Friday, December 28, 2012

Octopus Frame Completed

It's a strange time, to finish things. Strange and even dangerous. I've normally got so many things in progress at once that this is one of the first times in years that I've completed my paintings, music and other things all at the same time! Now, what... ah yes. Part two of the Octopus Frame...

After the brown paint came gold, and red. The result was distinctly Roman. Here it is...

The next step was the curtain, which In the end I attached using split rings. This worked, and the iron bar fitted just perfectly, a stroke of luck considering I bent it by guessing, clamping it into a vice and pulling at about the right place. Some ordered and testable way of calculating the place to bend is needed for the future, although I don't expect I'll be bending many bars in future. Perhaps my curtain experiment phase is over?

Anyway, the step after that involved painting the "black hole" panel for the arched hole at the top. This wasn't very spectacular looking and I wish I'd have thought about this more before starting work. Generally, a tight deadline is best but sometimes things need to be done with time and care.

After that the frame was finished, and here it is...

The painting is called An Octopus Finally Killing A Lighthouse Which Is Assumpted Into An Angel. Here is a close up of the painting...

I now offer limited edition prints and open edition photographic reproductions of all of my paintings, as well as the original. The problem with this one is that many venues demand frames that have no delicate parts or sharp bits that might damage other more delicate artworks. Unfortunately that might rule out this being shown anywhere except local venues (but at least Vermeer lived in obscurity because he was similarly confined to his local area so I can take comfort from that good company.)

I hope you like the painting. All details as ever on

And now...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Octopus Frame - Part 1

The most complex of my end-of-year framing projects was for "An Octopus Finally Killing A Lighthouse Which Is Assumpted Into An Angel".

First I drew out a rough plan...

I wanted to add a curtain, and my first thought for this was to add a metal rod like a towel rail, with rings on that looped through eyelets in the fabric. There were tentacles too.

I began with an L shaped bit of wood, cut to fit the wood panel the painting was on (the painting was already finished by this stage). Then stuck more wood on the outside to make it thicker and cut an arch for the top using a jigsaw from some MDF, that will be the hollow for the "black hole" painting.

The object was now bare wood. I then filled the deep holes with something called Sculptamold. That's a mix of paper and plaster, so it sets quickly and rock hard but is less liquid than plaster and can be sculpted with. After that I poured liquid plaster over the whole frame and coated that with casting resin to make it stronger (plaster is quite brittle and rather inclined to smash if dropped). I then stuck some shells on using epoxy clay, an ideal glue for this purpose because it's really strong and good at filling big gaps.

I had a choice for the tentacles... plaster again? Or clay of some sort? Or plastic or polymer clay or epoxy clay? All had pros and cons. In the end I chose papier mache because it wouldn't be too heavy, could be moulded and was strong enough to take knocks without smashing into bits.

I used a product called Art Mache, which is fine paper dust which can be made into a clay-sort of paste and moulded by hand. It worked rather well. Here it is after the tentacles have been applied...

You can see the wood frame beneath, and the shells. The plain plaster looks pink here because the casting resin colours it. The black rings are rubber o-rings. I thought these would work as suckers for the tentacles! I didn't expect that they would stay on, so I pulled them off, still leaving a nice indentation.

The Art Mache took days to dry, and in the end I propped the frame up in front of the fire all day. This did the job (although even then they were only just dry).

Here it is dry and seen from above...

Then it was time to colour it. I wanted to echo the colours in the painting but not make them so bright that the frame would be a distraction. I wanted a dark frame then, and toyed with the idea of black and gold a lot. I painted some tests on plaster and the rich brown with gold highlights looked wonderful so I decided on that.

Here it is all brown, but with a deep red (mars violet) for the tentacles and arch at the top.

You might see the yellow dots, those are the holes for the curtain bar...

That's about half way. I'll post the second half plus photos of the finished frame in the next post.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Frame Adventures Part 2

Lots of progress made. After a disaster with one frame, it was remade and is now ready. Here's a snapshot of frames done:

A charred frame made by setting fire to the wood. This looked and smelled impressive but then end result is such a beautiful and even silvery graphite black that it hardly looked burned at all!

A sleek black frame for Monument To Love, a ribbed textured gold frame for the Grayson Perry painting, a distressed rotten wood effect frame for A Sad Memory, a box for Monkey At Sunset (that one will extend the edges in each direction like a noughts-and-crosses board).

Then the three sculptural frames...

1. "Narcissist" frame. Wood ready with arch cut. An semi-circular stained glass window will fit in the arch. I'll have to work out how to do it but I will use glass paints on a semi-circle of glass. I'll sculpt some daffodils for this too.

2. The "Octopus" frame. Wood frame ready, with arch. This was coated in diluted P.V.A., ready for plastering, then recesses filled with sculptamold (see later). A crimson velour curtain for this has been purchased and a new painting panel cut for the arch.

3. The Bully frame. Aha! Here is the main subject of this blog...

The wooden pieces were cut and glued on, then the edges were drilled and screwed on and the wooden bits also screwed. Structural strength is important when dealing with heavy plaster. At the very least, the wood parts of the frame should survive being hung on a wall.

