Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thought for the day

I've written four poems today. What you don't know is as important as what you do. One wrong bit of knowledge can totally invalidate one right bit; that leads us neatly to today's short poem.

Make the most of what you lack!
Someday God will want it back.
Love what you have and what you don't,
for when you're dead you can't, and won't!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Butterflies Study

Some colour study painting today. I wanted to do three but the first and arguably most simple took longer than expected, that was for the Wales painting.

This is the second, a picture called Happy Butterflies. I didn't like the red curl shape on the far right and experimented with alternatives; violet, and oranges, but in the end I decided that black (near black) was the best option for symbolic reasons. It just felt perfect. The looks were entirely secondary.

As with most of the studies I paint these are just the underpainting colours, and so can often be quite different from the final pictures. I tend to use cobalt turquoise for blues for example, so violet shades are revealed only during glazing. These are all earth colours or metal oxides. To paint studies quickly I scan my underdrawing into the computer, then print onto thick white card. Those are glued to a solid board then primed with acrylic medium, then acrylic gesso to make a non-absorbent surface that's relatively quick and easy to make.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nine Ladies 2

I've been a bit sad today as my throat infection seems to have returned despite completing a course of antibiotics. Back to the docs I think.

In the meantime I've made hay while my sun shines and have cut a few frames for existing paintings; the tower of bees, remembering summer, a Persian palace, the first portrait of Andrew Williams, the Hell is... picture, and a few others. I'll also make one for the Transmittance of Pity soon.

I have also made the basic model for a second version of my Nine Ladies painting. This uses Claydium air dried clay, and it behaves a bit like oil painting because it gradually sets while being used and is dry a few days later. Tomorrow I'll paint some studies. My next painting might just be the big one for the M.O.M.A. Wales competition, so I'll need a study of that at least.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Infinite Tiredness of Ageing

The day began with trumpets then, for a while, slowly languished in the melancholic strings of worry before violins took hold and trumpets once again rang out! Today I underpainted The Infinite Tiredness of Ageing, a picture assuredly destined for eternal greatness. The colours were simple; red ochre, naples yellow deep, black, white. I've made a small change to the picture after taking this photo, which shows that a blog can help improve a painting! I changed some shading on the dripping "fleece" type object on the limping horn. See how it looks a bit disjointed in this image.

Tick tick tick! I've got lots to do in the next five days and painting this in one day has helped everything.

The Painting Season Begins

The summer is here, the painting begun! Salute the coming months of sun! Destiny awaits. For those reading this in the future when I am worshipped like so many dead artists I say paint while the sun shines for life is short and youth and sun are fleeting!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Music and sound effects work today. After a stressful week I feel quite recovered and reborn, full of love once again and ready to embrace spring. My entry forms for the 2010 Derbyshire Open Competition have arrived and I plan to have an entry designed and drawn out by the end of April. March is nearly over and so is my winter. The time for planning is drawing to a close and I'll probably spend a lot of days painting from now until October.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Annunciation Colours

Today I painted the first colour study to my Annunciation picture. Most of the colours came naturally and were influenced by van Eyck's Annunciation. Here are the two.

My photo is brighter. The part in the top right is nearly full black. There were a lot of browns and the false horizon was a bit of dilemma. The warm colours nearby suggested a cool colour, but a warm wall also seemed natural. The entire picture is mostly yellow browns, and it's probably the picture's destiny to stay that way.

Summer Exhibition Missed

Today I've discovered that I'm too late to enter a picture into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Dash! I meant to do that, but the R.A. newsletter didn't mention it at all, and I relied on that instead of my common sense. I'll unsubscribe from that immediately and make a note on next February's calendar. It's not a major upset because the chances of getting anything in are slim, but it's annoying to miss a contest that I'd planned to enter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wax Cataclysm

The drawing for the Wales picture, Remembering Summer, is complete and has been transferred to the panel.

