Sunday, June 26, 2011


Today I've completed the drawing to my next big painting. This is to be done on acrylic plastic and needed special priming. This went imperfectly although the results are some of my best. Both of these are excellent news and I have two new tips for my "Spells For Artists" file, the list of how to's that I write and modify each time I learn a new trick...

The trick with any smooth priming using acrylic gesso is the same; apply a thin even coat as quickly as you can, using a sponge to rub and splurge it all over, then use a roller to even it out. A theoretical priming genius could do this in under a minute, which is ideal.

In other news I've made the initial plans for my love reliquary. This will be at least a box in the shape of a gothic arch. Initial considerations for the material were hardwood, steam bent. Layers of veneer. Layers of paper, a long thin pad would be dipped into glue. Papier mache or moulded paper pulp. Polymer clay. Each has pros and cons but before either can be used a mould must be made. The best option for almost all of these ideas is the same, a steel strip bent into an arch shape and held firm so that things can be clamped to it. The materials that require a solid mould will need a second inner strip. Today I marked out some wood with the arch, varnished it then stuck a sheet of glass to it. This will be my base.

The mathematics are important. The arch is golden, having a total height of the width multiplied by the golden ratio. The ogive of sharpness is one; thus the simplest and therefore most beautiful form of pointed arch is made.

It's been very hot today and I'm delaying the start of my tracing. I know it'll be two days work, or one and a half. I think my unconscious aim is to do nothing, which is the perfect motivation to do some work. Perhaps the best thing to do is wait until it's dark and begin late at night. I seem to gain the energy at 10pm to do almost anything!

Other important developments of the day:
1. I entered the Bridport Prize with a short story called The Door. This is the second time I've entered a short story competition and has given me the motivation to write more.
2. I heard Mahler's fifth symphony for the first time and loved it. Mahler has now gone up in my appreciation, after my initial insecurity about his eighth, which I feel a love growing for with each listen. Sibelius is sadly no better, although the fifth is growing slowly. Carl Nielson was initially a superior replacement but after initial optimism at hearing his fifth on the radio I'm uncertain. After listening to each symphony twice I feel unloved.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nantwich Arts Festival 2011

The weekend was fun and hectic. Set up for the Nantwich Festival of Arts was on Friday at 2pm. The boards were slightly less high than my plan, and they were also on the floor so I lugged upstairs two heavy tables to put them on, then it was home for extra tablecloths, the silk draperies I use for paintings, and after two hours the setup was complete. The opening was at 7pm.

I'd got to speak to a few artists before from the events I'd done on the square. I felt closest to Pauling Parsons, a sensitive sculptor of the human form and clearly partly angelic being, like me. Her stoneware and bronzes were on plinths near my work and she seemed always to be speaking to some interested passer by. Shan Bower was wonderful too, visiting just about everyone with an enthusiastic hug and a smile. She runs local life drawing classes and her daughter's somewhat eccentric costume art was on show next to my paintings, making a sandwich of me along with Kate McKennan's holey bread and curious objects on the distant wall. My finely painted meat lay in between in perfect symmetry.

On the Saturday I spent half of my time near my paintings and the rest of the time darting to other parts of the show. Cliff Wright, was in a distant room along with textile artist Jackie Brough (who I'd met before at Jobling Gowler; she won the competition with the theme of Silk two years ago). Cliff is illustrator of over forty children's books, most well known for illustrating the Harry Potter books. Clearly a master of drawing, and also a really nice man and true artist. Then off to see Emma Thackham's interactive installation, where people brought along objects that meant something to them. These were drawn or added to a sculpture by a pile of enthusiastic chaotic children. The "bee thing"; Sweeten My Life was there too and everyone who tried it liked it. It involved dressing up as a bee keeper and coaxing the "queen".

The sculptures in The Residence garden were next. Glass artist Patricia Lee was there with mosaics and glass art that looked a bit liked tiles crossed with stained glass windows crossed with abstract paintings. These were layered and basically melted together. In the lawn behind were some iron dinosaurs and strange, enticing, organic, unique clay sculptures by an artist I didn't meet called Meenu Ranee.

Then a dash back to my patch and I met Stephan Swiegers, a visitor not an exhibitor who told me about his wood art and clocks. Definitely a fellow surrealist. I do hope to meet him again. Lunch then, followed by a visit to the photo-gallery place, which looked a bit like a garage and was in fact an old bicycle repair shop. I had a nice chat with stop-motion animator Mole Hill.

Sunday began with etching with Sharon Lelonek. Three of us were guided through the process from start to finish, from plain aluminium plate to two finished prints in an hour. It was great to try something new and I'm inspired to do more. Mole Hill was there making a stop-motion film and I asked for a piece of modelling wax after Pauline showed me a lump she'd been given. I liked it, smoother and stiffer than the plasticine I've been using for modelling yet just as easy to use. I've ordered some already! Cliff Wright was there and wow, his sculptures were amazing, as if proof were needed how good an artist he was. I told him about polymorph plastic, one of my favourite materials.