Here it is at that stage, with a tiny bit of white stuff on top...

After that the plastering. The plan was to pour plaster on and model in when wet. I've done this before, but the ridges on the frame, the sharp edges, tend to look sharp and stick out. Lots of plaster and lots of applications are needed and it takes time and is very messy. So my plan was to fill in the big bits first. I had two options; sculptamold which is a papier mache type material or acrylic molding paste. I chose sculptamold and slapped some on.

It's very like cottage cheese but easy to work with, sticky but not excessively so on your hands and tools, and you can mix and slap it on. The texture is lumpy like hard porridge oats, but for a rock effect that's good. I liked it so much that I decided to continue and built up all of the frame in it.

It has the advantage of being less heavy than plaster too.

Once dry I'll see how it sands. I'd like to make the rocks a tad more angular.

With luck I can finish all of the frames in a few days. It's a big task though. I'm promoting Art Up Close by painting on Nantwich square all day on Friday and I'll have an exhibition in Adam Capper's Studio there on Saturday. A new exciting café called Café 159 opens on that day too and it will have some of my paintings on show. On Thursday I'm taking down my Shrewsbury exhibition which has sold enough to be profitable which is rare and beautiful.

I've been listening to Brahms' symphonies all week and conclude that only the first is great because it's about the insecurity of trying to better Beethoven, as well as being a deliberate homage. The other symphonies sound like Beethoven and are musical, often having quite beautiful melodies, but have little meaning or feeling and I get the impression that he aimed for tunes first rather than trying to express feelings first, and ran to structure to avoid the innovation which he lacked the imagination and brilliance to achieve. I ache to begin writing The Death Symphony.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Framing Frenzy

I'm working on 6-8 frames at the moment, 3 of which are complex sculptures like the God Being Killed frame. I thought I'd go through the process.

The first is for a painting called The Bully that features an exploding volcano. The frame was incorporated into the painting design and would look like rocks being blasted away by the volcano.

The frame will begin with a wooden base, L shaped bits cut and glued. That will hold the picture. Then I designed the rock shapes on paper, my first frame featuring a drawn plan...

I traced those shapes and marked them on 3mm MDF, then used a jigsaw to cut them out. Then I glued 21mm square lengths of wood to the edge of the frame, that will make it strong enough to hold the plaster I'll be coating it with.

Here is the pine frame so far, with the cutouts lying on top...

You can see how the painting would fit inside, slotted in from below. Those cutouts will be stuck underneath/to the back. I left some space at the sides in the middle so that I can attach mirror plates for hanging.

The design also has parts that lean into the picture, showing through the cracks painted elements. The painting is complete, so I put that in the frame and made sure the design fitted with the painted parts. It didn't quite, so I changed and adjusted and when happy cut out those inner pieces too. These will be held from above by second flat parts, like a sandwich. Here is one inner corner glueing.

That will tuck into the inside of the frame.

The next step is to glue the lot together then screw and staple it to make it really strong for the step after that, application of plaster...

Of the other frames, one will include a curtain and a second painting incorporated into the frame. One will include a stained glass window. One will be burned to cinders, one distressed like old oak or ash bark and one stained I think... I did start with a porcelain effect with that but it failed, then considered Hessian then pink puffed silk! But after that I might just stain it turquoise. The frame should complement the artwork and show it in its best light, and there are engineering elements to consider too, but it can easily be more than mere decoration and become part of the artwork itself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giant Update

Sorry I've not blogged for a while! More of my online time is spent on Facebook these days.

Quick good news update! Ten points:

1. There's a new art cafe opening soon called No. 159 which will show local arty things and will balance upon its shoulder the hope of the town. Delighted to have it here and it looks like my work will be on show when it opens which is a nice bonus.

2. My Tiger Moving Nowhere At All painting has won the £250 Barracks Trust Prize at the Three Counties Open. This is my first proper prize win, which made me very happy. I say proper because I did win the Migraine Action Art competition when I first started painting, but there were very few entries for that.

3. Art Up Close is holding a small three day event at the end of the month. Artists will be demonstrating and selling in Nantwich Town Centre on the 29th and 30th with an exhibition on the 1st. I'll be in town on the 30th with my Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd cabinet.

4. My first limited edition giclee print has been printed too, of that very Dadd painting above. A second print will be displayed for the first time in the Barker Street Studio, Nantwich on the 1st Dec.

5. My novel, The Many Beautiful Worlds of Death (henceforth TMBWoD) is complete but I want to extend parts. Must do that in December, a good month for finishing things, yes?

6. I've spent the last couple of weeks finishing the last of the year's paintings. A few smaller works. On reflection, my policy of a few "big" intensive, detailed works has been more successful than a large number of good/average ones. I've sold a few watercolours and prints this year but only one original oil. This is better than last year however and the quality of my work is better than ever and seems to be increasing. Must avoid being complacent however and push to greater heights!

7. The major project of the moment is framing, all new and highly decorated woodwork. If you have a bad picture, make the frame good and the result is likeable. If you have a good picture and a good frame the result is even better, and make both great and the result is spectacular. In other words, there's no reason to ever settle for a mediocre frame.