Today I've painted a colours study for a complex picture called Wax Cataclysm of Phoenixes and Unphoenixes, which is quite a small painting but is full of brightness and technical complexity due to the new texture of candle wax which I must learn to paint. Here is the colour study;

I've also started on the Annunciation colour study, which will approximately use the same colours as the van Eyck picture, and I've made a frame, re-repaired a damaged picture and will soon transcribe some poems. I'm feeling rather tired due to my illness but I think it will go soon. I'm thankful for the care I've received from a special friend and am looking forward to a fruitful last week of this month.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Back to Plans

I'm planning paintings again but making slow progress. I've spent a few days drawing out some figures for my Wales painting, but my desire to get it done means that I started drawing before I was totally happy with the composition. Now I've got some choices to make. After trying a few different things I'm erring towards the original idea sketch. I'm unusually doubtful about the painting and my abilities and the throat/ear infection I've been diagnosed with has made me more tired than usual.

Before I go, I must mention In The Real Art World, a blog of contemporary art exhibitions that typically features highly crafted paintings focused around realism, allegorical realism and surrealism.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ode To Summer

I'm feeling under the weather today but I've made some good progress.

Last night I had drawn out and fully envisioned a new painting for the Tabernacle competition, a phoenix rising from winter into summer. I added more spectacular embellishments, and more still and the whole picture grew from something that I feared would need a smaller panel into something that absolutely demanded a giant canvas! Then I began to consider what this amazing picture had to do with the poem that forms the subject of the competition, and I found myself trying to fit ideas to the picture and vice versa. I had accidentally ran into a self-pleasuring amazement trap. I hate it when that happens.

My picture was beautiful and spectacular, and I'm sure will be be popular, but it's not really connected to that poem any more and instead was a representation of my current joyous emotional and personal state. Realising that, I set the idea aside for later and began work on the competition from scratch, to consider the poem, and for the fourth time locate an idea that sums it up.

The poem is essentially about an old man remembering a happy summer. The last part is a resolution, stating that summer and winter cycles forever, concluding that one shouldn't then feel sad about a summer past. My previous ideas were about the cycle of the seasons, but this time I decided to work on the reminiscence, and once I'd written that one short sentence that summed up what the poem was about, the picture was easy to envision. It is essentially an old man sitting in a chair thinking of a summer sky.

I decided to add some statues, and bought a Virtual Pose set of reference photos which I'm sure will come in useful. It's a pity that Quicktime doesn't pan and zoom in Windows (it'll zoom, but only on the middle; huh!) because it totally destroys the utility of the mov format for reference photos.

That is all that will be said for now. In other news I read an extensive description of The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke today. I want to paint a version of this painting at some point, but at my current rate and ambition it will take longer than the original to paint; nine years, and unfinished.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Phoenixes and Black Holes

Today I painted a bird orbiting a black hole, an image I saw quite clearly on the train while coming back from the R.B.S.A. Gallery yesterday. The hole is brown in the picture but I'll be glazing it with lots of different layers until it looks black.

Tomorrow I'll begin the composition to the picture for the Tabernacle competition. The subject is a poem about remembering summer in winter, but I focused on the last verse which is about the infinite rebirth of the seasons, a verse that had appeal because I've been painting a lot of rebirth pictures recently. I had decided on a tree giving birth to a woman, but I wasn't happy with it because I'd had that idea on and off about four or five times, ever since I began painting in fact. I decided on a phoenix picture instead. Many of my recent ideas feature phoenixes. This is the year of the phoenix! It's a true fact that this month a bird flew out of my lit fire and around the room before flying out of the window. Years earlier, thirteen flies flew out of the same fire and into the room. Although, logically, both of these events signify that birds can get trapped in the chimney, the two events also have a symbolic component. A few days later I dreamed of a beautiful butterfly flying out of the fire and the window. Sound the drums! Feel the vorfreude! Behold! Something great is surely coming!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pi Unleashed!

