Sunday, January 30, 2011


I had a busy day yesterday in Nottingham where I dropped off a painting for exhibition at The Crocus Gallery for an exhibition that opens there on the 3rd of Feb.

In the meantime I've been song writing, or trying. It seems difficult to add interest and complexity. If I change the chorus I feel I must change the verse to match, which seems to limit the contrast. However, the last thing I did last night was write some lyrics and those remain unchanged and satisfactory. The song itself is an attempt at something like one of my favourite Queen songs, Nevermore from Queen II, perhaps their best album.


The tree is standing, though it's dead,
the leaves have fallen all around its feet.
A carpet golden, cold and pure.
A beauty left for all upon the floor.

The door to Rhye is closed today.
The door to Rhye is closed for evermore.
For evermore.
The key is lost and thrown away.
The lock is weeping rust upon the door,
for evermore.

A crow looks on to rainy skies,
the branches waving dark before the night.
The last of sunlight clear and pure,
a ray of silver shines upon the floor.

The door to Rhye is closed today.
The door to Rhye is closed for evermore.
For evermore.
The key is lost and thrown away.
> The lock is weeping rust upon the door,
for evermore.

A feather falls as evening calls,
and flowers nod their tired heads.
A cold wind breathes upon the bark.
The tree is standing though it's dead.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've just finished reading 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman. It's about how we can improve our lives in under a minute using psychology, and all based on actual experiments.

There are lots of chapters but following a post on Katharine's blog about imagination I thought I'd type up a brief summary of some of comments on creativity.

First and most powerfully, it's no surprise to dreamers that the unconscious is the root of creativity. Experiments in creative thinking and puzzle solving have shown that distracting your conscious mind with mathematics or intense word puzzles for 15-20 minutes causes solutions or new ideas to spontaneously appear from your unconscious mind. Distraction of the conscious mind is more effective than relaxation.

One head is better than many. Experiments have shown that groups produce less creative ideas in quantity and quality than individuals. This is for a variety of social factors. If you must work in a group, it's been shown that more creative ideas appear if you change the members around rather than stick to your friends.

Having a plant in the room has been show to increase the generation of original ideas. Pictures or even videos of nature don't exhibit the effect. The colour green has been shown to relax the mind and increase the chance of creative ideas too, whereas red has the opposite effect. Stick with green decor, or go for a walk in the park.

Creativity is rebellion. Seeing the world through the eyes of a rebel encourages creative ideas. In one experiment people were asked to list the attributes of a punk rocker, and another group those of an engineer, then they were all asked to come up with ideas. The punk group came up with more original ideas.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Mathematics of Nazimova

Right. Yesterday I painted the colour study for the portrait I'm working on, The Mathematics of Nazimova. Here it is:

I've made this beauty look a little over 70 without a wrinkle in sight! But ho, the point of this pic is to set the colours used in the underpainting. I had to choose a background similar to the flesh because in the old photo her face blends into the background. To solve this, I added a landscape but turned it upside down so that the sky is at the bottom. That fitted things quite well because, if you remember, there's an onion there that is a hot air balloon.

The colours are naples yellow (that is chromium titanium oxide, not the "genuine" lead based one) and white, fading to mars violet and black. Cobalt turquoise for the blues. The greens are cobalt and naples, or cobalt and nickel titanate yellow. Those two yellows are my favourites. I sometimes use others, but I could and often do paint just about everything with the two titanium based yellows.

I began on the face of the final painting today. I expect it'll take three days for this stage and the same to glaze.

I'm working very efficiently at the moment because I've discovered that the value is the process. The secret of success is to try, and to work hard, and don't attach any emotional significance to results. Make a plan, and have the discipline to stick to it. The more work you put in, the more you'll get back. That's it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Between Sanity and Madness Gotten Finer

I had a day of rest on Sunday, and have been working on game music today.

This evening, songs for fun! I've managed to write four "Facebook" songs so far. "Incomplete Version of the Writer" has been penned on paper but only one verse and chorus. For that I simply made it up, with the words and music coming at once. When I found a piano I noted down the melody and it's really rather pleasant. Sounds a bit like a hymn, "Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace".

