Tuesday, March 29, 2011


...of news today! I've been painting a picture called I Feel Nothing Nothing Nothing (I think that's the right number of nothing's) The photo is too bad to show but I managed the underpainting in one day which cheered me up. Yesterday's portrait was inaccurate AGAIN. I've painted the thing about four times now. Still, perfection must be insisted on and my Kate Bush portrait took seven redraws before I obtained a likeness.


That was the result of my first try at collography. I took a rectangle of card, then stuck some masking tape to it to add texture. Then I rubbed thin oil paint onto it, and wiped most off again with newspaper. Then I took some watercolour paper that had been soaked to make it squishy. Then passed it and the oily plate through some rollers (actually a Cuttlebug). And, voila! A print! Thanks to Sue for showing me the process. I like this. You can add any sort of texture to the plate; string, papier mache, moulding paste, feathers, leaves, anything.

Finally my painting has been chosen for the poster for the 2011 Open Exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum! I entered the painting into the competition two years ago. The museum's art director liked it and asked me to donate it to their permanent collection, so I did.

The delivery days for the 2011 Grosvenor Art Competition are this Friday and Saturday.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


A nice day. A trip to the zoo, visiting new friends, and my first experimental collography. I'll post images soon. I'm exhausted now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Music Cover 1

Well the initial recording bit of my latest musical project is done. I decided to record each song quite quickly, one per day, and leave the refinements, which can be time consuming, to a later date when I record the vocals. I've quickly come up with a cover design too. Not 100% sure about it but I'm happy with the general idea of it.

I'm still a little tense today and have decided to do some pleasant painting or artwork of some sort. I've got a lot of large and complex paintings in the pipeline and I'll enjoy doing a bit of this and that over the next month or two, popping along to this music along the way.

Friday, March 25, 2011


The full logo! Ta da! (see post below)

Nantwich Arts Festival

Still a bit shaky today but work goes on. I've been asked to contribute to Nantwich Festival of Arts, a weekend of arts activities in and around the Nantwich area. One key idea is that the main logo and lettering has been designed and made by different artists, a word each. I've contributed the date numbers, a montage of my paintings which I'll print and hopefully add some lights to (depending on how this looks!)

The festival is the brainchild of sculptor Lindsey Fox. She's an excellent recruiter and she needs to be when funding for this kind of thing is so scarce. The success of the festival depends on a large number of people each contributing a little bit. When people ask me to help with something I tend to say yes! to everything, then later think gosh! why did I say that when I'm far too busy? This time I said no for that reason, and quickly realised I must say yes! to this, and so thankfully did.

Other yes! moments this year will include two projects; one about my home town of Crewe. Crewe is essentially a Victorian industrial town, established by immigrants who moved here for the work. In this project artists express their roots. The other project is to celebrate the centenary of the local theatre, and should consist of memories. Gosh! I'm going so busy; I've got at least 20 classical paintings to paint and release two albums of music too this year!

I've not felt like doing much today and my thoughts keep drifting all over the place. I'm reminded how much art helps me, guides me, calms me, enhances me, empowers me, and connects me with other people, like you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I slept for only about an hour last night due to anxiety after a somewhat vicious verbal attack that took place, of all places, at my weekly art group. Two weeks ago I was told that I couldn't attend in the afternoon any more, and could choose to stay only in mornings or all day. We have two daily sessions, morning and afternoon, and places are limited. Some people come in mornings, some afternoons and some stay all day. I tended to do a bit of each. We've got about one spare place in each session (although in practise there are always a few more because not every member comes every week).

Up until that point I was free to choose to stay if I wanted. Of all members only I was told that I could no longer attend afternoons and I felt upset at this because it was a restriction of my freedom. I also thought it was a bit illogical because there are often spare places, but I didn't say that at the time. Later after talking with another member I thought that everyone should feel that they could switch round a bit if they wanted and wrote a two sentence letter stating that I'd like the freedom to choose to stay and that I thought that everyone would want that right.

Unfortunately the most powerful personality in the group and de-facto leader is a bully who can't be crossed. Several members are afraid to air their concerns or oppose his will, and so the way the club is run tends to be decided by him. There are odd consequences of this, I remember a unanimous vote for a special day where members bring in work to explain it. When the day arrived nobody wanted to participate, and in fact people had to be shouted at, or rather ranted at, about team spirit and such to make them participate. Of course the whole affair was because people were pressured to vote for a day they weren't that interested in.

Anyway, yesterday's debate ended up with me being shouted at for (apparently) desiring to cull nine members of the group so that sufficient space was available for everybody to stay all day. A complete paranoiac extreme exaggeration of reality, used to force me to back down. At first shell shocked, I found the experience traumatic and am now far too afraid of the club to consider returning.