8. Three new work beckon for early 2013: For the Jobling Gowler competition with the theme of Labyrinth (I expect lots of mazes which is why I won't paint one). For the Derbyshire open in Buxton which I've tried a few times but never had a work that was frankly good enough. And perhaps for the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait contest.

9. I've listening to Brahms and I like it and am humming at the moment the first movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. I'm going to redo the first track of The Love Symphony in December, making the current issue a limited edition. The Death Symphony is my next music project, a sequel of sorts.

10. I've updated the Gallery section of my website. It seems that I spend hours updating one website or another! Here's a white rabbit from the new paintings. None of the paintings mentioned in "6." are there yet...

That's it for now. Tick tick!

No, wait.

Here is 11...

My Soundcloud Page has some new "nocturnes". I'll add more in a bit. I want a new Yamaha CLP480 digital piano so that these sound better! In the mean time I hope you like the Staircase Nocturne on my current synthesizer.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Writing vs. Painting

I've been writing over the past week, trying to finish my novel, a short novel, The Many Beautiful Worlds of Death. I'm finding it rather fun and much more enjoyable than expected. Comparing it with painting and music is fun too.

There are as many ways to write as paint, and I find I write like I paint. Since the start I had a plan, an outline of the story that, in paragraphs, gave the plot direction. This is like the basic composition, preparation before you paint. The story and characters are as imaginative as anything I paint too! One character, 2me, is a gaseous cloud of glowing colour, a child of infinite empathy who experiences everything emotionally.

Some writers write roughly and then refine more and more with each draft, just as some painters paint roughly, adding more layers to pin down the fine edges. I tend to write pretty finely from the outset, placing each word as carefully as possible like the delicate strokes of a brush, although I often dart back and forth, refining old work as I write new, trying to ensure that the pace and colour are uniform.

However, I've not stuck totally to the plan. The overall plot is simple, a man is dying and decides to use his transportation machine, a portal, a magic door, to search for a cure. In Chapter 4 George, the moribund protagonist, decides to visit the wisest man in the universe. Originally this was a mad hermit who advised that he should be content in his lot. This was unsatisfactory for many reasons, firstly, nothing much is conveyed either emotionally or practically; the chapter didn't really affect the rest of the story. It was also rather telling rather than showing because much of the information was conveyed by conversion rather than metaphor.

Show don't tell is true in all art forms but most obvious in writing. There are different degrees to this, and it's a problem because it's frustrating and even rude to tell people what to think. Art should be a dialogue. For example:

"Fred saw a meek woman huddled on the edge of the sofa. Her name was Sandy." is a blatant telling, just blurting out that her name was Sandy like that, as though we are to just accept it from the God-author!

"Fred saw a meek woman huddled on the edge of the sofa. A badge on her lapel said 'Sandy'" is much better because it informs the reader in a less commanding way. However, there's no indication whether Fred read the badge so this is still written from a privileged third-party position.

"Fred saw a meek woman huddled on the edge of the sofa. "What's you're name?" He enquired. "Sandy," she replied in a trembling voice." Is better still because it's written from Fred's point of view. This character empathy can extend to other elements in the scene too. Perhaps Fred would see the sofa as a settee, or he might use the word furniture, or describe the woman differently from meek. There are many degrees to showing and some information must be told. A relationship between the writer and the reader must be built, and the reader must grow to trust the writer. At one point I wrote, as a sentence. "Maria Andrade was a genius." An almost inexcusable sentence in any work. However, the preceding paragraph explained why, and more crucially it was written as another character saw her, therefore excusability crept slowly back. However, the sentence was extremely judgemental and gave the reader no room, which I don't like, so I changed it to "She was undoubtedly a genius." which was much more polite and gave the reader room for an opinion of their own.

All of this potential complexity makes the process of character writing complex, and as most stories are character driven and involve relationships it makes writing a skill that demands empathy and understanding of relationships. In fact it's that process that makes writing more enjoyable than other artforms. Imaginary statements on philosophy are less fun than imaginary people.

In my new Chapter 4, the hermit is a hedonist hippie, who lives in ragged chaotic conditions with a clutch of wives and a gaggle of urchin children. The chapter shows, or tries to show, the consequences of a hedonistic lifestyle and why the old saying of "live each day as though it were your last" can't really work... well that was the plan.

The first draft is complete. I'm excited about the whole thing and am now convinced that Terry Gilliam will want to make this into a film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. And why not?

The picture is a quick illustration of George looking through the portal.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mork Calling Orson

And really that title is little to do with anything. Sorry I've not been blogging much these days. I've become more of a Facebooker but sometimes one needs to put down more than a brief idiom.

I've not painted much this year but have five or six paintings in progress. That will end the ones I had planned for definite competitions etc. plus a few for arts sake. It's ironic that the art's sake ones often turned out as good as the ones that I put a lot more time and thought and work into. Predictably, pictures like the Octopus Attacking a Lighthouse Before Being Assumpted into an Angel painting which I didn't much rate before I painted it, turned out rather well.

It's an idea from a few years ago at a time when I was painting lost of pictures about isolation and sexual frustration. I got bored with those so decided to paint the opposite thing.

