the aftermath of an explosion, that the big bang was an event that has passed, the expanding Universe IS the explosion and it's exploding now as much as ever. If it extends forever then we would effectively have infinite universes, although all smoothly flowing instead of "separately" here and there.

But enough physics ideas and back to more important things, namely painting. I'll probably start doing that tomorrow, glazing Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None.

Alas, Keele University has in its finite wisdom rejected my three paintings for the Three Counties Open this year. This is the first year in four that I've not got one in. I can only guess at why, and consider it a measure designed to make me paint superior paintings in future! So it's a good thing then!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Resources for Autism

I donated the above work to a project called Resources for Autism and soon they will be holding the international on-line auction to raise money for their charity. Here is the official announcement...

Resources for Autism are proud to announce their ART EXCHANGE ON-LINE AUCTION. Royal Academicians, Architects, Illustrators, Photographers, Fashion Designers and artists of all kinds participated in this unique project; exchanging artwork with the members of the RfA Adult Art Studio Group.

View the on-line catalogue on www.resourcesforautism.org.uk.

The auction opens for bidding via eBay Friday 15th October. All proceeds will directly benefit the arts therapy program at Resources for Autism.

Artists who generously donated work include:

Lord Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Sir Richard Rogers, Ian Ritchie, Daniel Libeskind, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, Sir Peter Blake, Maurice Cockrill, Mary McCartney, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mac, Peter Brookes, Eileen Cooper, Anthony Whishaw, Renzo Piano, Philip Somerville, Bruce Oldfield, Mark Sheeky and many many more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Face Layer Two

Right right right! Back to work. Here are two pictures, before and after.

I needed to darken the face on this because it was too light for the rest of the body. Also a second opaque layer like this helps smooth things which is advantageous when painting a delicate face. The tones/shades are more important than the hues, which here are more brown than the surroundings. Hues are not very important at all compared to tones, and even wildly inventive hues on an underpaintings can still produce "realistic" flesh after a glaze or two. The medium was two parts linseed oil to one part OMS, an ideal medium for work like this. The hair and background are untouched, the difference there being photograph glare.

I spent most of the day relaxing and walking in this most beautiful of sunny days.

This evening I continued the Flatspace II update. As a Scarrid there is an exploitation bug where you can select a target and call for clan assistance, watching the ensuing battle and possibly scooping up the debris, all without incurring danger or penalty. I've addressed this today by adding some random elements. If you are not under attack by your target then you'll be assisted in combat most of the time, but sometimes you'll be exiled and attacked yourself for bringing shame on the clan, and sometimes a clan friend will move towards you to assist but not attack.

I'm behind on my poems too. More to be written later today!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Well it's time for a blog post but I'm stuck what to write. I was ill again last week and felt a little shaky for my exhibition set-up on Friday but by the night felt well. Fiona Bratherton and co. were there and Janet from my art group too, but out of 50 invites there were no other people there (ironically those two weren't sent invites), so the room felt rather empty. My horoscope said I should consider a change of career this week! How insulting!

Yet, perhaps prophetic. I've been programming over the past few days and have been rather enjoying it. I'm working on an update to my game Flatspace II and suddenly it seems exciting and addictive like painting once was. I must avoid having my time sapped!

I've got about a week's worth of painting this month, finishing off the works in progress I've shown on this blog before. I might set aside some time to try a bit of music.

The daily poems are continuing too, with mixed results. In some ways it's good to make yourself write something each day because I end up with the odd gem that wouldn't exist otherwise. In other ways it can kill complex preparation and mastery. I'll break with tradition and put one here. It took a long time to pick one!


My hair was grey, and cracked away,
but now is fair, and rich, and soft.
My hands once rough and stiff to bend
are gentle, warm and young again.

My eyes once blind are open wide,
and morning scents are fresh and new.
My spine is straight instead of bent,
and my mind is open, fast, and excited,
by each new thing, new joy, new friend.

My smile shows love,
and my light is brighter,
shining out like a heaven's ray,
and each darkness ends a good day.
My loss has fallen all away,
and my great life is uncursed,
because it has reversed.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tick Tick

A busy few days. The picture is my painting being formally accepted by Cllr. Richard Short at the Grosvenor Museum Chester. It's now part of the permanent collection and to be hanged on St. Luke's Day, which is the 18th Oct - as we all know!