I know about how to cope with trauma, due to my interest in psychology. What's been shown to help is: Writing (not talking) about the experience. Writing about the benefits of it. Drawing the experience. Taking exercise to cope with physical stress. These things I have done and will do. The experience was worth it for the painting idea shown alone.

Most people could probably easily cope with a purely verbal beating but I'm a sensitive soul and unused to dealing with people (before I joined the club I spent nearly twenty years in isolation and the social contact has benefitted me and changed me in myriad ways). I think that sensitivity is useful and important to my artwork, and must be preserved. As such, I must seek to detect and avoid negative aggressive people in future.

I'm too stressed to work today and will go for a walk in the spring sunshine. It's nice to see the sun.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heal The Sick

Music work today and a track called Heal The Sick. Yesterday I finished most of the work on "To Resist Man and Ultimately Defeat Him" which is tricky due to the need for rock guitars. This clip includes part of a verse and the chorus. I gave the guitars a random delay of a 20 millisecs to limit the regularity a bit, and did something similar for the snare-drums which play a tiny bit late, to give a more heavy rock sound.

Of course there's a lot to do yet...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Showing work-in-progress

The Drawing Diva wrote something unusual about herself and passed it to me so I'll simply say that I'm so normal it's unusual. I'd probably fit in the middle of every test. I think the personality is the conscious mind (what you think), the unconscious (what your uncontrollable mind and feelings think) and your actions. When all three are aligned calmness results. Unfortunately my unconscious is often trying to do the opposite of the others, so I'm highly energetic. That very opposonification creates imagination which is probably common to all surrealist thinkers. When you can see every possibility, the best choice must be calculated and selected. That's why true surrealists dress neatly and behave like perfect citizens, because they are. True masters of civilisation.

I've been producing music over the last few days and have updated my software to help me. It's amazingly useful to have my own software to write music. I can produce a good quality pop song in hours and I'm so pleased with my own accomplishments that I might just award myself a new spring narcissus. Har har.

Anyway, the tunes are good and I want to share them! But then, like in painting there is a dilemma. There is a definite emotional "zing" when you see something amazing for the first time. That is due to the relative difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Watch a sad film when feeling happy and the effect is all the more amazing. As such, it's always best to see an artwork for the first time in the best of circumstances. Ideally, after a humdrum ordinary day but when the mental facilities and senses are awake.

It spoils that special feeling to hear clips or see fragments instead of the final version. I never watch film trailers for that reason, and I regret hearing clips of great songs before hearing the final finished version (of course, you don't know if it's great without the clip; but I do my best to set aside special time for a first listen, through headphones in subdued light. I remember listening to Jean-Michel Jarre's Chronologie in those exact circumstances and it was worth it).

However, it's also good to share and understand... I'd like to hear the work-in-progress and thoughts of Jean-Michel while he worked on it... although perhaps after I'd heard the final version. The modern impatient human wants instant gratification and the number one key marketing tool is giving something. When I'm happy with what I'm making I really want to share that. Surely people can decide to watch a trailer, or hide their eyes?

When I made computer games lots of damage was done by releasing games early. The people who experienced an early flawed version never again tried the improved version, and instead would endlessly criticise the faults in their version. For similar reasons I rarely show anyone my half complete paintings. People tend to un-point out all of the lack of bits that won't be in the final version (I hope you can decipher that sentence).

So perhaps the best solution is to show work in progress only after the final work is finished, as Don often does on his blog...


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Today I scanned in my painting Annunciation which is a cross between Van Eyck's Annunciation and the Kandinsky below. Can you see the connections?

In other news I went to my art group today. It's rather full now and we're discussing limits. I think it's too full as it is really, with a split now between morning and afternoon visitors that essentially means we can't choose to attend either or both; there's not enough room, and places have to be set and stuck to. Ideally there would be the odd free table to allow for some flexibility. Ten people in a room is a nice number. Thirty is a bit less social.

I drew a portrait there, a silent film star called Marion Davies. I've painted a few plain portraits before and they have all sold so I'll paint this for that purpose, but like the others, I'll paint other variations that are more creative, all using the same underdrawing so I can save time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Song production today, an unusual song about Richard Dadd and fairies. It sounds rather weak at the moment.

I think today that the best way to write songs is the same as developing painting ideas, poems or anything else.

First ensure that you have stock material. So listen to lots of music, ideally random melodies and certainly NOT anything you've created before (this is one reason why bands that perform a lot become poor song writers). Then one evening, exercise (I find this is much better than meditation/relaxing) and you'll probably hum and write the whole song, the important parts anyway, one verse, a chorus, and the other magical third bit in the middle, enough original material. Then, some days later, expand it in the production phase.