Pi is released! This music uses the digits of pi in different number bases and substitutes the numbers for notes, allowing you to hear the structure of this mathematical constant. The full album can be ordered from my website,

Here is a description of the tracks:

1. The Ratio

The Ratio explores the ratio of 1:pi and ends with a chord of C:C*pi. Musical scales are exponential so a chord of 1:2 would play a note and the same note an octave higher. A ratio of 1:4 would play the root note and a tone two octaves higher. A ratio of 1:pi places the second note somewhere in the second octave, which is just above F compared to a root note of C. The track opens with clicks that bracket a tone of 1 Hz that lasts 1 second. Many of the timings in the track are pi beats (3.141 beats).

2. 256 Binary Digits

256 Binary Digits plays the first 256 digits of binary pi, that is pi in base two.

3. The Clockwork Harpsichord

The Clockwork Harpsichord explores tetratonic pi; pi in base four. Pi is played on the notes C, E, F and G, the only notes used for this piece. The timing is regular. This is an edit of 314 notes.

4. Stranded At Moonbase Eight

Stranded At Moonbase Eight plays pi over a regular octave, C to C, using pi converted to base eight. The timing is also in base eight, with the gaps between notes represented by the digits of pi. Base eight pi on this natural scale tends to sound organic and calming.

5. Decimal Drumkit

Decimal Drumkit explores the timing of decimal pi (3.14159 etc.) and uses a drum kit to play the first few digits.

6. Binary Ocean

Binary Ocean uses binary pi (base two) to play different overlapping instruments. A slow wave undulates, then a deeper drum at double speed (that plays only the ones), then wind chimes at double speed again, then a piano, then a piano and flute at the maximum speed. As is the nature of binary, only two notes are used for each instrument, high and low.

7. Pentatonic Fantasy

Pentatonic Fantasy uses the pentatonic scale (black notes) and pi converted to base five. The timings are regular but the music pauses on multiples of five beats and the music appears to harmonise in a natural and comfortable way.

8. The Crystal Garden

The Crystal Garden explores pi in base six, and uses the notes C,E,G,A,C and E. The effect is a calming mix of major and minor tones. The timing is regular.

9. Trio

Trio explores pi in base three. A regular waltz timing is used, and the notes D,E and F.

10. Base 36

Base 36 is pi in base thirty six, spread over three whole musical octaves. The timing is decimal. The effect is rather jarring and unsteady, but this track reveals more of the natural structure of pi than perhaps any other. The track is 31.41592654 minutes long.

11. Pi

Pi is pi played in base twelve over one octave, the most natural base to explore the sound of pi. The track is played in a pure sine wave with a tiny amount of echo. This special edit is 314 notes long.

12. The Enigma Of Pi

The Enigma Of Pi acts as an epilogue and layers many of the earlier representations of pi before ending with a piano playing C raised to the ratio of pi. Between the closing clicks a tone of pi Hz is played for pi seconds.

Edit: The tracks have been removed from free download now but can be heard on my site, link at the top of this post. Thank you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just One More Bite of Pi

Pi is being finalised. I've removed one track Radiation, partly because it's ending didn't match the start of the next, but also because it wasn't very interesting. I've also changed the cover a little bit again, removing the light glow and simplifying. I'll make the tracks a free download via my blog on Sunday (pi day - although I'll be at the R.B.S.A. Gallery in Birmingham at 1:59). I will exclude the large tracks due to bandwidth concerns.

These pi days have been intense and tiring. Now I can get back to my normal routine.

A great month so far!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The End of Pi As We Know It

I've been tinkering with the music once more and even added a short new track today but I'm generally happy with the results, and want to get it finished now. I have changed the pi symbol, thanks for that John. I did want to do it in the first place but had lots of trouble getting a pi symbol rasterised in a high enough resolution. In the end I downloaded and used Gimp which I suspected would do it (but Gimp's text handling is very user-unfriendly).

