Monday, May 31, 2010


Remembering Summer is done, well this layer is. I will probably add more. The arched frame will cause new delights of experimentation but I'll probably just make a rectangular one and black off the corners somehow.

I'm so much more pleased with this picture that the previous version. It has taken considerably longer, but it has made me realise and reset a new balance between underpainting and glazing. Up until now each task has taken an equal amount of time, with each picture, generally speaking, being glazed all over. Now I'm entering a third technical period where I put much more into the underpainting.

I don't mind taking time on a painting but I don't want to work on one or two a year. A balance must be struck; not least because more paintings and more experimentation equates to more learning. For the first ten years, learning should be the primary goal of an artist.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summer Continues

Work on Remembering Summer continues and the second figure is painted. Painting small faces from blurry photographs is certainly good practise! Now I've decided to paint this in one layer I've been reminded about colour and how I've been neglecting it. This is one has only subtle tints and the whole picture is mostly grey due to the mood and indication of memory.

Today I made a couple more drying frames. Tomorrow I'm off the Birmingham; I've got the right date for the R.B.S.A. drop off this time!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Remembering Summer Continues

A good day, filled with ideas and optimism. Progress on the painting is slow but the results are better than before and so speed is unimportant.

My horoscope mentions the arrival of a "Eureka!" moment and so today I've been seeking one, and have found many! I changed the colour of the floor area of my painting, and upon erasing to repaint covered the area with myriad micro-dots of dust, annoying. I did the same with the floor to the left, but there I had the idea of using masking tape first to remove the dust; eureka! The painting itself was as smooth as ever but began rather stodgy because I used yesterday's paint. I remixed new paint but kept the old paint so I could match exactly; eureka! I also discovered that my new medium is making everything so much easier. I wish I'd used it before now and feel I could have saved weeks or months of my life spent labouring over pictures with difficult porridges of paint. You need the best paint to create the best paintings. That is eureka three! Then I thought of using blu-tack to remove paint and surface dust in an accurate and exact way, more adhesive and convenient than traditional bread dough; eureka!

I'm too tired to write more. Now I shall rest.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Looks Like a Photo

First day of painting Remembering Summer, second version, today.

When people say a painting looks like a photo, or even photorealistic, they mean it looks realistic and detailed, not that the painting actually looks like a photograph, which can be unrealistic, blurry and often lack detail. Gerhard Richter would agree. Today my painting looked like a photograph, because it should. I aim to paint this one in one layer for a change and should be finished by the end of the week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Self Portrait as Dream

Painted the inverse of yesterday's picture today, Self Portrait as Dream. As with the other this is the underpainting and so unfinished. I didn't visit Birmingham, the drop off for the exhibition is next Sunday.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cubist Musings

Gilding yesterday, and completing The Infinite Tiredness Of Ageing. Today I've underpainted Self Portrait as Dreamer. It didn't take as long as expected but perhaps too long to then paint the companion piece, Self Portrait as Dream.

Today I've considered many innovations. Fundamentally cubism is aesthetic and tries to represent the images of objects, and thus is an externalisation of mental impressions. Cubism seeks to transmit image data, not ideas - apart from those contained in the image data(!) but even then the ideas are even less lucid than non-cubist equivalents. Consider the myriad interpretations of a Vermeer lyre player. A cubist lyre player has less intellectual content. By using abstraction, the object was simplified in all ways (except in aesthetic ways; the picture looked prettier). Today I noticed that cubism and abstraction are not necessarily associated, even if Picasso always associated them. It appears that Picasso had the skill but didn't have the patience to paint finely. It is quite possible to represent complex impressions using non-abstracted cubism, a sort of photo-cubism. Abstraction is an essential component of all art, and neurology, but abstraction even in visual art need always not be visual. Fundamentally, for example, I paint abstracted ideas.

Enough musing. Tomorrow I'm off to Birmingham to drop off a picture for the R.B.S.A. Prize Exhibition, perhaps paint the Self Portrait As Dream too, or parts of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Over the past few days I've finalised the underdrawing for the second version of Remembering Summer. The composition is largely the same as in the first version but I've got rid of the awkward fitting figures and used some brilliant silent film images instead. The resolution of these images is poor, so drawing them is an excellent test of my skills and good practise. I've been drawing the outlines of arms and fingers of the figure below (the image is shown in its full resolution).

For the large part the outlines don't even exist, which makes it a good test for the imagination and visual memory. Drawing well requires imagination for just that reason; when drawing, imaginary invisible lines criss cross everything.

I transferred the drawing to the panel yesterday and finished my leafy frame. Sadly the red leaves were too overpowering for the subtle dark picture so I stripped them off, leaving the frame embossed with leaves and shiny black like Japanese lacquer.

Today I've stained the frame for the Nine Ladies and began glazing The Infinite Tiredness Of Ageing. That will be completed tomorrow, and I'll have to do the gilding for the Wales picture too, which for the first time will use two metals. More painting over the weekend, a delivery on Sunday, and a new film to be made on Monday. Busy bee bee bee!