Now I'm getting back into writing and have written a flash fiction entry for Salt Publishing, just for fun but I enjoyed the experience. I've finished reading Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, a book that was only moderately good. It was very good at conveying an exact mood of frustrated anger at being romantically rejected when obsessed. The whole book suffered for being too embittered at times, and not brilliant in language, often repeating the same words and rambling. It reads as though the author was an embittered drunk at the time of writing but it's mastery is that fluidity, reading like one stream of feeling which is not easy to maintain for the length of a novel.

I'm working on a new short story about an artist whose works remain unseen, an author whose words are unread, a musician whose music is unheard, every frustration of mine of the last few days. In this way, it is like that story, but no bitterness here, only inspiration. I think I'll love this tale already.

It's been my busiest year ever. I've released The Love Symphony, composed and produced another pop album, Black and White (frustrated that I can't find a singer to sing it with me, but when I do it will be waiting, I won't become Orson Welles and wait forever for one project when I can write new things so easily). I've updated my game Flatspace IIk and released that, then in March painted over 200 watercolours for my poetry book 365 Universes (the poems are mediocre, but I'm pleased with the illustrations) and then published it, founding Pentangel Books. I've painted over 20 oil paintings, made the Bedlam cabinet (post below) and the elaborate God Being Killed frame (perhaps my best oil painting to date), entered about fifteen competitions and exhibited lots including at Crewe Hall, Jobling Gowler, and two solo exhibitions, given three radio interviews for the first time, organised a poetry night, illustrated all of William Blake's "Songs" at my first trade show (the Tyger pictured below), designed some fantastic objects including several (wonderful) brass and marble letter racks and a robot donation box, and lots more mundane stuff such as recording lots of sound effects and writing music for IndieSFX, and created a few music videos.

Yet I find I'm penniless and have no hope of owning a house or car, my art seems to be terminally and frustratingly unfashionable to juries so few people are seeing my work except in local shows I organise myself. I haven't sold any music all year which made me sad because I know how good some of it is (although Celestial Radio honours me by broadcasting some - thank you to Parveen). Still, at times it seems that the more I try the more the world seems to push back!

Fortunately I can easily overcome such difficulties with a mental switch. The rest of this year will be at least as productive, starting with the completion of my first novel, composing a new first movement for The Love Symphony and then writing all of The Death Symphony. I also have lots of oil paintings to complete, a major solo exhibition in Shrewsbury (my largest of the year and my first in that great town - poster below) and, well, lots more than a normal human could possibly achieve. Or me.

In preparation for future literary glory I've decided to attend the Cheshire Prize for Literature Awards ceremony.

I expect to win this, and then find a publisher to publish my novel... but if I don't I'll invent some other expectations. I like coming up with ideas.

Keep well. If you want to enter the Salt Publishing writing competition I had a go via their website.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd 2

The painting was a lot of work and took every day. My original deadline was one week short of the absolute final deadline but in the end I had to push it!

The underpainting came next and I decided to paint lots of detail. In underpainting I've often wondered about just how much detail to paint. Generally the more detail the better. In fact whenever I've painted with lots of detail I'll add even more detail later and the results are fantastic. However, there are some occasions when it's inefficient, with fine details like eyelashes or thin tree branches best painted later instead of once in underpainting, and then again later.

I started with the leaf...

Then moved over the painting from top to bottom, moving in tiny sections, each taking a day...

Underpainting colours must be permanent, opaque, fast drying, and dull in colour. Fortunately many colours fit this. Some like cadmium yellow have the opacity but are not permanent enough or dry too slowly. Transparent colours like ultramarine are not appropriate. The best are titanium (or any) white, mars (or any) black, yellow/red ochres, nickel yellow, chromium oxide for green. The only blues that are appropriate are cobalt turquoises which are permanent enough but only just opaque enough. They will do.

That layer took ten days. When complete I glued the brass to the cabinet and attached the hinges. That was done.

Then, after a few days to dry, the glazing. Glazing should use transparent colours, or opaque, or any others you like. The foundation of the painting has been set by now. Transparent layers will darken, as light is absorbed.

With a day left until the deadline, the cabinet was complete..

Here is the finished painting, The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd. Oil on panel, 400x400mm.

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Paranoid Schizophrenia of Richard Dadd 1

Well that's the longest blog post title I've had in a while.

About a month ago, on July the 4th I decided to paint a painting I'd had in planning for years, and I decided to make a cabinet for it. I decided to make it in time for the Salon Art Prize, which has a deadline of the 25th of August. I knew it would be difficult to make that deadline. Here's a rundown of the process so far...

First I bought the wood for the doors and cut them. This was pine and cut into three identical frames that sandwich together so that I could fit glass in between. Two were made and placed onto a square picture frame that would hold the painting. These were lined up on day one and clamped down. The doors also had vertical metal bars which would become trees, conveying a forest and the prison windows of the insane asylum that confined Richard Dadd. Here it is at the end of the second day.

And a few days later when the glue had dried. This shows the general idea.

The hinges on my Love Reliquary last year were a bit ugly so I decided to style some (or make some, but that would have taken a while). I bought some large ones and cut them to shape. For the corners of the box I wanted to add an artistic element, so I decided to make some brass designs for those too. Here are the hinges.