Not much creative work done since Friday, but some sound effect work and paperwork. Tomorrow I'll plan my November exhibition in the Lyceum. Thursday I'll do some work on my game Flatspace II, and Friday is the hanging of the Cubby Hole Exhibition, my big solo one of the year. I'm behind on my daily poems... I must write some! Sometimes making myself write produces good results. If you do what you feel you WILL miss out. It's important to push sometimes - yes!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Infinite Forest CD

Misc jobs done today. It's the start of a quarter, so my monthly and quarterly backups took up most of the morning, then updating my website with exhibition info and getting ready for the forthcoming release of the Once Upon a Time CD. Then! The printing for The Infinite Forest arrived, look!

As usual I ordered 20 of these. I'll have them on sale at The Cubby Hole for £10. I've hardly sold any so far, up to two of certain albums (zero for most!), but they are pretty, and the beauty of the product matters, and the music is good quality too if I say so myself. While listening to some Vangelis music a few months back I was struck on how it, in its infinite success, wasn't really that different from mine in technical quality. One day my music WILL be discovered.

Briefly I wondered if I should update my music software for octaphonic sound (more practically; 5.1, but octaphonic makes more sense from a logical point of view). It would take a while but might be useful. Surround sound like this is becoming more common slowly, partly due to cinematic experience. Having a studio capable of producing such music will be useful. It would be quite a lot of work though I think, and some effects like my reverbs will need reprogramming. In fact, many of my sound engines have left/right parameters, and spreading that over 8 channels would be difficult if only for visible display reasons...

Anyway! My tasks for the week are mostly sound based as I do some more work for IndieSFX.

Artistically I considered buying some tubed watercolours after having fun with the seahorses below. Perhaps I'll think of the picture before spending a fortune on more art supplies. Perhaps..! I think it far more likely that I'll spend the fortune first. I've already made a list of colours I'd like!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Starcrossed Escape 2

"The Starcrossed Escape..." underpainting is complete. I'm making a list of mistakes and flaws. Such a list is vital to any painting. Without that, I might think it was good enough and I'd learn nothing and gain nothing from it! Anyway, here is the painting so far...

Of course this is an underpainting. I'll be painting over the whole thing again next month.

Now I'll see if I can demould my papier mache moons. Next week will be a busy one, starting with a press event at the Grosvenor Museum and ending with the opening of my Cubby Hole exhibition. It's dark and cold for the first time this season, and I'm beginning to get tired with painting and, once again, keen to get back to music, or even start on that novel idea. I think it's useful neurologically to switch from one thing to another. Practise and imagination exercises of all sorts are important to stay fresh and athletic.

That reminds me that my dreams are recently full of art and the night before last I made two installations at a gallery, one was a room where each object was slightly, uncomfortably, larger than normal, and a second room had every object slightly smaller than normal. They were inspired by an installation by a 1950s artist, a fabulous 3D turquoise ceiling. The 3D was more vivid than actual 3D, in a way that can only really work in a dream... the ceiling was distant but the parallax effect stronger than it should have been! Quite amazing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Starcrossed Escape of the Psychological Cosmonaut

I am currently at the end of day two of the first layer to my latest painting, The Starcrossed Escape of the Psychological Cosmonaut. Look!

A lot has been done despite the fact that the picture is just over a metre in height and that the detail level is very high. Being a triangle helps here, but my working speed has improved this year. This is a complex work and the planning involving a detailed digital mockup has helped enormously. There are lots of separate elements that needed modelling, photographing and assembling; a clay model for the lower regions, a skull photograph (taken at Shrewsbury Museum), a computer model for the figure and the flying crucifix, a model butterfly made from tracing paper, some polyester-silk drapery (hung from my eternally useful microphone stand!), a distorted artificial landscape (bent into a semi circular pipe and lit!), sun and moon images courtesy of NASA, and finally lighting and photography of the female model.

This will complete two of my art goals for 2010; to paint something with a length over a metre, and to paint something using a professional model. I've missed most of my other goals, getting caught up in what I wanted or needed to do, instead of aiming at them! Even these two were more down to luck rather that aiming to complete them. I wonder how many other artists set art goals?

Friday, September 24, 2010


The Cubby Hole held a charity event today in aid of MacMillan Cancer Relief. There's a similar event tomorrow. Basically, lots of free art materials are there, cakes, drinks, and expert help and demonstrations. Anyone can pop into the shop and have a go, all for a voluntary donation to MacMillan.

Sniffly me was persuaded to go along and I'm glad that I did, having a nice time and painting a few watercolours, and making things up as I went along for a change. I was happy enough to sign them, see!

