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.