I changed the main font to Times New Roman italic, which gives it a feel of maths text book. Here is the rear of the CD...

The track listing is:

1. The Ratio (1:12)
2. 256 Binary Digits (0:45)
3. The Clockwork Harpsichord (2:48)
4. Stranded At Moonbase Eight (4:44)
5. Decimal Drumkit (0:32)
6. Binary Ocean (3:20)
7. Pentatonic Fantasy (2:34)
8. The Crystal Garden (5:52)
9. Radiation (0:27)
10. Trio (2:06)
11. Base 36 (31:41)
12. Pi (3:14)
13. The Enigma Of Pi (0:45)

There are details of the tracks on my website now...

I'll not put any music online until the official launch on Sunday. My next priority is to upload the mp3 and FLAC files. The thirty minute track is pretty huge in file size.

I'm very fed up with pi by the way. I can now rest for a day or two and then get back to painting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More Slices of Pi

I transferred the drawing to my annunciation painting today. The rest of the day was spent tweaking the tracks to Pi, with some time left for the artwork. I'm still not sure if it looks better with the numbers. The whiteness there improves the look but they affect the ultra-clean look. With dark colours like this the printing often looks inferior to the image on the screen, which is another factor to consider. Comments welcome.

I learned that I've sold another two paintings at The Cubby Hole, and one at Dagfields Craft Centre yesterday. Yesterday also I had the notification that Penalties has made it into the Royal Birmingham Society of Artist Spring Open Exhibition, which opens tomorrow night in the R.B.S.A. gallery on St. Paul's Square.

Also today I received the entry forms for the M.O.M.A. Wales Tabernacle Competition and have come up with an idea for that. That picture, and one for the Derbyshire Open will require immediate attention because they have deadlines and specific themes which will require new paintings. I will begin on those when pi is complete.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Tchaikovsky once embarrassingly admitted that he spent a mere six weeks writing a symphony and apologised for rushing it to the man who seeded the idea! And yet I today have completed the music to my pi "symphony" in three days. The process was made considerably easier by having the music generate itself, however, there's quite a bit of creativity in this.

There are many bases and number systems used. The opening track is a representation of the cosmos and the dawn of pi, and it features a wave of 1Hz for 1 second. It includes a curious chord that plays at a ratio of 1:pi where C is 1. The maths became very important to me. I remembered that musical scales are exponential, so a ratio of 1:2 would play C and a second C, one octave up, but 1:4 would be C two octaves up. That makes 1:pi about 50 cents above F, by my calculation. Anyway, that opening track is just the beginning of the mathematics.

Tracks generally explore the sounds of pi in different number bases and produce streams of notes. Some use the timing of pi, and some just frequency. The closing track "circles the square" if you pardon the mathematical joke and ends with a frequency of pi hertz that lasts pi seconds.

There are 12 tracks. Most are quite relaxing, and sound a little like something Brian Eno would come up with.

I'm now busy working on the cover art. Here is the idea made real. As you can see from the idea I originally wanted to bend the diameter into a circle, but the lines were too busy and, more importantly, I couldn't get the computer to tween the curves. I'm unsure whether to include the 3.141 etc. on the cover. Your thoughts?

Monday, March 08, 2010


I was in Birmingham yesterday dropping off paintings for the forthcoming R.B.S.A. Spring Open. I await news of selection and/or rejection!

Today I've been working on the Pi project. Lots of progress. The music sounds strange, but also interesting. I suppose that is the nature of experimental music. I've been trying to stick to the subject, and although I'll be using a variety of instrumentation and production techniques, anything melodic will be pi and nothing else (in various number bases) and any irregular periods will be pi too. For those reasons I'm sure I'll finish the project before next Sunday.