After lunch I took at look at Estella and Bridgit's work in Reeds Rains, I know them from the Cubby Hole and both have taken the helm at local workshops.

Then it was over to Firenze and The Cheshire Cat to see Kate McKennan's highly detailed watercolours, her of the holey bread. Kate's been everywhere, along with Janice Clarkson, Shan and Lindsey organising and running lots behind the scenes, darting between venues and being on desk duties. All of that essential activity was done by volunteers. On the way back I popped in to Enzo's to see Janice's drawings. She's a biologist with a relatively recent passion for art, but she's already better at sketching than most artists. The cafes and restaurants can present a problem for showing art because you have to look over and around people that are eating, but the places are popular and easy to get to, so there are ups and downs.

Then it was back to my patch to take everything down.

The weekend was tiring and felt like a holiday but it was great and I've made a list of things I'd like to do next year to improve the experience. The highlight was meeting new friends and artists. The hard part is going to be meeting them again. It can be hard to find a way to get back in touch, when the main reason is to say hello.

Interesting point. Pauline and I both voted for the same "favourite" artwork in the Chester Grosvenor Open, from about 400 works. It was a porcelain cockatoo. Exhibitor Tony Evans apparently bought it!

There have already been some immediate effects.
1. I've bought some modelling wax.
2. I've refocused my drawing thanks to Cliff's reaffirmation that I'm going about it the right way.
3. I'm back to doing artwork because the festival and the three other competitions of the month are over.

...and also, the events above coupled with an Andrew Graham-Dixon documentary on reliquaries have inspired an artwork that uses glass (thanks Patricia Lee), sculpture (thanks Pauline), acid etching (thanks Sharon), gold and fine painting! (thanks Andrew) woodwork! and clock mechanics! (thanks Stephan) and this will be interactive enough to be pride of place at next year's festival.

Certain nameless artists told me that festival creator Lindsey Piper would not get it off the ground and in other ways expressed an unwarranted negativity, which at the start made me feel uncomfortable and maverick for helping out. They were wrong. The festival was great. It was an excellent first year and I only wish I'd seen more! Thanks to everyone who helped make it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nantwich Festival of Arts Postmortem 1

The Nantwich arts festival is over and it was great! The highlight of my Sunday was learning a non-toxic etching technique, guided through the process from start to finish by printmaker Sharon Lelonek. My aluminium plate is shown. Now I'm off to paint the sea at a new art club so no time to write a full report. More later with links and pics to some of the artists I met!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nantwich Arts Festival Setup

Nantwich Festival of Arts set up was today. There are nine artists in this room. The festival was initially more performance orientated but in the end, the 2D and 3D exhibitions made up the majority of what's going to be on show. There should a fair share of fun activities over the weekend though.

I was provided a space with two boards and a desk. I discovered that the boards were on the floor level, so they needed extra tables! Fortunately we had some. They needed tablecloths, which by chance I had in the shape of polyester silk which I used for my drapery studies. The creases will have to remain as a design feature. I also needed labels for my CD's. The opening is tonight at 7pm.

Last night I went to another art show, the annual end of year show at South Cheshire College. I saw the performing art bit; the dance was best, the music revealed good singers but suffered from a lack of microphone skill, and the drama wasn't very good due to lack of interesting material and, moreso, a lack of stage presence and general confidence from the performers. Perhaps this proves that it's easier to be a singer than an actor. I didn't have time to see much art though, and might take a look during the week.

The new Lyceum picture is now mostly planned. I can't decide between a solid surface (perspex, my new love!) or canvas. I've also been asked to demonstrate how to paint sea on Monday (something I've not really done, I'm tempted to do it to see if I can), and I feel the need to paint something for my art group's annual competition on the theme of "flora and fauna" (really a boring subject; we've had "nature", "self-portraits", "the natural world", "summer days" and "flora and fauna" - perhaps we'll have nature again next year - so lacking in imagination; I by the way, chose the self-portrait theme).

Really, I've not got any creative work done despite all of this busyness. I need a good few days in a row of "nothing" so that I can, at last, paint.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


It's time to get some serious work done on the Lyceum painting. I had a great idea two or three months ago and it's taken until about yesterday to realise that it wasn't going to work. So last night I brainstormed a pile of new ideas and have a new candidate. It needs an eagle so I decided to make one from DAS air-dried clay. I microwaved it to dry it quickly, which worked to some extent, but there's a soft mashmallowy lump in the middle that led to some brilliant crazing on the outside.

You don't see many bird sculptures compared to heads, that's because the heavy wings tend to limp over and drop off, which is happening to mine. I might have to make another one from Polymorph.

Yesterday I was commended in the Jobling Gowler Art Competition 2011 for my Colours of Cheshire painting. I like painting to a theme and always enjoy entering competitions with one. The painting for Buxton (the face/mountain in the older post below) hasn't made it into the show. That's a tricky one to get in, but I'll keep at it I think. I've also failed to get a painting into the Stockport Open. That's less of a disappointment because it's easy to enter, there was no specific theme and there were over 700 entries with only space for 150 or so, so easy come easy go. During the pickup today a lady said that she liked my painting, recalling it from when I dropped it off. That simple compliment made the trip feel worthwhile.