For today's, "Between Sanity and Madness Gotten Finer" I listened to some David Bowie tracks, from Hunky Dory. It was a tough song to write because the only prerequisite is the title... and it makes little sense! However a vision jumped into my head about a steward on the Titanic explaining to the ship's psychiatrist that he's had a premonition about the sinking. Once I had that, I pictured the start scene, a brown Edwardian morning as he sets out for work. After that it was easy. The music isn't as inventive as Life on Mars (itself, a semi-copy of My Way) but is rather good... even if the chorus is a little too close for comfort to "Incomplete Version of the Writer"! Here are the full lyrics...

Between Sanity and Madness Gotten Finer

He doesn't want to go to work today.
The rain is falling everywhere the sky is grey.
The factory is blowing at the growing day
but he doesn't want to go away.

He doesn't want to leave his loving wife.
He doesn't want to shut the door and ride his bike.
He had a special message in his sleep last night.
He had a secret message from God.

It said stay away from the ship today.
It said stay away from the ship...
you'll die on the liner.
You'll be left behind and never find her.
There's ice and saline sadness
between sanity and madness gotten finer.

He's walking down the avenue towards the shop.
He staring at the pavement and he will not stop.
He tells himself to concentrate on what to do.
He's got to get a message to Sue.

He'll say stay away from the ship today.
He'll say stay away from the ship because
you'll die on the liner.
You'll be left behind and never find her.
There's ice and saline sadness
between sanity and madness gotten finer.

He knew that it was coming but he couldn't hide.
He knew the iron bell was ringing deep inside.
He knew the shrinking harbour was his last look home
but he could let her die alone

so he went to work on the ship that day.
So he went to work on the ship...
and died in the water.
He had stayed behind to save his daughter
and the arms of the frozen ocean
gave him peace like a magic potion.
She lived, and became a mother
and she told her children that her dad loved her,
that in the wake of the sinking liner
she had left a piece of them behind her.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Portrait Preparation Work

A busy day today. I had decided to complete the composition on the portraits. There are two, each with the same face but both different. One will be a landscape, and so I spent the first hour or so researching landscape views using Google Earth and selecting a few, then adding the most appropriate to the composition in Photoshop to finalise the digital mockup.

Then onto the second picture; The Mathematics of Nazimova. The portrait itself was rather empty so I had the idea of adding a ribbon to it with the number pi scribbled on it. Then, I thought that the ribbon was a trail, pulled by a bee. Upon drawing this though I found myself doodling and draw a snaking vine, one wrapped around another with onions along it's side (yes! onions!) and one flew off to become a hot air balloon onion.

I decided to trust my unconscious and go with it. I grabbed a cute little onion, and a budding branch from the garden and took some reference photos then sketched in a bit of both. The result is undoubtedly something about maturity or flying the nest or separation of some sort, even perhaps yes! the separation of cold mathematical logic from warm nature.

Once the mockups were done I traced the drawing and scanned it so that I could easily make a duplicate. One was overdrawn as the landscape and the original overdrawn with the mathematical elements. Both suffered from one compositional limitation; that the face and background touching it needed to be the same tone and similar colour, because much of the outline in the old photo blends into the background invisibly. Trying to draw a line where there is none would be a mistake. That limitation led to innovation; the "sky" of the mathematical picture will be a desert floor, the background being an inverted landscape, and the face of the second picture will be a silver-clouded sky.

So, now I have two pictures drawn. The next step is to transfer them to panel, then paint some colour studies to confirm the hues and tonal balances.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Nancy Reagan Fell Down and Broke Her Hair

I've been drawing today, for a huge painting about childlessness. Hopefully I can complete it in time for the Chester Open on April the 1st.

I'm being very productive at the moment and have been song writing too. There's a game on Facebook at the moment where people make up fictitious music albums using the Wikipedia Random Article link for the band name, a random quote website for the album title, and a random Flickr pic for the cover. I've been intercepting these made by my friends and intend to write songs for them.

My album was "Gary Dubin - between sanity and madness gotten finer". Don's was "Vile - Depend not on Fortune" - definitely heavy rock for that one! Andrew's was "Chiurutul de Mijloc River - Nancy Reagan fell down and broke her hair". That last one was the first song I've written... here are the lyrics:

Mickey Mouse has lost his teeth.
Nobody has seen Popeye anywhere.
They say Sinbad's now the enemy.
Betty Davis doesn't care.
Vincent Price is laughing loud
while a broken band plays over there.
Nancy Reagan fell down and broke her hair.