I haven't painted in watercolours in months. When was the last time you tried a different medium?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Paper Moons

I feel like I'm making a good recovery and I'm definitely in a positive frame of mind. I haven't done much today but I did spend some time making two papier maché moons for the Cubby Hole exhibition in two weeks. I don't know what Don uses but I used flour and water, heated and stirred in a pan to make the glue. The result was delightfully slimy. My original idea was to make one using two halves of a ball, but when I got sticking I thought that coating the entire ball and later cutting in half and peeling or somehow unsticking the paper could work. I rubbed the balls in baby oil first so that might help with the demoulding process. It would have been useful for me to note where the valve was so I could deflate the balls.

I didn't give the process much thought and planning. These are just a bit of fun for the night, as fun as the moons dangling from the ceiling should be! I wonder how long they will take to dry?

PS. I've also turned off "word verification" for my blog comments as an experiment. I became annoyed at typing those wiggly words on other people's blogs and I wondered exactly how much spam I'd get without the feature, I mean I can always moderate comments anyway. Let's see what happens.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gethsemane Postmortem

Day four of glazing this painting and now it is done. This picture has taken 9 days of painting so far, and 21 days work in total including preparation. There is more to do yet. The gold area will include gemstones.

I've learned a few things with this one. Some edges look stark and ugly where the paint was painted next to dry areas during underpainting. There aren't many possible solutions; extend the drying time (not ideal, wet paint accretes more dust), calculate daily painting sections carefully (not always possible) or paint by section and not by object (could work, but would require exact and time consuming colour matching from day to day), or re-wet edges when underpainting (not a bad idea but time consuming, and would also require colour matching together with the hope that the newly wet edges don't show up as different). I'll use bits of all of those. Stark edges are my current biggest hurdle in my quest for perfection.

Another lesson was don't sand the panel before priming. It left a dusty surface that was "hairy" and horrid to paint on, that made me care less while painting. In a way, this was unavoidable. I had prepared one panel for an early version of this painting which I aborted. When I prepared this one I messed up, and in my frustration (and lack of wood!) I decided to flip the panel over and use the back, which needed sanding due to blemishes and is why this one isn't a perfect surface. Even now there is a strong visible scar across the top. I knew this fully before I began, and knew that I could have waited and taken more care but I was growing tired of this old idea. Sometimes you have to compromise quality just to get a job out of the way.

Of good lessons, Blockx transparent mars yellow is great earth yellow, and makes nicer greens than any ochre I've used. I also made good first use of bright yellows and greens for the daffodils, which used cadmium lemon, ultramarine and raw umber (to mute the intensity). Those three and white were used for all of the bright yellows and greens which worked very well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fugue Poetry

Painting the tree object all day yesterday. Tracing The Starcrossed Escape today at Art Support. All slow work but rewarding.

Poems continue and last night I wrote a fugue poem, a poem that tries to use rhyme and repetition in a similar way to the melody in a fugue.

The poem opens with one line as the main theme. In a musical fugue this would then repeat in a different key, but here I've repeated the line but with new words interspersed with the first ones. The process is repeated in a poetic dance, and eventually the poem resolves, but the rhymes and original words of the main theme feature many times throughout the poem, giving it a hypnotic quality and a feeling not unlike a fugue by J.S. Bach, whom by merry chance is the subject of the poem.

I won't post the poem yet. One problem regarding blogged poetry is that it often automatically prevents its entry into a competition, as most contests don't permit poetry that has been published, even online. However, I think I still should blog the principle behind the poem here. I'll explore the idea further and post some examples sooner or later.

For the next few days though I must continue painting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gethsemane Glazing Two

A second day of glazing, and grass which worked well. I used two sets of greens, one fairly transparent and one that used oxide of chromium to make an opaque one for the odd strand of grass. Hero of the day was the Blockx transparent mars yellow which although an earth yellow produced some wonderfully bright yellow greens when glazed very thinly. It's a very finely ground yellow that looks rather drab in a lump but thins out brilliantly. I bet it would look good in watercolour. I'm on target for this layer to take five days. Day two complete.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I had a nice relaxing day today which is what was needed. I thought it made sense to paint even though I didn't really feel like it. I got my painting books out and flicked through them for inspiration and started. Soon I was enjoying it.

I glazed the sky and the green trees in the Gethsemane picture today. It was a bit scrappier than usual because the underpainting lacked my usual level of detail, and that was because the surface was a little furry due to sanding before priming. That meant more details and tonal changes when glazing, which I don't like because I like to use brighter more transparent colours for this stage. The results were good enough however.

The green in the background trees is little more than Blockx Transparent Mars Yellow and Ultramarine. The yellow is a new colour, and looks like gold ochre or raw sienna from the tube but it's a definite yellow ochre and I already like it better than those cols.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tap Dream

I've been working on sound work over the past couple of days but I'm still not feeling very well. Last night I had an interesting dream.