The small yellow spot in the back of my throat is still causing me problems but at least now after several months I have something to target. The doctors remain aloof to the point of rudeness. I expect I'll have to wait to see an expert about it to fix the problem for good but I feel the end is in sight.

More to do: I've got three sound jobs including a commission for seven pieces of music, and tomorrow the setup for the Nantwich Arts Festival. I need to collect my painting from Buxton over the weekend, which is awkward as I'm supposed to attend at Nantwich all day on both days. But the Lyceum painting must be a priority! I really should have the underpainting done this month, never mind not have anything done!! Zip! and Zip! again.

Finally, I display one of the strangest and most inappropriate of my Lyceum ideas. This shows a monolith made of bricks and theatre architecture in a desert of ashes and black destruction. Charlie Chaplin (an attendant of the theatre way back when) looks on. The original theatre was destroyed by fire and the current one has had a it's fair share of moribundity due to lack of attention, a much worse death for a theatre. Fortunately my chosen idea is positive to the point of transcendental religious experience, and in fact is an "assumption". More on that when I paint it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Busy Running About

Making badges in the square for Nantwich Festival of Arts today. It was windy, rainy and sunny in equal measure. Next week is busy. I'm probably off to Chester tomorrow to see some giants and some drumming as part of the "Chestival". On Monday I'm delivering a painting to Firenze for display for a week as part of the Nantwich Festival. On Wednesday I'm going to Macclesfield for the reception for the Jobling Gowler competition as well as my art group in the morning (possibly - although I've really no work to do there). On Thursday it's off to Stockport for collection from the Open Art Exhibition. On Friday it's the main set-up for Nantwich, and the opening party events at 7pm. Saturday and Sunday I'll be in residence at the venue, the Wellness centre next to Lamonts in Hospital Street, and I might have to sneak off for half a day to collect a painting from Buxton.

There's no time for creative work this week then although I've got some sound jobs to do, and all I want to do is rest. My antibiotics are making me feel better but my throat is in pain. I'm in fear of ending the course in a day or two and returning to feverishness and weakness and will try my best to get to the doctor on Tuesday for some new treatment. I wish that I was well. I must have aged 3 years in the last 18 months and I've lost so much fitness. However I can be blessed that after so many months of at times a quite terrifying illness the problem is finally obvious.

Next! The Lyceum painting design must get priority. I've got a large backup of paintings to do! The year seems shorter than ever and I'm not getting anything done! The photo is a crow in Buxton, made last Thursday during the drop-off for the Derbyshire Open.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


A busy day. Went to my art group and mostly finished painting by Bird Orbiting A Black Hole, which on its third attempt looks good enough. I was reminded that the Stockport Open delivery date was tomorrow so when I got back I printed the forms and labels, attached the mirror, packaged both paintings up for delivery and checked the train times and prices, printing a map along the way. Then I did the same for the Derbyshire Open, including scanning the painting (shown) which is not completely dry, but will be safe behind glass. Then I completed the Black Hole painting, which needed stars; the signature will wait. Then I updated my website and the artwork listings for the paintings to update their new status. Then I scanned another painting, Romeo and Juliet 2, which is a little too simple for my tastes.

This evening I printed and pressed ten new CD copies of The Sky Disc and revised my strategy for a major sound effects job that is underway at the moment. Now I've got enough time to begin the plans for a new painting, Giant Looking At His Friends The Clouds, which is an idea I had last night while contemplating my loneliness.

This will be painted on acrylic plastic, a surface I'm currently in love with. I have painted on very thin sheets of this before, and on 4mm polystyrene, but this is 4mm acrylic which is more viable now due to the increase in M.D.F. prices and the reduction in plastic prices. Acrylic (also known as Perspex) used to cost ten times the price of wood, now it's about four times, but with the advantage of being cut to size, less preparation work, less weight, ultra smooth, and more stable in the long term.

Off to Stockport tomorrow. Zip zip!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Importance of an Ernest Title

I've been working on music today for a change. My album of songs is on pause while I await a good enough singer, which might include me with lots of practice, but certainly not at this time. I've put together a small limited edition CD of my work called The Sky Disc which I'll put on sale at the Nantwich Arts Festival for a small sum to cover costs.

I've written a fun new track this morning called The Melancholy Life Of Victor Hugo. The title was chosen arbitrarily in a flash but it's important to come with something with depth and imagination to inspire the music. As a result I added some Notre Dame bells and elements of confused literacy! For me, the more depth an artwork has the better it is, and the more depth the title has the better. "Untitled" is the worst title an artwork can have! The title is part of the artwork and should be beautiful, evocative, stylish etc. everything a full artwork should be. It's the easiest part of an artwork to do, so why settle for something unexciting, uncreative and unpowerful?

Incidentally the image isn't quite the final disc artwork, which will include the singing credit to Tor James Faulkner for his excellent work on Gunstorm and Semi Automatic Woman!