Robert Webb has lost his dog,
while Armando plays the flute.
There's a snake escaped in Argos.
Alan Sugar's got a new suit.
The moon has made a sad face
while a broken band plays over there.
Nancy Reagan fell down and broke her hair.


The Lone Ranger's turned to stone.
Uncle Ben's hand has turned to dust.
All the cows on strike have just gone home
'cos there's no one left to trust.
Francis Bacon's making pies
while a broken band plays out of tune.
Nancy Reagan's got to her feet,
picked up her hair,
and left the room.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nazimova Portrait

I've been drawing a portrait today, of silent film star Nazimova. There are two things I like about painting silent film stars. Firstly, the images are out of copyright, and secondly they have an unusual property in that the rich black eye makeup that was in fashion at the time conceals the expression, often giving the paintings the emotional reflective quality that the Mona Lisa possesses; the face reflects how you the observer is feeling and changes from day to day.

I've painted a few of these "normal" portraits in the past but this is the first in two years because these don't display much creativity. I aim to paint two variations anyway, one more imaginative than the other, like I did with Anna Q. Nilsson last time.

There are a few key things I do when drawing. First I never (and have never!) traced or gridded. Tracing is boring and unskilled and gridding often makes drawing more difficult because it's too easy to see the drawing as little squares. For artists that regularly grid I recommend drawing twice, once with, once without and seeing for themselves which is better.

Gridding is useful for getting the scale and placement of things right though, and for complex compositions with lots of elements the exact size and placement of each object is important. It's all too easy to make an object a tiny bit too large or too small which will upset the whole look of the picture. To fix this I often draw a crosshair, circle with cross through as a guide. You can see this feintly in the picture. A plain circle will do just as well, and easy to scale up or down.

I also cut and prepared the panel for this today. Tick tick!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Criticism Question

Today posed an interesting question: is it better to like your work but have others criticise it, or is it better to dislike your work but have others praise it?

Today I experienced both in two different incidents.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Sea I Hold

I began painting my landscape today. It's rather boring because it's basically rocks at sunset and many details are lost in twilight. I can see the appeal of portraits. There is a nice little bird in it though which was fun to paint.

The picture shown is from yesterday and called The Sea I Hold, I Hold The Sea, a watercolour. I mixed sepia and winsor (phthalo) green. It's about control (walking on the sea) over (holding it) artistic (clouds of imagination) forces (drama!) Size about 150mm/6 inches square.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Last Days of Richard Nixon

Here is The Last Days of Richard Nixon, a simple watercolour I did today. I like sepia. Managing more than one colour is proving to be a challenge.

Tomorrow I start painting Ordovician Macclesfield, a landscape in oil. I expect it will take two days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I've been updating my website today so that instead of having a separate page for each painting I have one page that sucks the details from a SQL database. That makes it easier to update the layout in a flash, but it DID mean copying and pasting about 150 paintings worth of data. That was quite boring!

Things I'm thinking about!

1. I'm reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion at the moment and find it fascinating. Such details like making a public commitment to liking something means you start to like it more explain why Facebook changed its "Share" button to "Like" a few months ago.

2. The In The Real Art World Blog is proving inspirational again. That site shows so much quality. Could I leap to that standard in an instant? What do those works have in common? One thing is oil on canvas and about 200cm wide. Doable.

3. I've increased my prices by a modest 10%. I price per work and materials and my daily rate fits with local art prices. Local art prices vary and lot and are quite poor. I seem to sell successfully for higher prices than other artists I know which is good. I must focus on quality. I can imagine adding a zero to original art prices and selling only prints. Top artists do that, and collectors know it, so by doing that you can become a top artist. The logic is impeccable.

4. "Installations" give more to viewers. Most galleries now seem to specialise in installations. Often they have little to do with art, or if they do the art parts are not the reason why they are popular. Sculpture, being more "real" than 2D is also more engaging to casual viewers. As artworks, paintings need more work (and knowledge) by the viewer. Viewers that lack that knowledge and don't want to do the work (the majority) like paintings only if they are pretty to look at.

5. I've updated my digital pictures too and offer these as large format photographs. These are simple to produce, better value to buy and look much better. These are perhaps not as "archival" as other types of print, not that I've tested. I'm sure that archival prints are a new idea invented by ink-jet printer companies. Is the authenticity worth more than the image. Probably. A blurry old Leonardo, even a scrap of blank paper with a thumb print on, is probably enough to get into a museum.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I'll be working on music and sound effect this week. I should be able to fit some art in too and I hope to prepare a few paintings. I'll not go to my art group tomorrow because it looks like it'll be raining everywhere. For some reason it always rains on Wednesdays (probably traffic patterns).

