Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Song Work Continues

Two good days working on music, learning so much and very pleased with the music so far, much happier with it than the first version a year ago. One key thing about this project is that I'm aiming to embody much of the music philosophy extolled in a former blog post I made about authenticity in music. So much music since about 2000 has been way over-compressed, giving it a consistently loud, regular volume which can sound great on the first listen, but only gets more annoying, if headache inducing, over time. One of my key aims is to make pop/rock music with the dynamic range and depth of classical music, well, as dramatic as I can make it. Music that is emotional for its own sake needs dramatic dynamism. We are really not used to hearing that sort of music in the pop era, unless you listen to a lot of classical music instead.

That's the hard part about any vocals; you have a mix of phonetic accuracy (the words need to be heard), pitch (in tune), and emotion. Of course, the emotion is the most important bit. Any electronic processing affects these things. Nowadays, it tends to improve the pitch accuracy (arguably the least important component) and harm the rest. I can say now I have never and will never use any automatic tuning. I'll happily use vocoders, I've loved their robotic speech since Battlestar Galactica (pedantry note: the Cylons used something called a resonator, apparently, rather than a vocoder, although a vocoder feeds the signal through several resonant band-pass filters anyway, so perhaps these are similar).

A lot of my processing work now is wrestling with the technology to make it all sound naturalistic, no digitally regular rhythms here, not even for the dance tracks. Everything will defy convention. My aim is to make music with modern technology that echoes back to the peak of music, perhaps 1981, just before digital sequencers, those killers of human feeling. Of course, I'm sequencing everything rather than using 1981 tapes, but every note and is hand crafted. This takes a long time, but sounds so much better as a result.

I feel that this music is really exciting, better in dynamism and truth than a lot of pop music out there, and I'm making it the best I can for its own sake. One thing I need though is a new band name or alter-ego because I've released a lot of music already and if you find me on Spotify or something, you'll probably be inundated with a lot of old electronic game-style music that is nothing like this, and nothing like the music I write now, which is typically piano based and classical or faux-classical, or 'avant-garde/experimental'. Everything since The Anatomy of Emotions sounds much more naturalistic. Perhaps one day I'll re-record The Love Symphony, which sounds very flat and electronic to my contemporary ears, but I still like every note, from a musical point of view (one day, I'm sure an orchestra will play it, I must hope I'm alive to hear that). Generally though I'd much rather make new things than revisit old things.

Anyway, these songs are nothing like my previous work and need a new artist. I could have split up some past albums into different genres with different band/artist names, perhaps the more classical-sounding music could have had a new name to suit my new gothic performing appearance, but the evolution there was gradual, and some of the music on, say, Tree of Keys has echoes of both that music and older electronic music. I am pleased that 'Gunstorm' and 'The End and The Beginning', my electro-pop from over a decade ago with the fantastic Tor james Faulkner on vocals, is credited to both of us because that does have a unique sound, rather like La Roux, now I think of it, like La Roux if Alison Moyet was the lead singer.

As I work, I'm enjoying re-reading How Music Works by David Byrne, confirming many of my ideas and thoughts.

In other music news, my latest album, Music of Poetic Objects has its world-wide digital release on Friday. I've done zero promotion on it but have sold 7 copies on CD so far, making it my most popular music in years. Be part of this success story and order one of the limited first-edition copies today! You can order the CD now from my website.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Song Work

Yesterday and today I've been working on music, working on the songs of The Modern Game, my first album of songs in a long time and my first 'proper' vocal performances. I had already released this music last year, but last month re-listened to it with fresh ears after many months and really felt that I needed to work hard to improve some tracks, two in particular. There was no cost in taking down the album and re-releasing it, so I thought I'd do that. I must make reasonable haste as the themes are quite of the time, most of the album is about the internet and social media age.

Yesterday I added a new string arrangement to the last epic rock song 'Coming Back To Earth'. I had written something on a similar theme, almost the same music, with the same starting words, back in 2015, but it came to a quick end rather than going anywhere (a bit like Queen's first version of The Seven Seas of Rhye). When working on The Modern Game, I revisited this, but didn't even notice until I'd nearly finished it that I had recorded it three years ago! I've been tweaking this today.

Many songs were fine to start with, but about half can use a few tweaks and could benefit from new vocals or, in the case of The Trees, lots of work. I love this track and its feeling, but it is challenging to work on because it had a very drifty mood-based structure that needs to grow organically, perhaps best improvised, but for things like this you need to be in exactly the right mood when doing it, perhaps playing a basic live track as an emotional template (which is an ideal way to compose). Lots of influences on the album, almost every song is influenced by another by a different band, even if I didn't realise at the time. One of my favourites is 'All The Broken Flowers', a simple romantic song that I played 'live' on the piano in one go while imagining the words, then later sang it loosely to fit, in a very organic way. Here are the words, which are vaguely in sonnet form and were written as a poem:

All the broken flowers that she gave me
as Christmas presents, as birthday gifts.
She gave what she could, but had nothing.
Oh how pitiful, the anguish.

All the broken flowers that she gave me,
lined up on the window sill waiting for entropy
to eat them away, like her bones, her hair
now grey and lost, the anguish.

Eight summers since we met, five of rain.
How being downtrodden can be addictive,
and how romantic nostalgia is
hiding the awful truth in a cloud of pink scent
of flowers.