Those were brass plated steel and hand cut with a jeweller's saw. The hard metal make these a lot of work and it took an hour at least for each edge.

Next came the most crucial part of all, the painting. Here was the idea sketch from about 2008-9.

The cabinet though required a square painting so I prepared the panel and began the composition process, starting with some photographed and modelled elements to use...

The composition proved to be very complicated, probably my most complicated and busy painting ever, closer to a Hieronymous Bosch than anything else I've painted. The drawing process took a week and transferring the underdrawing to the panel took about 10 hours, which is a good indicator of the painting work involved, about 10 days per painting layer.

Once the drawing was done I could use elements from the painting in the cabinet, so I designed and cut the brass corners.

Before this I also added the bark texture to those metal bars to make them look like long thin trees. I painted the cabinet black first because I thought that painting around the trees later would be difficult, but that was a mistake because the nice black finish was messed up badly by the Milliput I used for the trees.

Then I began to underpaint the picture, which took 7 days in the end. That part, at least, was straightforward. I began to wonder if the cabinet would be too small and unimpressive for the high quality painting because I loved the gigantic gold frame my tiger painting ended up in!

After that I did my best to clean up the black surface and repainted and revarnished the cabinet. And that is the stage we're at now. I have about twenty days left until the final deadline. Of course I'd like to finish a lot sooner AND I'd like to take more time on painting instead of rushing one layer. Decisions decisions! I won't rush. I'd rather miss the deadline than compromise quality.

Part two later...

Friday, July 13, 2012

God Being Killed

Lots done recently! My new great challenge is a new painting in a new cabinet. My original target was to make this in time for the Salon Art Prize, the deadline at the end of August but it will be very difficult to make the deadline. I've made most of the cabinet, but lo! First the results of my last project.

Here is God Being Killed By Theists And Atheists, oil on MDF panel, 300x450mm.

The full nature of the painting and its concept is related in an earlier post. It shows religion on the left side, the glaring face of Pope Innocent X and atheists on the right, represented as Darwinian monkeys. Both play chess. Bishop and simian monoliths facing each other. In the centre on the horizon is a crucifix, peace, divinity and holy understanding above such discussions, but at the same time a grave, and death, depending on your viewpoint, and so the painting shows holiness and unholiness, life and death in one image.

Here is the painting in the frame.

The frame is rather top heavy, so I should have put the attachments for hanging higher up. Apart from that it's rather tough for a plaster frame.

Here is a closeup of the scene with the lugubrious figures. Those are air dried clay. The rest is plaster or epoxy clay. The vines are polymorph plastic and the lot is painted in acrylics with metallic finish.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Welsh Tiger

Hi folks! Here's the painting I was talking about; Tiger Moving Nowhere At All, oil on panel 56x32cm.

I painted it with the theme of "Moving" for the Tabernacle Competition held by MOMA Wales. Today I took the trip to Machynlleth to drop it off.

The day was too long and too hot. It took about an hour to pack it, and I had to make (bend) a handle from aluminium tubing so that I could carry the heavy work to the railway station (interesting note; young people these days say train station. Is it just me that uses the former? I'd like to think so. I'd like to be as Victorian as possible or even Edwardian, even better!)

Here it is framed. It's very heavy.

As ever on these Machynlleth days I left the house at about 9 and came back at about 5. It's a long trip, mostly sitting on trains, or waiting on platforms. I always get a headache (which, last year I considered to be "depression" after a certain person told me that another certain person had a headache and that the doctor told him it was depression, and then later antidepressants made it go away, I've not knowingly experienced depression, and thought that the miserable day last year was a taster, but it turns out it was dehydration and motion sickness because I had the same headache when I went on a subsequent train trip during happy times). The air was hot and viscous and there were tiny flying insects about, perhaps due to recently headline grabbing floods, although the rain as predicted did not occur, as I predicted (because the BBC weather is often wrong, even more so when it matters, knowing the weather is so pointless, except for extreme professions like fisherman or gardener).

I arrived, dropped off the painting and strolled up the Owain Glyndwr walk to the bench where I ate my cheddar and grape sandwiches (tip; grapes are ideal for this, the best sandwich has a sweet fruit component like tomatoes, kiwi fruit or grape, a creamy component like cream cheese or mayonnaise, and a meat or fish part) and continued the walk for a few minutes before I had to catch the train back. There were few attractive single looking females on the train or on other eye catchable places. The train was mostly empty anyway. I began drawing hinge designs and then stared at the clouds.

In Shrewsbury, waiting for the change, I walked three times around "the block" in an attempt to exorcise the feelings of being a crushed ping-pong ball which didn't really work. The air remained jellific and I put on sunglasses due to reflected sun although I knew that this would hinder any eye communication, should it occur. The last train was one of cloud stares again, but these were good and I thought I even saw a baby Kelvin Helmholtz. In Crewe I bought some more hinges (which come in packets of three, when I need four, hmm) and a brass rod which can be a cane for my steam-punk outfit.

I limped home, drank and ate. Tried to console two friends and hopefully succeeded. I typed to my long term pen-pal...