I've sketched out a rough cover design; a heavy metal pi bending the diameter of a circle into a curve. All part of the process.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cubby Hole Exhibition

Well I've been very busy, as usual. Last night was the set up and opening of my solo exhibition, my second. It went brilliantly and I've had two sales so far.

The morning was spent setting up. The venue was two rooms with a big gap in the partition wall, sort of a figure of eight shape. I planned the layout beforehand and it didn't take too much work to fit everything in. Some of the pictures were raised quite high and the effect worked quite well I think.

Here's the jump from empty to finished.

Note the purple mouse on the radiator; the exhibition mascot!

The preview evening was brilliant and I must say lots of thanks to Carol and co. for all of the help in putting it on and publicising it. Lots of people turned up and I had a nice time chatting to the guests and met some really interesting people. The comments pages were filled up by the end of the night.

The lady in green above is Julie and her new art stall in Dagfields was set up yesterday too. After setting up The Cubby Hole we had time to pop round and say hello. The four paintings on the left below are hers.

Today I've been working on the music of Pi. Tomorrow I'm off to Birmingham to drop off some work for the R.B.S.A. Spring Open. Then, it's Pi again!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Music of Pi

I have an amazing world first to announce! And even better, one that you can experience!

In the afternoon I modified my music software NoiseStation II, adding to it the facility to import and export notes in text form. There are two formats, the most useful perhaps being the "gap, note, gap, note," where "gap" is the spacing in "ticks" (typically that is 48 for one beat) and "note", the note pitch in cents where 50 is C octave zero, so 150 is C-sharp, 250 is D, 1250 is C octave 1 etc. etc. so a tune of three notes might look like "48,350,48,150,48,850."

That allows me to write software to generate and process music, and quickly import it into my sequencer for high quality rendering. It's something I've planned to do for years but never got round to it. I have developed an elaborate algorithm to analyse existing pop songs and write new ones that are similar to those input. Now that becomes easier.

Now for the premiere!

My impetus for today's programming was an idea to write an album of music based on transcendental numbers, and I wanted to hear the most famous of all, the number pi. My first task will be to convert these numbers into base twelve. Decimal is not appropriate for a musical scale. I don't know enough about maths to do it unfortunately, but some eager scientist has published on the Internet the first few digits of pi in base twelve. With that it was easy to convert it and import it into NoiseStation, and so, for probably the first time, you can hear the first few digits of pi absolutely correctly, in base twelve over one octave played in a sine wave.

I need mathematical help to produce an algorithm, or even a very long list of digits, for pi, e, and other interesting numbers in base twelve.

This album is on my "to do" list for 2010 and will be highly experimental.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Exhibition Preparation

It's my solo exhibition hanging on Friday (with the opening that night) so I've spent an exhausting day in preparation. Many pictures didn't have eyes of high enough quality so I refitted them, which is a complex feat due to the design on my frames. One picture lacks the correct fittings completely and I'll have to do some drilling tomorrow to fit the necessary batons. After that, all is ready. I've carried the forty or so paintings downstairs in preparation.

In other news three of my paintings, and many more from other members of my art group, are now on sale in a new art shop called "Picture This..." in Dagfields craft centre near Nantwich. The new original art stall has been set up by Julie Prosser, and features pictures of all styles. It's the first shop to display my work.

I've not done much creative work today, but I've posted a picture of the underpainting I completed yesterday, the portrait of Andrew, version 2. Sorry I'm too tired to do my daily blog watch tonight. Have a nice morning, day, afternoon, evening and night everyone.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Another Moon

A bigger version of the picture below. This is post number 666 but I'd like to think it's full of good "omen"s!

Today I've been painting a second version of a surreal portrait of my friend Andrew. Keen readers will remember it from November, it was a tunnel shaped like his profile cut into crumpled paper. Today's second version features more tone contrast, more attractive colouration and is generally better painted. I'll finish the underpainting tomorrow. I might add more to the old version. Today I noted that my signature is badly placed and would be partly chopped off my the frame.