Monday, May 17, 2010


I completed The Death Of Man today. No time for a full glaze but I glazed the rose and the moon window to great effect. I also began the frame decoration. I've decided to try to decorate every frame. It will do me good to learn different craft techniques, and a good frame will enhance a painting; the frame is part of the artwork.

For this one I decided to cover it with red rose leaves. Extensive 24 hour tests on a leaf indicate that my immortalised rose leaves will last at least 1000 years! I dyed the leaves then coated them with acrylic medium. What can happen to a leaf over time? It can rot/dry/crack... the acrylic medium will hold it together and lock in moisture (besides these are adhered to a solid wood surface). It can discolour... my dye is lightfast. That explains the redness of the leaves. Petals might have suited the painting better but they are rather delicate and, just as important, it's May and the roses have fine leaves but no petals.

The painting is drying. Next! I'll file my application for the RBSA Prize Exhibition next month then tomorrow draw the new outlines for the second "Remembering Summer". That is no easy task because I've got some blurry old photos in it this time. I love a challenge. Bon soir mon amis and amies.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Threadneedle Prize

I've registered to enter The Death Of Man into the Threadneedle Prize today. The prize states:

"Works should be based on observation and experience, not on a conceptual or abstract world. Artists are encouraged to engage, excite and challenge the public on subjects of contemporary and topical significance. Submissions based on the human figure and other major themes are also welcome."

There is so much contradiction and mystery in that paragraph that it itself should be eligible for an art prize. Let's try to work out what they mean.

"Works should be based on observation and experience, not on a conceptual or abstract world."

All visual art is based on observation and experience and is conceptual and is abstracted. I assumed by their statement they were trying to discourage "weird" art by unskilled idiots. This is my overriding impression of the whole paragraph, and as such have deemed my skilled imaginative-realist work applicable, even though my work is certainly conceptual and abstracted.

"Artists are encouraged to engage, excite and challenge the public on subjects of contemporary and topical significance."

As opposed to...? Those artists who try to bore the public with irrelevant subjects will be disappointed at their lack of eligibility to enter. Or in other words; every artist in history would consider themselves applicable based on that sentence. I think they mean "we want something modern and intelligent, NOT "weird" art by unskilled idiots."

"Submissions based on the human figure and other major themes are also welcome."

So the human figure is a major theme, but "minor themes" are fine too!

Most amusing. I look forward to entering this. It means that I have to finish my picture tomorrow because the delivery date is less than two weeks away. No time for many fine glazes then. I'll add a layer to the rose and moon/sky but leave the figure and background as they are.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Drying Frames II

Here's a picture of my drying frames. I've got two of this large size which can take a canvas of up to 81cm (32 inches) wide, but any reasonable height, say up two a metre and a half. I'll make a few more of different sizes for smaller panels and things. One feature of this design is that several horizontal T bits can be bolted to the main bar, allowing a two or more smaller pictures to be held without the need for a whole new rack.

In other news I've decided to repaint the Wales picture and have developed a new composition. There aren't many differences, but the new one will be smaller. I'm not happy enough with the other picture and will destroy it, or possibly cannibalise parts I like to make something new.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Drying Frames

Today I bought lots of wood to make some drying racks. Oil paintings take time to dry, so having somewhere to store them is important. I've made a few wooden racks to hold paintings face down; face down is good because it stops dust and stops runs when varnishing.

The first ones were simple squares, like picture frames but with prongs on the sides at 45 degrees to touch just the edges on the picture. The second ones were, when seen from above, like a T and a second inverted T. They slid alongside each other so were adjustable. This had limits.

My challenge was to make a frame that would be adjustable in size, be relatively simple to make and easy to store, and ideally stackable. My new design uses a central length of wood with holes along, like a flute! A second bar is bolted along it and that bar has vertical sloping parts on it. By choosing the holes to bolt the size can be adjusted, and the fact it's bolted with wing-nuts means that the whole thing can be taken apart and hung on the wall when not in use. Today I've made two prototypes and they are now drying after a quick coat of varnish. I'll take a photo when I can.

After looking once again at my painting Remembering Summer I'm struck by just how awful the finish is! I've recommitted myself to producing only the best paintings from now on, and will most likely repaint that one from the start. Something I do to two or three paintings each year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I wonder if the success of a surrealist can be calculated by the gap between the surreal persona and the actual one? It seems that a lot of surrealists I've encountered definitely have one of each.

I'm rather annoyed and disappointed today. I haven't done anything much but I did pop into my art group to collect three paintings. It's a three mile walk and it was raining quite heavily which meant that by the time I arrived the canvas I'd planned on painting was as wet as my clothes and the surprise that I'd have to carry home the three paintings meant that I couldn't manage those and any work anyway, so I had to leave and trudge back in the rain. Only one picture got wet because the others were small enough to fit entirely in a carrier bag. At times like this I'm grateful I'm not a watercolourist! I'm also reminded of van Gogh's trudges. It's good to be a romantic artist like van Gogh (who I'm sure would have given anything to have married that cousin he was obsessed with, and then not have ever needed to become an artist at all). It's not good to be a lunatic depressive who is blind to his own merits though. I'm increasingly glad that I never got into absinthe! In fact I've only been drunk once in my life. I don't regret not drinking. My skin is young even if my digestive system has been damaged by anxiety.

