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.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

How to Forget

Today I began painting version three of my bird orbiting a black hole. I wasn't very happy with it and I've been feeling very weak today, I reason due to my digestion which has been slow and "blocked", due to a slowdown after a hectic weekend. This is an annoying symptom of my I.B.S. and today left me too tired to want to move for a few hours.

However I did discover a new mental trick; how to erase a memory. I don't mean just ignore a memory, or make them fade naturally in the way we might not remember the weather last Thursday, I mean actually forget something. This does take a few sessions, but there is a simple clear exercise that anyone can do to forget an unwanted memory. I hope to spend some time in writing a detailed essay on this because it's not difficult and it is useful, to me at least. For a start I firmly believe that memory is finite, and freeing up some by forgetting old television has no downsides!

Monday, July 05, 2010


I've had several long days and today was spent largely resting due to sheer exhaustion. The art preview on Friday night was good, and followed by a rare but fun trip to the pub, then a party on Saturday led to a day of film-making on Sunday which was exhausting and frustrating but it had to be done.

This afternoon I primed a new surface, some sheets of M.D.F. taken from a wardrobe and donated to me for use as backing boards. These are plastic laminated on one side but very smooth on the other. The surface primed very well and I've decided to use one for my Bird Orbiting a Black Hole painting, a simple picture that should be relaxing to paint, but not so taxing that I'll worry about the testing of this new substrate.

I've been so overwhelmed recently that I've not felt able to think creatively at all, but I've been making technical changes to my procedures that will improve future paintings. I'm always thinking of changes that will make future tasks easier, and my "Spells For Artists" file, which notes in detail my step-by-step procedures for drawing, painting, varnishing, framing, and everything else, constantly evolves.

Finally I recently received the invites for The Oneiric Image exhibition in August. I'll post the image and invite anyone nearby to attend the preview.

Oh and finally again; my cat painting has arrived in America. Woohoo! Thanks to Susan and the ASAP people.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Busy Day

A busy day today. I dropped off the painted at the Grosvenor and now await the decision of the board. After that I went to Wrexham to collect The Apocalypse of Finance that failed the audition for the Wrexham Open. I can't imagine why really, but second guessing judges is an impossible task. Perhaps the nudity concerned them more than any artistic failings. I'm sure though that I can spot more flaws in my paintings than any judge.

I met Ray Perez and Diane in Wrexham and they drove me home. I know Ray from my art group, and he and I are having a joint exhibition in November. The picture shows the current poster idea; Ray's chair and abstracted car parts with my Flower of Awe.

Soon I'm going to the art preview at The Cubby Hole, a local shop where I've exhibited with success. This month's artist is Lix McDonough. I wonder what her art is like.

After that I'm going to a night of Zulu drumming! I'll take ear plugs. I like to look after my hearing.

I hope your day has been as full as mine.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Elements so far...

The underpainting to The Elements is complete. The face was a bit too light in tone and I've not decided whether to try to correct it or leave it. I've not painted the eyebrows or lashes this time, so judging how it will look is more difficult than usual. But hark! No face here, the triumph of the underpainting were the elemental elements; air, earth, fire and water.

>Part of the inspiration for this one came from recent paintings that used different textures, the "Hell Is..." painting for example includes rock and water droplets, and the "Wax Cataclysm..." includes fire, wax, and mountains too. I wanted to refine this in a full figure. The water here was aided by computer modelling, but experience was essential, and the refraction and lighting in the hand here was almost completely improvised. I've taken the unusual step of censoring this image. A public blog is no place for vulvae.

In other news I can announce that one of my paintings has been acquired by The Grosvenor Museum, Chester, as part of their permanent collection. It is thought that the painting will go on public display in October. The acquisition will be publicised at that time. The museum stores the Cheshire county collection, and there are less than twenty contemporary easel paintings in it and it is an honour to be part of it.

I'll glaze The Elements in a couple of weeks. My next painting will be Christ In The Garden Of Gethsemane. I started, then aborted this a few weeks ago. Version two calls. It's a big picture which demands a clean calendar. Oh for a clean calendar!