I was in a large house, like a mansion with white stone tiles on the walls and copper water pipes running along the long of corridors. I was thirsty and found a tap, but the top was faulty and was of a strange design, a like a tall dome in brilliant reflective chrome. It kept leaking and I struggled to fill my water bottle without spilling water and making a mess. Twisting the top nearly shut off the water flow, but not quite and it was very sensitive, one twist too far made it leak and spill again. Suddenly the house owner appeared, an intimidating man who I knew would be angry at the mess. I explained that the tap was faulty and he tried to shut it off. Suddenly I realised that I wasn't in a house but a mortuary, and I awoke in fear and feverish shivers.

I trust that I'll get better with rest. I hope to get back to painting soon and work on the Gethsemane painting. That is my main priority this month, that and the new picture for Art Liberating Lives, an event which I hope is happening as usual (even if not it will be a good painting!). I can't wait to finish painting and begin music, writing or something else! The sound work has been a breath of air but I'm sad that I don't feel well enough to see my girlfriend who is a distant cycle ride away.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I was collecting a painting today, the one I painted this year for the Tabernacle Competition. Next year's theme has already been announced, "feeling".

There are definitely certain types of art that are designed to be emotionless, perhaps to convey an intellectual idea. In a way, much of the post modern conceptual art of the 1990s was just that. Perhaps art without feeling was a sign of an anaesthetised desensitised society created by exposure to imagery, sound, music, violence and everything the modern world offers that wasn't there even two decades earlier. Perhaps feeling in art was too subtle to be noticed, or unimportant. Perhaps shock tactics had killed it. Too much good feeling is fine. Too much bad feeling is an unpleasant turn off.

For me all good art should convey feeling, and one of the main ways to determine whether art is good or bad is whether it touches the viewer. The conveyance of feeling and empathy has been a driver of art innovation too. Abstraction aimed to convey feelings in a more direct way than realism could, specifically by artists who didn't empathise with the subject matter of a painting but were affected by the forms and colours.

Perhaps a wider audience can get a feeling from colours, and a smaller one can empathise with a peasant in a field. Does that mean that abstraction is better at conveying feelings? Not really because it is less specific. In some ways it's a easy option. There's a lot of feeling in a Rothko but hardly any intellectual substance.

Of course I'm full of ideas for next year. I wonder what the other entries will look like...

PS. The picture is my friend's cat Scrabble. A cute feeling!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I've had a few days rest and recovery after a lingering but not too deep virus. I'm now busy and afire once more.

Immediate goals for this month are to finish the Garden of Gethsemane painting, the Abandoning a Friend picture, and starting a new one, The Starcrossed Escape which will require a life model for the first time. Painting from a model is one of my 2010 goals, of which I've hardly complete any (and were rather arbitrary anyway). Tomorrow I'm off to collect Remembering Summer from M.O.M.A. Wales.

All of that said I'm now back in the mood for music and find it hard to be enthused by painting. I've and have been listening with glee to early 20th century Viennese music, and Mozart and Bach again, and learning the fugual form. I'm dying to write some original music! Pi earlier this year was a diversion but it was also an unusual experiment. I want to write more new music!

That's all to be said during this update, which is more of a diary entry than a blog or commentary! Schazzaaam!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Over the past few days I've half finished a picture... I say half finished because I was unhappy with the picture and have decided to stop half way. More about that later.

First, a video. Two days ago I went to Chester Zoo and took some films there with the aim of making a short music video, mainly to test out AVISynth, some free video software. Here is the result...

AVISynth uses a script language to edit and assemble videos. It only uses AVI files, so I used something called SUPER (very good software) to convert between formats. This script was quite simple but it already did some sophisticated things.

I'll describe it in detail!

1. startclip=assumefps(imagereader("start.jpg", end=300), 30000,1001)

That loads the start.jpg picture as a video of 300 frames. The two numbers at the end set the frame rate (speed) to the same as the aquarium video I took at the zoo (about 29.97 frames per second, the NTSC standard apparently).

2. endclip=assumefps(imagereader("end.jpg", end=300), 30000,1001)

That loads the end.jpg picture and does the same. Both of these are now videos as far as the program is concerned.

3. vidclip=ConvertToRGB24(killaudio(avisource("fish.avi")))

Line three loads the aquarium video, converts it to RGB24 format to make it the same as the pictures. It also kills (removes) the soundtrack.

4. part1=trim(dissolve(startclip, vidclip, 150), 0,4075)

This put together the start picture with the aquarium video, fading over 150 frames. The trim command cuts down the result to 4075 frames, which is around two minutes.

5. part2=dissolve(part1, endclip, 150)

That line takes the above video and puts the end clip at the end, fading again over 150 frames.