Right! Enough uncharacteristic rambling. The art shall continue, but not today. Have a good day dear reader.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nine Ladies Weeping...

The Nine Ladies is complete! Here is a quick photo while it's wet. I'll scan it and post a better image in about two weeks... with luck it will dry in time! The painting surface had an annoying sandpaper texture which interfered with the glazing a little, but overall I'm reasonably pleased with this. It took about ten days work in total, of which six were painting and the rest composition, modelling, drawing, surface preparation etc. but of course it was based on a previous painting from last year so that helped.

Next I must make and decorate the frame. I've got three other paintings awaiting a glazing layer of some sort too, and up to ten drawn out and awaiting underpainting. Tick tick! For the rest of today though I'll rest. Have a nice day everyone.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Day two of glazing and I've painted the statues.

It's difficult to paint nine identically lit objects and get the same colours and levels of detail, so I did it by glazing each one in a thin "base", a simple gradient of light to dark essentially, rubbed very thinly and roughly, going over edges and not caring that much. That layer is like what some painters call a "couch" of medium, but this time with pigment. I often paint objects in that way, but this time I did it for all nine before moving to stage two.

When the colours and tones were balanced I went back and refined the modelling and added the detail. It's always a task to get the first object you paint looking as detailed and neat as the last because you tend to learn and adjust as you work. This method helps with that. I should finish tomorrow.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I painted for twelve hours today working on The Nine Ladies painting. It should take one and a half more days. I used a new colour, Blockx Cassel Earth, today and it worked well in adding opacity and neutrality to mixes without the dustiness or oiliness of black. On the greenish underpainting it looked quite purple, which is good because the general scheme of the painting is pink and purple and green; which are "real" colours shifted into the Celtic otherworld.

I have lots of ideas for improvement to my practises. First I want to make some more drying racks. I'm thinking that a crucifix of wood bolted, with stands at the end will allow different sizes of rack to be made quite quickly. I'll take a photo if/when I make it so that the design can be seen more clearly.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Death of Man Again

The underpainting to The Death of Man is complete. I took extra care over this, which is practically an homage to Tamara de Lempicka.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Death of Man

Underpainting The Death of Man today, and good work. I decided to liquify the colours a little more than usual and add a drop of clove oil in an attempt to stop the blacks from drying overnight. With luck I will finish tomorrow. I'm very happy that I'm unhappy with the Wales picture. It's imperfections have galvanised my resolve and make me reconcentrate my efforts towards superior painting. I feel that I'm back on track. Soon, some big changes are coming for me and I can see the destineic ray to hand. Painting the destineic ray is inevitable also! But that can wait. I have far enough to paint, and like a monk will carefully and with due contemplation paint each thing in turn.

Enough rambling! I've answered my own question from days earlier; I must remain committed to the attainment of quality before I think about quantity.

In exhibition news I've got two pictures exhibiting at Marbury over the weekend, and two more at Dagfields Craft Centre.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The End of Summer

The glazing on Remembering Summer is done. On technical grounds I'm not happy with this picture for many reasons but overall it's acceptable. There were several challenges to overcome and a few new things learned. I'll frame it this month and scan it later.

Next I'll paint some more underpaintings, perhaps the portraits or The Death Of Man. The planning and composition of a picture should take the longest time, then the underpainting. Each glazing layer should take less and less time, until you sign it in no time at all! The longest time spent painting should be underpainting. I must heed my own advice well.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Still Remembering Summer

Day two of glazing and the monolith and floorboards painted. The monolith colours initially used the simplest "flesh" mix; transparent red ochre and white, fading down to red ochre and ultramarine which looks like a normal brown but makes a red of such richness that it can "rose up" yellow-greys. The ochre is unique to Winsor and Newton, and rather like light red although it's transparency is important for the brown mix. It's criminal and thoroughly pointless to mix ultramarine with light red.

Anyway the monolith used complex mixes in the end, yellow browns and olive greens too. The picture should be completed by tomorrow; taking four underpainting days and three for glazing; a good time for a painting of this size. I recall that four years ago I took ten days to underpaint "Penalties" alone, and that was smaller.

I'm wondering if I should reduce my painterly quality in order to paint more paintings. If I took my time I could paint more finely, if I painted faster I could produce more work. The eternal conundrum.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Remembering Summer

Joy! A full day's painting! I'm glazing "Remembering Summer". It might take three days, or five or six. Let's see.

My goals for this month are; finish this, finish the Nine Ladies, underpaint one big picture (perhaps Gethsemane, my most complex but not largest painting) and one other, perhaps The Death of Man. Anything else is a bonus.