"Tired of imaginary conversations with imaginary people. On the other hand, these emotions only exist to populate the planet. Is that even a worthy cause!!? I count myself lucky in my ability to rationalise my emotions. No matter what the world throws, those that can use logic to successfully ignore their feelings might be unhappy inside sometimes, or happy inside sometimes, but generally are blessed because they can intelligently choose what to do and why, not have their genes and/or neurology and/or whims choose for them."

This year I've felt more at peace than ever. More blessed. More grateful to the universe and the people I know. I've encountered lots of gifted people, and the most gifted seem to self-destruct via apathy, negativity and giving up early. I'll never do that. I'd be bitterly disappointed not to have my painting selected. I'd be overjoyed to win. But either option wouldn't hold back any future actions. Prize money would certainly improve my art though! I've got a big list of "hopes" to buy when I can afford it, from a CD by such and such a band, to an iPad, to a house, a studio and a concert grand piano!

The M.O.M.A. Wales exhibition, whether I'm in it or not, runs from the 16th of July to the 1st of September. Machynlleth is such a nice town that it's worth a visit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Frame Update

Well the painting is drying. I thought I'd post an update of the frame work. We left our intrepid hero half naked and covered with shards of epoxy clay. I added some crosses (crudely hacked from some rolled out bits - I used a silicone rolling pin so that the clay wouldn't stick but actually it did stick so I waited an hour then rolled it again and it was fine). Then I painted the whole thing in a thin coat of chocolate brown. Here it is...

And here is a closeup of the scene in the arch. Are these figures mourners or are they reverent monks? The answer is both at once, depending on how you feel at the time.

The next step is decoration. I used Golden Fluid Acrylics for that brown. I like these a lot, and they can be watered down a lot too, handling loads better than the thick acrylics that come in tubes. I've not got many colours (they cost about £20 a bottle!) but I don't need that many to decorate frames. I still want them all though. Naturally.

Here are some plaster casts I've made to experiment with. More are on the go. I've learned that watery grey is good for simulating "dust" but I've not perfected anything yet. I've got three iridescent colours; bronze (a good opaque goldy colour, perhaps best used on it's own), bright gold (very light yellow and transparent, this is very shiny and metallic and wonderful for highlights - my favourite but has to be carefully layered because it's not strong on it's own and looks very sickly and yellow) and silver (disappointing and useless so far - best mixed with blues or pinks to make a nacre effect, although pearlescent white might be better for that).

Here are my first results although it's hard to see what they are like on screen. Most have lots of layers.

The rich reddy golds (Venetian red? light red? terra rosa? something like that - Golden simply call it red oxide) probably look better in this photo (although actually the golds are so wonderful that in real life these all look loads better). The centre is plain brown and light gold. Rather delicate actually and very metallic, almost like cast iron. I'll keep these samples for future reference. I'm still not that happy with any one and will cast another six or more before deciding on a colour for my precious frame.

I'll post a picture of a new painting soon. The leaping tiger is nearly dry enough to scan! That one is being professionally framed by Bailey's near Nantwich. They do an excellent job and I like to have a mix of styles of frame. It's so important that each painting looks its absolute best.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Moulding for Dummies

I've been busy this month working on the God Being Killed painting that will feature an elaborate frame. I thought I'd share the process I used for making it. I've enjoyed working with a few new materials so far, and today I've been playing with silicone mould making material.

The first stages of the frame were quite straightforward. As with any frame I began with a wooden frame that fitted the painting. On top of that I added an arch, which I made by layering lots of sheets of MDF. to make a thick block of wood, then jigsawing the arch hole from it. Then I glued it to another piece of MDF to make the back.

When fitting it, it was essential that it remained flat and in the middle so I attached it in two stages. First I painted the top of the frame and the bottom of the arch with dilute PVA. The plan was to make it less absorbent and make a good hold for the next step, an idea I got from wall plastering. Then I glued the two halves together using acrylic mouldling paste, which is essentially acrylic plaster. I thought that acrylic would make a good glue and act like a filler too, making the imperfect join fit well by filling in any gaps. It worked as planned and a few hours later I found I could lift the frame without the heavy top falling off, which is important!

However I'd be foolish to rely on glue to hold something that heavy so I then drilled and screwed the top. It was important to glue first because If I'd have drilled and screwed first it might not have been straight.

Here it is at that stage...

Next, was an easy but messy step, to pour plaster all over it. After that, and trimming off the edges it looked like this...

That's pretty much how it is now. I've painted it with epoxy casting resin today, which will toughen it up a bit and help stick it to the frame (I covered the wood with PVA first to help the plaster stick, but every little helps). I'm not 100% sure about the epoxy being ideal, although it must surely toughen things up. In tests it seems to sink into the plaster and not toughen it too much, at least I've managed to smash it when trying! More tests are needed I think...

I want to add some moulded shapes of chess pieces and other bits so I got some silicone to make moulds from. It was really gloopy stuff. It's mixed with a catalyst with a simple 10:1 weight ratio so I used my trusty digital scale to measure a plastic cup full out and stirred it up with great difficulty! It pours slowly, but sets just like rubber. I wonder if I can make rubber stamps with it? It might repulse the ink. Maybe that's a good thing for a stamp?