6. audio=wavsource("R1B-T04-MarkSheeky-Interference.wav")
7. audiodub(part2, audio)

Those lines load the audio and dub it to the video.

That's the full script.

In total that took about an hour, which included lots of reading the docs and fixing bugs!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Today I've been painting a picture called "Now I've Tasted Love There Is No Going Back To A Loveless Life" which is rather complicated and really quite amazing even to me. I'm painting it rather differently than normal, toying with the colours more, wise to my "chromosurrealism" rules; designed to use colour in a neurological way instead of a purely aesthetic way.

All is going well and the concerns of the weekend have been forgotten. I spent yesterday at the zoo and took some films in the butterfly house. I hope to edit together a short video for my tune "Flight Of A Moth". Not my first choice for music "single", but well the butterfly house suits a video perfectly! I'd like to do more music videos but it's a matter of planning and resources. At least now I know how to edit; using the free Avidemux software.

I've prepared for my exhibition in October at The Cubby Hole. Carol there is a wonderful matron for the arts. Her little craft shop has become a nice little hub in my life since discovering it and I enjoy every visit. I'll write to a few local papers and try to drum up some interest. The poster is shown.

Now I'll rest. Another full day tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Philosophy of Truth

Expressed in textual form. But first a picture:

That is part of my latest underpainting, which took just three days despite being nearly a metre square. This was down to the subject (it is not complex or demanding of accuracy) and the excellent surface, which took more than three days alone to prepare and was at least four times as expensive as the M.D.F. panels I normally paint on. However, for large paintings my sturdy acrylic canvas is brilliant.

I've had a nervous few days, darting from task to task but not getting much done. Losing focus on any one thing while trying to do too many things, and feeling time pressure and feelings of loss of control, which once rationalised have disappeared. I'm more in control than most people. The painting year is nearly at and end. No paintings require deadlines, aside from distant competitions, and I don't even have to be up for work (although I consider it my duty to humanity as an artist to wake early and produce something). Now I'll dive into heavy philosophy and type my philosophy on truth. I'm aware that most people find it a bit boring or hard work, so I won't be offended if you look away now, but it is worth blogging in case someone searches for such a thing in future.

So, how can you know if something is true?

Imagine there was only one person in the universe, a mad man who thought the sky was green. He says "The sky is green". Is this true? The answer is no. It does has sort of truth though, correspondence with ones beliefs, a personal truth.

That situation is a trick because we the observer also had a presence in the universe. We see it not from the mad man's perspective but our own. We know that the sky is blue, so we can say that the statement is false. What if we also believed that the sky was green? Would the statement then be true?

Imagine that the world was filled with people who all believed the sky was green. One says "The sky is green". Is this true? Again no. Again this has a sort of truth, correspondence with the common consensus, but the statement is not true. Ask yourself; Before Copernicus did the Sun really orbit the Earth just because the authorities insisted it did?

Real truth is when a statement equates with "reality", yet defining reality is a problem for philosophers because it is built from our perceptions, and so truth appears to be an equation between the beliefs about our thoughts and the beliefs about our perceptions. If both sides of the equation involve our beliefs then anything could be called true. What is the solution?

The solution is to assign a mind to the universe. Something is true when our beliefs are the same as the beliefs of the universe. The universe consists of everything that is not us. Like any being, we must assume that the universe has perceptions and beliefs, the perceptions of all things.

In the first example there is only one man in the universe, a mad man who thought the sky to be green. We the observer are also present, but now the universe is present too. There are three beings. The universe believes the sky to be blue so when we believe it, it is true. When the mad man believes it, it is false.

Perfect establishment of the truth is a matter of communication with the universe to establish its beliefs then, and to establish truth we must communicate with the universe as we do with other people to establish their beliefs.

What then is belief? Belief is nothing more than the dictionary definition. The belief of the universe can be considered truth at all times, but the beliefs and thoughts and opinions of the universe must be established by enquiry and reason, in the same way as the beliefs and thoughts and opinions of any person are established. We can never observe from anyone's perspective except our own, and we can never see the universe from its perspective, so knowledge of truth is difficult or impossible, but it can be established to a greater or lesser degree by enquiry.

Let us consider another experiment. Let us assume that the world consists of people without eyes. They all think the sky is green. The people develop a machine to detect the colour of the sky, but it is flawed and speaks that the sky is green. One inhabitant declares "The sky is green". Is this true? No, because the universe believes the sky to be blue. The machine was flawed, so the enquiry into the beliefs of the universe was flawed.

