Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nazimova Two

I've been painting that picture today. That's the underpainting, today I've finished it. I came up with this one back at the start of the year; I had a picture to create for the Jobling Gowler exhibition, and a portraits exhibition was coming up in Birmingham too so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and paint two versions of the same portrait; one landscape for Jobling (that became The Colours of Cheshire) and one portrait. I'd save time, so I reasoned, by using the same drawing twice. Oh what a fool I was! In the end I drew the thing about five times and painted it four; two of each type of painting. This picture has taken seven months to finish in the end. I missed the Birmingham deadline by a long way. The ultimate reason it took so long is that I had to paint it over and over until I was happy with it. It worked.

This one is called Escape and is named after the music track used in the film Brazil. It's about escape, or dreams of it. I didn't intentionally paint it with that idea, but having just seen it I think that's what it's about and have made tiny adjustments to that end. It is sometimes like that with surreal paintings.

In other news, the reliquary is on track. I've cast two plaster sheets and have started carving. It looks rather medieval in quality at the moment though, and it's a very dusty process. I think putting solid 3D objects onto the surface might look better, so I've decided to cast two more sheets and try that, just to see. That's an extra week's work. I'll start painting the arch panel paintings for this in a few days.

Other news

1. I have a pain in my throat due to a tonsil cyst which comes back every couple of weeks. Is it worth having my tonsils removed for a mild annoyance, or will this not prove to drain my important well-being as I grow older.
2. I have unfriended an old Facebook friend whom I miss.
3. Recent glimpses into Edvard Munch reveals he was mad and sad, as well as a bad painter.
4. I entered a painting into a new exhibition today. This art event, which includes music, dancing, poetry and other reveries, takes place on Friday and Saturday at the modern square All Saints Church on Stewart Street, Crewe.
5. The Cubby Hole Exhibition ends tomorrow.
6. I'm now a member of the newly formed Crewe and Nantwich Art Society. We'll meet monthly on Sundays. That suits me exceedingly well at the moment.

I will now stop. Excellent progress is being made and I must carefully balance work, rest, aimless co-operative drift, analysis, event, attack of mastery, parry of doubt, and the neutrality of the void.

That's everything.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Two nights ago I dreamed that I was Leonardo da Vinci (the painter; not any other facets of his character). This seems to have signalled something because I seem to be painting well at the moment and have completed three paintings (one finished, two underpainted) in three days. Technically there are a few subtle changes. Firstly I'm using ivory black instead of mars. I don't think that made much difference (right now this conversation is adopting exactly the character of one in the book "Return to Oz" where the mysterious habits of the Wizard of Oz were discussed - anyway I'll continue)...

Another difference is that I'm much more free in using and preparing a selection of colours now, and I'm using off-white whites that are tinted just enough. The detail level on the monoliths is also about right, and I'm making sure to refresh my memory regarding textures to be painted, and practising visualisation before working - although this is no longer conscious. It's hard to quantify what's right in many ways. Personally though I have been more focused and ascetic, shunning people more and seeking emotionless solitude. This seems to liberate more brain power and is perhaps as important as any other factor.

My recent "turkey" painting features rocks my Leonardo. Copying another artist's work is a way of absorbing their personality. He lacked confidence as an artist, painting thinly and slowly, anxiously, perfectly, worried about every tiny flaw and crack in an autistic obsessive way. This lack of confidence led to lots of "tricks" and techniques to eliminate emotional concern and reduce art to Spockian logic. This worked. Leonardo was a brass machine.

At first I thought that his lack of confidence as an artist was a flaw and that to have flair and bravado like Velazquez or Frans Hals or Rembrandt was the ideal, but for me at least over confidence produces far worse results than under. There's nothing worse than thinking your wild motions are brilliant. Everything must be scrutinised. The correct degree of focus is needed, and the right amount of élan and flair, but this must be exactly right, not too much and not too little. Let cool objectivity be the artists' guide.

...and now to today's work.

Here is the idea sketch for "Trying to Ignite Love". It's a seascape but those lines are largely just that, not solid objects. This creates a few interesting technical quandaries. I've decided to paint the background first and ignore the lines for the most part. The Sun and Moon feature, as does the large drip blob, which is flowing off a tabletop... but the important parts will be added in a top layer.

Here is the underpainting...