For lyric ideas, as with poetry or literature, it's best to picture a scene and describe that image. It makes the process easy. You'll find that the music fits the picture and the mood you're feeling naturally and well. Use of the unconscious is essential.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

R.B.S.A. and Prints

On Saturday I collected the above painting from the R.B.S.A. gallery, it was one of the two paintings I submitted and this didn't make the show. It had a chalk mark on the back that apparently meant that it nearly made it, so that's a good sign. It's called Depression Caused By The Selfishness Of Hiding Selected Personality Traits and think it's a good surrealist artwork, if not as visually appealing or grandiose in subject as the other.

I had a brief look around the place and it was an good display of work. I'd say that most of it was either well painted pictures of relatively "ordinary" scenes; (landscape, still life, etc.) and very abstracted, paintings often using mixed media that were in essence pretty patterns. There were a few that were inbetween though, and the show included sculptures that varied from heads, to steel flowers to felting and fabric craft.

I collected a picture from the framer today, and made a birdcage and a chessboard as props for a new Floob film - a puppet film for children which I'll have to make quickly as the children are keen and pestery (yes, pestery is a word). Generally though I've been working on music production and will do that in the coming week.

I'm wondering what to do regarding prints of my work. The easiest way to do it nowadays is to order photographs from an online photo processor, who print large formats cheaply in very high quality. This would make selling prints of any painting at a reasonable cost instantly feasible. Anyone have any thoughts on this, from either an art owner or artist?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Genesis of Terror will be at the R.B.S.A. Gallery in Birmingham from the 9th of this month, priced at £905.

It's one of the first major paintings I tried, creating studies and putting more work into it than the other paintings of the year. It's not really been shown in many places since I painted it at the end of 2006. I should have submitted just that one for this exhibition I think, submitting two means I was likely to get one rejected and that means a trip to collect the unselected work this weekend which means a hefty train fair and a day of travelling.

On the plus side though, I've now submitted work for five R.B.S.A. exhibitions and got at least one painting in each so I'm pleased with that. This will be the last one for a while because only new work can be submitted. I'll wait until I've painted something more impressive.

My music programming is complete but the generation sections are on hold while I rethink the problem. There are many strategies. The two main ones are "instant" creation, creating the whole thing then fleshing it out like a fractal, and "step" creation where a series of simple rules are stepped through until a time limit is up.

I'm listening to Carl Nielsen's symphonic music and liking it much more than the rather boring Sibelius. It's high time I wrote some new music myself.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Music Generation Thoughts Part 1

I've been working on a simple artificial intelligence to generate music. I use my own software for music and this has lots of advantages (beyond cost, which was the original motivation for programming it!)

My original idea was based on frequency analysis, that is of notes as in letter-frequency analysis, not of the frequencies of sound waves. The aim is to analyse existing music and produce original music based on it using probabilities. This is quite complex though.

Music has several components, pacing and timing as well as melody, chords which go with the melody, counterpoint, and lots of repetition. A tune is more creative at the start, with the initial idea or theme often being repeated later, so any artificially intelligent composer must mimic these features. I decided to give the tables self-feedback which should help with this. Music is surprisingly repetitive when analysed, but it can also vary in key, which could confuse the computer. To a human, the notes might even sound the same, although in a different key. As music is designed for humans, there are also issued of boredom, if the same features repeat too often.

Also creativity can back-feed. I write music forward to back, I guess most composers do the same (although I can see that adding bits into other movements, here and there, bits and notes from previous ideas might also work). Sometimes a change made at the end would add more structure to the piece when some changes are made to the beginning.

The ultimate key to artificial creativity though is analysis of existing forms, self-creation, then self-criticism and analysis, evolution even, until a desirable form is reached. The computer will have to know what is good and bad music.

There are lots of ways to analyse music. Currently I'm looking at timing and have built tables the the frequency of note on the beat, half beat, quarter beat etc. Then there is global patterns, the computer must have some scope beyond the local to see the shape of the whole tune. Then very local patterns, the patterns in repeating themes.

The ultimate goal should be to identify these patterns, and be able to generate and recognise them.

My plans so far are very simple and involve just one voice. More would be a matter of seeing more patterns beyond a single track, and more instruments or volumes would really complicate things!

Anyway, today I've build the basics into my software and added a simple set of analysis tools with the ability to create any number of analysis tables, save and load them, and perform simple calculations on melodies. As the software is essentially my virtual studio I've got no end of tunes to feed it. The ideal would be to feed it some Mozart or something and have it generate an original tune in the same style.

This blog entry is a definite ramble! And like many such rambles partly designed to flesh out my thoughts.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Old Dutch Masters Reborn!