Considering the question "Are green hats more pretty than orange hats?" creates an interesting dilemma. The statement is true if the universe agrees. Prettiness might be an opinion of people, even all people might agree that a tree is more pretty than a building, but would that be true? It depends if the universe agrees, and working out if and how the universe agrees is a matter of enquiry. Prettiness is not a simple argument. There are pros a cons for each object regarding prettiness, and the universe might have mixed opinions on the subject. It is the matter for the enquirer to try to establish the beliefs and opinions of the universe. However, it is quite possible that the universe has no opinion on a particular subject, and it's also possible that the universe does not know the answer to a particular question. Why?

The universe holding total knowledge would only be possible if the universe was infinite in size and so infinite in possibility, but as the universe is defined as that which is not us, then the universe must exclude at least us, and so is not infinite. As such the universe cannot know everything. In particular the universe cannot fully know us.

By the same degree we cannot fully know it. If we knew the universe completely then truth would be when our beliefs equated to our beliefs, a nonsense. If the universe was infinite all things would be true. So then, it essential that enquiry by us is imperfect, and essential that the knowledge of the universe is finite and limited.

Things are additionally complicated by the fact that we are in the universe and part of it, however, essentially some part of our minds must be independent of it because of the arguments outlined above. This begs the question; what is mind?

Mind in this context is a container of knowledge. This means that mind is divisible. A rock contains knowledge of (at least) its shape, cut in half a becomes two rocks each with knowledge. The rock cannot fully know itself. Any mind cannot fully know itself or its parts. Divisible to to smallest particle, an object cannot know itself or be fully knowable, because if so truth could not exist.

The barrier between our complex minds and external reality is essentially present for logic to exist and function.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Abandoning Someone...

First day of underpainting a new picture today. Here's a small preview. The painting was planned and prepared last year.

It's different for me in that it uses canvas when I usually use smooth M.D.F. panels. Canvas is much more forgiving than a panel so going is faster. With canvas what you paint tends to stay where you first put it, so if you put the right colour in the right place first time everything becomes easy.

I made good progress on this large painting and hope to finish underpainting by next Wednesday. I also wrote a short essay on philosophical truth after reading about the problems philosophers have had with this seemingly simple subject. How do you know if something is true? Because it matches your perceptions of reality? When your beliefs about truth match your beliefs about your perceptions of truth? More deep thinking later.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Once Upon A Time...

I've had a busy and productive day today, designing the posters and invites for my next solo exhibition in Crewe in October. My music CDs will be on sale there this time, and to celebrate this I've decided to release a new compilation CD that features tracks from the past eight years and eleven albums. The CD will be called "Once upon a time...", so I also took time today to design the cover (which didn't take long, I pasted together a few source images a from a trip to Shrewsbury park last week, then added a figure made of clouds from my painting The Lightning Of Creation).

I'll also add some new and/or unreleased music to the album, and have this evening been finalising a fast paced action tune called Lightning Run, which I began on the 22nd of January!

In other music news, my recent rather ambient and experimental album Pi is now on iTunes. I'm hoping to write lots of new music before the year is out.

For the time being I'll continue preparation for the Cubby Hole exhibition, then painting plans for a new picture, The Final Escape of the Psychological Cosmonaut.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


I've had a busy few days but not working for a change, instead trips here and there. I've managed some partial plans for a new painting but it's very complicated and full of things. The fundamental idea is simple, but it might take some time to work out. A female model would really help, at least for the face.

Anyway, that aside, my nightly poems have continued. I did wonder whether it was worth it; making myself write even when I didn't want to, yet when I do I can surprise myself. This poem is a recent one, made up really quickly, and inspired by a walk in the deserted wilderness near Machynlleth. I pictured myself there, and an old white cottage, a farmhouse building in it's final years, and the poem just appeared. The subject matter doesn't apply to me at all really, but I imagined it so, and it seemed very true at the time.

Hill Fog

I'm walking in the fog,
wet mist,
grey, in the trees.
This place I've seen so many times,
from my childhood.
This carved ex is mine.
This rock feels like mine,
this step,
and old ivy vine.

The whitewash house is closed,
locked and neat.
The last latch left,
the last smile,
and the new sign set.
For Sale, in the wind
that smells of peat,
and I pretend
it's not an end.

Here's to you dad, now with mum!
Now I'm the old man not the son.
My house is yours, as my wife cleans through,
and I shout at her sometimes, like you used to.
My street is warm in my children's mind,
and their feelings will one day mirror mine,
as I touch this ex for one last time,
and not feel sad,
as I say goodbye dad.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gethsemane so far...

The underpainting is complete. I made good speed with this but had a few worries and concerns which engaged me in sadness, so to solve the problem I listed each concern with solutions.