I have five more paintings awaiting underpainting (which includes three for the Love Reliquary). Let the season continue! Joy! Trumpets! Good painting dear readers. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tick List

Things done today:

1. Visited the dentist. Was late due to missing the alarm. This is the first appointment of any sort I've missed since 1999 and my Open University final exam, for which I arrived one hour late due to lack of public transport to the obscure venue. I managed to complete the exam and pass in the remaining hour. Before that I had never missed an appointment, having 100% school attendance.
2. Spoke at length to my friend Anne. Wrote a card of condolence to my friend Simon. Spoke to Paul McCartney about the merits of the second version of The Long and Winding Road on Let it Be... Naked.
3. Cast a new plaster sheet for the bas relief on the front of my reliquary.
4. Drew the front image to be later carved.
5. Finished the drawing to the centre panel.
6. Traced the right hand panel; transferring the drawing to the surface.
7. Glued the four newly embossed metal strips to the curved edges of the box (see photo). These will be gilded.
8. Researched gemstones for the glass heart object in the centre. This took an hour; browsing online always takes longer than expected.
9. Bought a spare part for the gas cooker and took it apart to investigate repair. Will employ an expert!
10. Applied to join as a founder member of Crewe and Nantwich Art Society.
11. Uploaded 20 new edits of music for IndieSFX.

Friday, September 16, 2011


The following painting is Holly by Louis Smith. It was a finalist in the B.P. Portrait award last year:

I read that it's a female "Prometheus". What do you think of it? Why do you think the artist painted it? What did he mean by making Prometheus female? Where is the eagle?

These questions shot around my head too. Holly is excellently painted, and for me the answers made a picture. That painting is the one I'm working on this week. It's called "Prometheus as a Turkey Being Eaten by a Peacock". It will be a psychological representation of "Holly", a dream reflection, and analysis.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

ArtsFest 2011

Well I've had a hectic weekend, first collecting a painting from M.O.M.A. Wales in Machynlleth (the trip takes all day but it's a nice place to visit) and then a busy weekend at ArtsFest 2011, a big arts festival in Birmingham. I volunteered to man the Heart of England Galleries stall for a few hours each day. It's a collective that lumps several art galleries together to reach more people. Thanks to everyone who said hello and those who helped out at the stall.

I saw lots of the festival too. Lots of dance and music on show Not many painting exhibitions really, hardly any sculpture that I can recall, but lots of events for children and crafty adults. I made a clay mouse with the midland potters, got a dream catcher made, decorated a tee-shirt... and all for free. It was inspiring and fun but I'm not sure if it educated about the arts that much. I enjoyed it and aim to go back next year, and I've made notes about it which might be useful for the (local) Nantwich Arts Festival in 2012 too...

Next it's back to painting. Only 3 weeks left of the painting season! The large "Invisible Woman" is complete! Hurrah! My next most sophisticated painting is called Prometheus As A Turkey Being Eaten By A Peacock. That will be a lot of work due to detail level. I'll probably start that next week. I'll sleep late tomorrow and paint something simple...

Sunday, September 04, 2011


A busy few days darting here and there; the end of the Macclesfield exhibition at Sevens. It was great and I'd like to show there again in future. Thanks to Terry & Beatrice for the opportunity, and to Kath Laird for telling me about the shop. Some comments at the bottom.

I've also cast my reliquary arches using a solid plaster mould. It wasn't ideal but good enough. I've glued the arches on and painted them with my epoxy resin, they're really tough now. Plaster and epoxy are perfect in combination! I use a liquid casting resin by the way, not the tubed glue.

Saturday was etching day and I made a few test etches into aluminium using copper sulphate solution. This worked as well as expected, fizzing the metal away to make a relief. This will be gilded and go on the edge. It sort of goes like sandpaper where the "acid" etches, which makes it good for holding ink for printing. I won't be using it for printing though because I like the look of the plates themselves too much!

Now I'm back to painting and working on some of the many pictures I have in progress. I want to clear my inbox enough so that I can do some music before the end of the year. My album of songs is delayed and will wait, probably years, to be completed, but it will be eventually.

Of the other things that happened last week I saw a television adaptation of Wuthering Heights, my first exposure to the story that I'd been told wasn't very good. How wrong! A brilliant emotional analysis. I am now Heathcliff, of that I'm sure!

Now, some exhibition comments. Thank you to everyone who came to look and to those who took time to comment.