A few years ago I wrote a small set of songs for an album about old Dutch/Flemish masters and their paintings (it wasn't too exact; I just had fun!). Recently I've decided to record at least one song album this year and I liked that bit of fun so I've been writing the odd track for it. Most are very light hearted and not at all serious. I wrote one last night about Bosche, and it's a bit like Maniac from Flashdance or a Laura Branigan pop song because I recently heard Self Control and like those synth stabs that 80's music was full of! There are bits of Live and Let Die in it too though! Quite an epic here are the lyrics!

Jeroen Anthoniszoon Van Aken

I like to paint in the danger zone where the world is in my eye.
I see it all through a ball of glass and this is what I spy.
I spy a drunken midget and I paint him in the nude.
How rude!

I see a warty tree outside and I draw it full of ears.
I go to church each Sunday morn and suck up to all my peers.
They call me mister master,
and masterful I am

I am Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken
I am Superman awakened!
I'm silver rocket blue!
I'm a piece of mind and mystery.
It's true!
I'm you!

I see an orange pricked with cloves and I pick it up to smell.
I put it in a dark alcove with a burning skull of hell.
I dangle broken holly to add a bit of spice.
How nice!

I live alone but with a maid and we have lot of sex.
I paint her naked bottom red like everyone expects.
I never drink on Sunday,
a pious man I am.

I am Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken
I am Superman awakened!
I'm silver rocket blue!
I'm a piece of mind and mystery.
It's true!
I'm you!

I remember what my mother say.
She say be good and kind.
I remember what my father say.
He say by smart and hide
your mind!

(rock solo)

I see a clown in a tartan vest and imagine him in tears.
I see my mother weeping for a son consumed by fears.
I see plaster fairy queen drinking from a can
She blinks and calls master, and masterful I am!

I am Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken
I am Superman awakened!
I'm silver rocket blue!
I'm a piece of mind and mystery.
It's true!
I'm you!

I've been analysing music a lot recently. Most artists are more creative at the start of their career and this creativity can be quantified in terms of melodic variety. I'm a fan of Kate Bush and her early music has a lot more variety than the later stuff, although the mid-career album The Dreaming is perhaps her most creative. It's not easy maintaining creativity and I'm certainly no Kate Bush when it comes to complex melodies, most of my earlier songs dwell on very simple chords and melodies. But like all art it deserves monitoring, working out what you like, what you don't and then, changing (hopefully improving). A new friend should help me. More on him or her in a week or two...

Friday, March 04, 2011

Art Support at The Cubby Hole

My art group Art Support is holding an exhibition at The Cubby Hole, Crewe this month. The opening is at 7pm tonight and admission is free, so if you're in range you might like to take a look.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Colours of Cheshire

I finished this simple idea today. It's taken just under seven days overall; two days to underpaint, two to glaze, the rest with drawing, planning, preparation and that sort of thing.

This is for a competition, the theme is The Peaks an Plains of East Cheshire. I originally rejected this idea because it lacked sufficient depth of meaning, but changed my mind later after painting an ancient landscape which was full of meaning, but perhaps only to me. I'll finish the landscape too later.

Points of inspiration for today!

1. It's better to do anything badly than not do anything at all.
2. Your gravestone must read "Here lies a kind genius!", and your grave must contain a fresh rose laid by the queen.
3. It's better to fail at something ambitious that succeed at something simple.
4. Recognise that you'll probably live to one hundred no matter what you do. Take care of your teeth! Brain! Hands! Eyes! Skin!
5. To rest is nobody's destiny!

Now I've got a few minutes to catch up blog browsing. Let's see what my blog friends have been up to...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Tracing today! And the transfer of the Quest For Pity painting, one for which I have foreseen great things. Using oil paint on the tracing paper has worked well, and is best scrubbed very thinly. Almost none transfers onto the canvas accidentally, even when leaning on it quite hard, yet it transfers exactly on the lines using an embossing scribe. I need to find a smaller, tiny weeny scribe though. This smallest one is still a bit big, despite the ball on the end being approx 0.6mm diameter, and this makes the lines much thicker than when transferring drawings onto a panel. I'm using Schoellershammer 92gsm tracing paper on a roll. I reasoned that thinner paper would curl less, and it has, although tracing paper is so hygroscopic that wrinkling is always a problem. The sheet I used notably expanded overnight making the lines inaccurate by morning.

I was anxious two days ago and wanted to draw a peaceful scene to calm me. Instead I drew this:

It's a cowering rabbit, and a door closed over a peaceful landscape. It seems that peace was closed! After that I drew a hand holding a tree that was springing greens so some progress was made. I'd like to paint both but tick tick tick! Time is so short. Perhaps I'll paint a quick idea today on this glorious sunfilled day, the first of a new spring towards a golden age.