The main thing I was unhappy with was a slightly "furry" surface, which resulted from slightly sanding the wood before starting. That was because I had to switch to using the back of the panel at the last moment. I could have chosen a new piece, but I'd had enough of preparation and wanted to get started. As such, the surface had an unusual quality, like delicate felt. This was better than a hard knobbly surface (which I've also encountered). It's not too serious, and something I now know how to avoid in future.

Secondly I was unhappy with my brushes. I get through them so quickly. Here I dropped one into a puddle of paint when practically new, right on the ferrule where the bristles go in! I knew that would kill the point, and it did. Even so, I can easily get through two new brushes per painting, perhaps one per day, yet I try to use the worn out ones, scraping and mopping with their ragged curled ends, often to the detriment of the painting quality. One solution here is to buy and set aside new brushes for each major work. It would be rather expensive though.

Some good things happened too, mainly that I managed to make good speed on the painting without losing quality. I'm reasonably happy with this painting so far (a fragment is shown, I'll refrain from showing the whole picture until it's finished).

I'd like to repaint it, as usual, and if I did it would be better because of the lessons learned, but this time I think I'll add a second layer in semi-opaque paint to ease it towards greatness. Some of the values are wrong compared to the study (this has happened before, I must pay attention to global values). Some of the gilded areas have problems too, and the picture is crying out for red, however amongst the cacophony of problems and imperfections there is some good.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gethsemane Continues

More work on the underpainting today and yesterday. I'm learning more on how to work on larger paintings, still something of a rarity for me. I keep wanting to add details which are too fine to be relevant at this scale, and I'm finding it tricky to copy when the screen is behind the painting, making it impossible to see the source image and the painting at the same time (I need to shuffle left and peer around the edge!). This is probably a classic problem for painters. I wonder if this causes visual memory to improve? Or whether the old masters referred more to sketches and studies while painting? Or looked side on at their model? I've managed adequately here, partly because it's not a complex self-portrait and was underdrawn accurately.

Now some exhibition notes. Yesterday I attended the preview for the Bickerton Exhibition in Bickerton Village Hall. I have four paintings on show of the record 381 on display for the next week. If you live in Cheshire and want a trip to the prettiest bit of countryside around it's £1.50 to get in.

Tonight The Oneric Image exhibition opens in Weston-Super-Mare. I'm quite excited by this, a rare specialist surrealism exhibition held by the Lloyd Gill Gallery. The exhibition continues until the 27th of August and features five recent paintings, most of which haven't been exhibited before.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Right right! Today I began the underpainting to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, a painting about destiny vs. love.

I've shown an older version, the first version which I stopped work on a month or so ago. I wasn't comfortable with inventing the lighting on the trees there so I've since remodelled that area. However I like the general look of the picture shown and have decided to crop it with the intention of finishing it later as something new and different.

I expect the underpainting to take ten days, with another ten for glazing at a later date.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Lots of little jobs done over the past two days; four frames decorated and three pictures framed, glazing Genesis of Terror, some sound effects work, updating the coding of the Bytten website, preparing my own website for the Oneric Image exhibition at the Lloyd Gill Gallery and the Bickerton exhibition at the end of the week, preparing the stained glass window work on The Annunciation, and seeking a female model image for a new painting (unsuccessfully; the pose is quite specific). That one, "The Final Escape of the Psychological Cosmonaut" will be my last new composition of this season. I've got four big paintings to finish before October. I can't wait to get them out of the way and must make a big effort in August to at least begin them all.

In retrospect, the planning of paintings over winter for painting in summer was a mistake. The influx of summer competitions, often announced a month or two before their deadline added too much pressure to a carefully planned workload. The gap between concept and completion was too large too, making it harder to maintain motivation, and the work on planning over winter and painting over summer leaves no time for anything but art, which has affected my music detrimentally.

Next year I'll not begin planning a painting until I'm ready to paint it, and I'll make sure that each picture has a clear destiny. As a result I might paint fewer paintings in 2011, but hopefully better ones and I will have more time for other things. Flexibility in mind is the key to youth, health and success of all sorts.

Tomorrow I'll paint that stained glass window and drop off the paintings to Bickerton. Then I've got a choice; begin the Gethsemane painting or plan the Final Escape, a very modest painting in the style of The Elements (pictured).

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I've been rather over the place for the past few days but I'm trying to pull the parts back together.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back to Painting

It was the first day of underpainting The Annunciation today, a relatively small but complex painting that will take longer than the three days I'd hoped for.

In the meantime, I've scanned Wax Cataclysm Of Phoenixes And Unphoenixes and so here it is; size 33x23cm.