I began with some chess pieces and set them half in plaster in plastic boxes. I topped these up with the silicon and the results were great. The only problem was removing the lot from the box! I also wasted quite a lot of the stuff, casting a big block of rubber for some quite small objects.

For a second bacth of objects I improved the process by using Lego walls to hold the silicone. That was much easier, and the stuff wasn't so fluid that it seeped out of the walls (unlike the watery epoxy, which would have I just know it!). Another advantage with Lego is that you can build the shape you want, saving waste and it's easier to dismantle.

I'll use epoxy clay to make my mouldings, because I want to bend them when setting them in place. The rippled frame would make it awkward to stick a solid flat object down with ease too.

For now I'll leave this for a few days. Tomorrow I'm painting the last stages of the tiger (if it's dry enough), off on Saturday to see the Shrewsbury College end of year art show, then some more end of year shows in Manchester on Sunday, back in time to paint the second layer on this god painting next week... if the last layer is dry enough. We have the light but this summer has been so cold that it feels forever autumn (now if this was a radio broadcast then it would be time for a song).

Ta ta for now.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Mechanauts (and Other Stories)

Greetings blog humans! I've not blogged in a while, caught up with the more socially intense world of Facebook but yes it's now time to reblog.

News part one! My exhibition in Sevens in Macclesfield took place. The opening was scant and/or spartan but I sold a watercolour and a poetry book on that day, and two prints over the course of the exhibition. The biggest benefit was that I was forced to calculate the prices and appropriate print size for each painting. I did this by typing the width/height of every painting into a spreadsheet, and calculating the aspect ratio to eliminate the most unusual shapes. Then I tallied this with a list of standard print sizes (12x10, 16x12, 20x16 etc. etc.) and typing those, their cost and other factors (like a commission value) into a separate sheet. More to do on this, as it's a complicated formula.

News two! I've added a shopping cart system to my website. It's crude but wasn't too hard using $SESSION variables. This was created to make it easier to buy sound effects on my sound effects website IndieSFX, but should prove useful. My music is now available to buy that way, as are digital prints.

News three! Painting! Here is Triumph of the Mechanauts. This for a competition with a theme of a dystopian future. An alternative title is Two Victorian Time Travellers Discovering Technological Lovelessness in the Year 2791. It's about the death of emotion.

It's been a disappointing month regarding competitions and entry into exhibitions, however my faith in my abilities is stronger than ever, and my work and mindset is back to the good days of 2006, 2007, 2008 which were better years than 2010 and 2011. My ultrafaith in future artworks is undiminished. In 100 years time I'm sure that the most famous and renowned artist of this time will be me, and yet to be in this exact position of obscurity and freedom and the correct modicum of insanity and isolation is ideal for creativity to flourish. I have three other paintings underpainted and awaiting completion; a leaping tiger, a flagellation of Christ (which took about a week but I might throw away as I never really liked it) and a third painting which was to replace it called God Being Killed by Theists and Atheists. Both of those are on the theme of religious violence for the Religionis Violenta competition. How more violent could we get than the death of God?

The painting was inspired by a epic tragedy related to me by a stranger, one which caused him to deny the existence of God and then become fervently religious. I'm atheist myself, although I do not object to religion because I think it's good for society and exists for logical social scientific reasons, because a stable society demands it. I don't believe anyone really believes in God. The thought that there might actually be a giant invisible man controlling everything is obviously ridiculous. Moved by the story and urgently needing a new painting I idea I spent a day alone and later in darkness the idea appeared in one; God dying in the sky, as evil priests (and initially demons) faced monkeys (representing atheists) over a chess board. On the horizon was a small crucifix. In the sky circled many crucifixes, in panic and stabbing and swirling. The calm cross on the horizon gives a contrast to the rest of the painting and as a representation of Jesus makes the painting devoutly religious; amidst the confused monkeys and corruption of the earthly church there is Christ. Yet, a day later I realised that the crucifix was a gravestone, God was dead and religion was dead, so my unconscious had magically made a painting with simultaneous dual meanings, devout religion and devout atheism in one.

I will complete this painting this month. It would work best on an epic scale but I don't have the time or storage space for something like that.

There are lots of other things to tell, like One Moment In Time, a community art project for Jubilee Monday I'm doing, music news and other things but that must come later for it's time for a cup of tea.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


A busy few days, and weeks! A few Monday's ago I helped host a poetry night at the local community centre and our guest poet Jim Bennett was brilliant, not only as a poet (he was clearly way above us!) but as an inspiration and as entertainer. He even got us singing along to one of the poems! He was clearly a true artist, he wrote his first poem aged 8 and he's been a poet all his life, but despite his years of experience and many achievements he was really down to earth and still passionate about language and society.

The night was a busy rush for me. My singer friend Tor and his manager Honey came along so I met them in person for the first time. They came back here and listened to tune after tune while I bamboozled them with offers and begs to record more songs with me. They said yes.

That excitement aside I've been painting stalwartly for the most part. I've also entered and been turned down for the Stockport Open. I was commenting that competitions can boil down to the judges taste. Trying to second guess judges though can be a nightmare. I was disappointed last year when one of my best paintings, at least a good one, I thought, was turned down, so this year I entered paintings that were different but both of those were turned down too, and the judges were different anyway! That said though, the two I entered were perfectly fine. We can but try.