In the meantime, here are some limericks from a few years ago and recently revisited!

I like eating bacon with jelly.
I eat it in front of the telly.
Lime's the best flavour,
though orange is braver
'cos that makes my frying pan smelly.


Old uncle McGill was a thief
when he worked in a sweet shop in Neath,
for he once stole a clutch
but he couldn't eat much
because sadly he didn't have teeth.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Len Lye: A Colour Box

I was in Birmingham today collecting paintings from the R.B.S.A. but I also wanted to visit the Ikon Gallery and by chance the exhibition there was of work by Len Lye, an artist who liked motion, with many films being brightly coloured and set to bouncy music. I was short of time but I did a quick scribble there with felt tips on some 16mm film; the same technique that Len used for many of his films.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Music Drawing

Here is the drawing to the video in my previous post...

The aborted take 2 was easier to see because I used felt tips, but the ink was smudgy and messy on my hands too. I'm sure to do more of these.

I'm off to Birmingham tomorrow to collect three paintings from the R.B.S.A. Gallery, and ideally check out another I've heard about, but over the next week or three my art life is paused while I work on a large music commission.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

China Syndrome

I made this video today. I had the idea for this in December but had to wait until I had a screw thread thingummy so I could use my mic stand to hold my camera. That way I could put it overhead. I slowed down the music and drew along to it, then speeded up the video at the end. It was a fun process. It's a bit grainy on YouTube and the details of the drawing get lost a bit but I find it rather enthralling to watch. Essentially, this is an automatic drawing because I didn't really have a plan, except that I wanted to use bright colours and draw along in time with the music. I hope you enjoy watching it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Dream Note

For the past few days I've been reviewing the year and working out ways to make 2011 better than 2010. I could feasibly continue doing as I am for many years, making steady progress in my art, improving the technical aspects of my work and exhibiting locally with one or two sales, but that's beginning to sound like a long slog. I want work out if there are any other options.

Today I've started to change my painting pricing formula. At the moment it's based on days work, but things like frames and expenses like gold leaf are also worked out in days. That makes the prices rather strange because they unnaturally vary with my daily rate. I've now set expenses like that as one-offs, but still charging a rate for my time, things like custom made frames. At the moment I charge £20 or £30 a day (less for older paintings). I think I'm worth more than that so I'll increase prices soon when the formula is worked out.

I intend to make a list of all of the things I do and all of the effects/results of those things, then I should be able to get more of the desired effects by knowing what things to do more of. I can also insert experimental things to see what might happen! Such fun.

One thing I have done today though was to index my sculptures and have added those to my website. Here is an example, Dream Note which I made today in a deliberate attempt to recycle unwanted Christmas presents...

Look, you can put any dream, any note, any word, any photograph in there! Now my unwanted gift is useful and desirable. I'll put it on eBay soon and you might choose to bid on it because you'll have something inspirational for a tiny cost.

I've also submitted my resignation as press officer for my art group. It was quite a lot of work and I couldn't cut corners and do a good job. At the moment I value the flexibility of my time more than any benefits of the position, which mostly came at the start by way of how to write press releases and other such knowledge.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Tunnel

My first painting of 2011 is completed, A Glimpse Inside The Tunnel (29x29 cm) is about being trapped by paralysis. The tunnel is an eye and outer space. As a glimpse into an eye, this could be about psychological paralysis too.

Yesterday I wrote a program to analyse text and work out the frequencies of the first letters of words in English. This was for a party game idea that I wanted to make. The results show that T is by far the most popular first letter for English words, followed by A. E, although very popular in words, is not that special as a first letter.

I had to write a program because I couldn't find the results online so I'll post them here for others to use. I intend to post a more comprehensive analysis on my website. These results used the first chapters of Robinson Crusoe and Brave New World: A=1052, B=421, C=316, D=259, E=218, F=373, G=170, H=486, I=559, J=19, K=40,L=211, M=555, N=210, O=605, P=212, Q=20, R=206, S=663, T=1501, U=112, V=62, W=688, X=2, Y=90, Z=2.