It's a picture about panic and time running out, death, but also rebirth.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Floobs: The Rainbow Quest

This is episode 2 of The Floobs, a film made using knitted characters with input from school children. For me this is a good way of learning about film making, which even with two people is a very slow and frustrating technical process! However there has been some progress in technique since the first film. This was filmed in one day. We had a script, the video as edited to reduce its size (from about 15 minutes overall to under 10), and the soundtrack was applied in three tracks; an ambient/music track, a digital spot sound effect track, and a third live track including narration and live sound effects.

The story borrows from the Pandora's Box myth and is an opener to a series of quests for different virtues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Munchausen Dream

I've been busy painting over the last few days and have completed "The Elements" (detail shown).

I had some fantastic dreams last night that began with Baron Munchausen, whose disparate but living body parts gradually pulled themselves together before forming the man himself on horseback. With a lance, and at least on companion he charged and fought a pile of armoured badgers armed with crossbows, eventually defeating them. One badger guard had a square shield with a door in, and was played by Ian Holm. The Baron entered the castle to speak to the king of the pigs, a large pig himself who spoke English. The Baron wanted permission to eat pork, which the pig initially resisted giving, but knowing he was defeated grudgingly agreed. At some point later the wife of Harry Buttle in the film Brazil wanted to know what the evil forces had done "with his body", mirroring the line she had in the film. The Munchausen programme had deliberately used the same actress.

At that point, in the dream, I stopped watching The Adventures of Baron Munchausen on BBC4, a four part TV series that predated the Terry Gilliam film that I thought was much better (looks like I got my dates wrong because I'm sure the film pre-dated even the channel BBC4). I wanted to eat some bacon and beans, but was thwarted, and had to make do with half tomatoes and half beans with some brown toast. Then I was called upstairs and to a skylight to look at the night sky. Rays of light were flying overhead, and soon comets then flaming meteors the size of golf-balls (complete with golf company branding) began to hit the house. We were under attack from alien forces. The child-like aliens landed and began chasing me and the other in the house. This was very frightening and I fled, though back gardens, trying to evade capture, including crawling over a table laid out for a wedding reception the next day (some nice cakes and foodstuffs were on display). Eventually I found a deserted areas of deep grass and huge trees, not unlike the area in Machynlleth I visited last Thursday. Three hill walkers were there walking through the deep grass. I became concerned that the aliens could track me, so I became extra careful about covering my tracks. I awoke, confident that I had evaded the aliens.

Much of the imagery was vivid and fantastic. I can remember clearly the title sequence to the Munchausen programme (which in the dream was a repeat shown on ITV4, the original was shown in the 1970s - in the dream that is) with credits similar to those in the 1978 Superman film and BBC Arena. The scene where the Baron charged the badger warriors in full armour was particularly amazing and would warrant a painting in itself.

There are lots of routes to why this dream happened, but any analysis would take an essay.

I'm working well and will now write a theme tune for The Floobs Episode 2: The Chest. All of the sound for this 10 minute epic of a film must be completed within four hours of this blog post!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Museum Pieces

I've been offline for a few days due to the telephone line. News follows!

I've delivered Remembering Summer (pictured) to M.O.M.A. Wales as my entry for the Tabernacle Competition. Regular readers will be aware how much work I've put into this painting. I await the results of the jury.

While on the train I received a phone called from the wonderful Peter Boughton from The Grosvenor Museum to confirm that my painting has been accepted as part of the permanent collection. Cheshire is now a county of two halves, east and west. The east lacks a municipal art collection so my painting effectively forms part of the Cheshire County collection. More details later on this will follow later in the year.

The painting was a donation. Apart from anything else, museums are under extra financial pressure at this time and need support from their communities more than ever. There is a definite prestige to having a painting in a museum, but apart from any tangible benefit from publicity or having a museum piece on my C.V. there are other important philosophical considerations that made me decide to accept the request for the painting. I'd rather donate a painting to a public museum than sell one to an investor who would lock it away unseen to die a yellow death in darkness. A painting should at least be seen.

Peter's love and understanding of the painting was a consideration too. I'm lucky in that I've encountered several ideal customers, people who love the painting for what it is and what it means to them. Those sales are the most valuable.

I can't give away paintings forever but a painting that goes on regular public display not only benefits me more, but the museum or gallery, and the public, the world, and everything else. An artwork that is unseen might as well not exist.

I've been thinking of how to ensure this in future. I wonder if a sales contract that forces private buyers to sell or temporarily loan a painting if a museum desires it is feasible? My paintings are getting better. Now is the time to think of just such possibilities. I wonder if other artists worry about such things.