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!