In other news I've been ordered to take down two paintings from my Crewe Hall exhibition on the grounds of nudity. This annoyed me somewhat. For a start it could easily cost me £50-£100 to hire a van to take them when the only reason for me to remove them is that they don't like them, and they've been there for a month and I at least supplied a price list with titles etc. months in advance. My works aren't like Lucien Freud's or Francis Bacon's, but Crewe Hall isn't an art gallery either. This happens in many venues with my work and now I must ensure that I check in advance. About 25% of my paintings are unshowable to the public, apparently. I expect this is entirely a matter of fashion and that if I were as famous as Lucien Freud, Crewe Hall would happily show them and not bat an eyelid.

These events have made me think.

My plan was to paint for competitions. Now I think I might as well paint for my own whims, the reasoning being that trying to please a judge is like a cat chasing its tail or that uncatchable fox being chased by the immortal hound. Stand still and you have more chance of the fox jumping into your proverbial arms. Yet, whims are limitless. Why paint every day for every month forever? Is that a question to ask every artist?

Well we'll all live until we get old and then die. We can do anything in between. Anything we want. The ultimate reason I enter competitions is as a goal, a point in time that motivates action, the fun and the challenge of the creation process against imaginary opponents. Mentally, the prize is filling in the entry form because that announces the end of the process, and victory.

On that note I've just entered this into the Threadneedle Prize. As a London competition, they should notice the reference to the B.P. Portrait Award last year.

Monday, April 16, 2012


No bongs.

I've been painting for a few days. The tiger is drying in its first layer. Today I'm on day two of Triumph of the Mechanauts. Here's a sneak preview...

I'm painting better than ever and feeling right at home. The new work schedule is working much better; with 30 minute breaks instead of 20. Exercise and diet are so important for these long sessions. Of all breakfasts, porridge with dried fruit and soya milk must surely be the most healthy. I'm surer than ever that sugar accelerates ageing and at best causes ups and downs in both mood and activity. Coffee with caffeine is, I think, as good as exercise and some research I've read indicates it increases heart health and has similar mood enhancing effects as exercise. I must stay fit and young so that when success arrives I can be fit enough to enjoy it. Of course, by then I'll be addicted to my current lifestyle, whatever that is, but perhaps not. One thing I avoid is routine. It is routine that traps the brain into relaxation and laziness. One thing that struck me, an obvious fact, is that young people like new music and old people like the same old music they've always listened to. The music taste is reflecting brain physiology. Old music is old paths. New music is new paths. Limiting your taste in music, or in people, or in anything will degrade your brain. Limitation of tastes is a sign of decay, but exploring new tastes is a way to avoid it. Listening to new music, and trying new things, even and especially things you "dislike" will keep your brain young and flexible, just as moving in a new way keeps your joints flexible. Fighting likes, fighting comfort, fighting lazy established routine is the key to longevity. Bless the recalcitrant for they will inherit the Earth.

Must avoid obtuse rambles.

I've been tweeting on Twitter quite a lot recently. My account is @marksheeky if you're on there. It's good for some things. I'm sure Nietzsche would have liked it. I'm unsure of the best things to say as yet. Despite the public nature of each tweet it somehow feels more intimate than Facebook. The psychology of this is a mystery.

I'll continue painting all week.

I've got a few events lined up and I now think it's a good idea to have two live events each month. The next one is the poetry night on the 23rd. The singer Tor James Faulkner might come to that from Glasgow. I hope so. We've never met and it would be good to do more work with him. I'd like to record more songs, perhaps under a band name so that I can use a mix of performers without confusion over the credits.

Now I'll listen to some Radio 1.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Let It Be

This is my attempt at the monkification of a whip-bearing man for my Flagellation of Christ, one of the three paintings I'm working on. The other one had problems. The oil paint that I "traced" it with was partly washed away by the imprimatura. I must either wait longer next time (I will!) or rub more gently (I will! - although to rub harder gives better smoother results). This sad wearing away of my new friend, my first big painting of 2012 is an setback among many other recent triumphs, including the successful launch of my long exhibition at Crewe Hall. The mother of a talented your singer spoke to me. I'd like the singer to sing some of my songs but she's young yet and has many options before her and will need much guidance from her parents and wise friends.

But now time is ended!


The clock has struck!


The winter has melted!


The sun is here!


The time for worries is done. The time for preparation is over. Time has beaten us!


The clock is racing and the moon is running. The sun is dead and the night is born!


No time for more music videos even though some are needed!


No time to sell on etsy for the first time!


No time to post a painting to the Abbeywood Estate sale!


No time to tell you about the charity auction in Bristol where my works are to star, with the support of Gillian Anderson, Stephen Fry and the Lord Mayor! No time to tell you about my first radio interview last Tuesday!


Time is out and time it set to begin for now, yes, now is the time to draw back that great velvet curtain that leads to summer. Tomorrow I will enter my hermitude. I will shut off the universe, alone with my limnetic lover! It is time, dear friends, to paint.

Let the bells peel in joy!