Eight summers since we met, five of rain,
and now she is gone to heaven.
How romantic nostalgia is
like a cloak of comfort for the tears.

Perhaps if I'd loved the flowers more
she wouldn't have broken.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Fruits of War, and Art

Slow day today, woke late after a night of disturbing dreams and interrupted sleep, these long days. Cut a frame and worked today on the Cromwell painting but I'm unhappy with it. Sometimes creative ideas work instantly, sometimes they take days or weeks. In the long term it's hard to tell the difference between either, but the initial design is crucial. I rarely change anything when a painting is started. I've painted pictures twice, or three times sometimes, but never corrected. Perhaps a time limit will finish this idea. Taking months or years on one idea is never a good thing because the whole thing will be out of date.

Perhaps I need to refocus on one or two central themes; at least the cross. What essence does Cromwell have? Walnuts! Leather! Tannin! The opposite of ice cream, meringue... coconut flesh. Coconut flesh, perhaps this is the antithesis of Oliver Cromwell! If he should bite one coconut, he would explode, as I'm sure you can now see. Charles I, by comparison is very fruit based, apricotian and of peaches especially. This explains the English civil war in terms of delicate fruits alone and is worthy of an entire book on the subject, but how might this affect my painting?

The R.B.S.A. opening last night was broadly uninspiring. I felt that the work was all well done, but few items made me think that this was cutting edge art (this made me wonder: is visual art dead? Of course never! Any more than literature or drama died when the dictionary was codified). There were exceptions, but I saw few messages and a minority of emotions. It also seemed that the art that did have a concept had to be badly painted to emphasise that it was conceptual. Pretty and meaningless is fine, but if it's ugly, it must be meaningful, mustn't it? If even ugly and meaningless art is good enough then we might as well abandon judges and show everything and call all artists equally good (ironically Duchamp's famous urinal was in an exhibition with exactly those terms, but his work was still the only one that was 'rejected'!). Of course, such ideas are ridiculous because, at very least, everyone likes different things to different degrees. Call art what you like, but there will always be good and bad, and so out of context it doesn't count as art at all.

I've always liked art with a meaning, but these seem to be in a tiny minority compared to pretty paintings or art that experiments with techniques. An old idea (or no idea) with a new technique feels like a haughty cleverness, like playing J. S. Bach on a Moog Synthesizer for the first time. Artistically awful. Every innovation in technique demands an innovative message for it.

Enough rambles. I must decide whether to continue working on painting next week or switch to music. The light and weather is perfect for painting, but the music is timely and will age unless it is done. Tick tick goes the clock of life, dripping into liquid infinity.

First, a night of communal video gaming.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Scanning Paintings and Judgement

Spent yesterday on small things, including readjusting the colours on some newly scanned paintings.

I used to scan all of my artworks at 300dpi on a Canon LIDE flatbed scanner, which cost me a mere £30, that I had dismantled and modified so that I can place large paintings on top of it. This worked well enough and allowed me to scan large paintings (even the 1.7M Invisible Woman) and stitch the resulting images together very well. This scanner isn't supported beyond Windows XP (ah, the joys of technology), so this ideal arrangement only lasted a few years. I then bought a more expensive Epson, but like most scanners this has banding issues and can't be manually calibrated. This is a problem with all scanners, and it this easily fixable issue ruins the quality of just about every image I've scanned on any scanner. On the Canon, this was only fixed because I bought three and took them to bits to make them 'lab quality' in terms of cleanliness. That gave good results most, but not all, of the time.

Why does any scanner manufacturer make a model that can't be calibrated and inevitably results in banding? I suspect that the reason is so that people buy another scanner every six months.

A high quality, fine art scanner should be easy to make and there is probably a lot of demand for it too. A simple, wide format, wand scanner would probably to the trick. Current wand scanners are very poor quality and seem to be aimed at rapidly scanning documents for phones and tablets. It's one of those ironic twists of technology that my first Logitech hand scanner for Amiga in the 1990s still out-performs most of today's scanners.

Now I don't use scanners at all. I have a DSLR camera rig that allows me to photograph paintings section by section. This has pros and cons. It does make it a little easier, and safer, to 'scan' large paintings. It means that I can change the lens and lighting conditions; but ideally the lighting will always be the same; a fixed, even, bright-white light that will be cast over the image at all times. All scanners also have separate lighting and capturing heads so that the image has a slight 'shadow' of the grain of any canvas, which isn't there on a photographed canvas. The Photoshop stitching process is the same but the colour adjustment often requires a lot more work because this depends on many factors. This needs doing with any scanned image, but my old Canon scanners gave an excellent match instantly (when all of its fancy filters were turned off, leaving a raw output).

Well, some of that adjusting took place yesterday. Spent today working on a behavioural simulation in Visual Basic 2013. Haven't programmed in this before and somewhat amazed to find out how bad it is compared to Visual Basic 6, which is still one of the world's most popular languages despite not being supported or updated by Microsoft in decades.

I've heard today that I've not been selected for the R.B.S.A. portrait prize, which I've entered with a diptych of my 'variations'. Perhaps this was due to the fact that it was a diptych, and perhaps they would, in the judges' banality, accepted a plain, normal, portrait and not anything too creative, because the second image was very 'unportraitlike'.

As I've painted a series, it would be better to show several variations rather than two (well, not even two variations; the original image and one variation), so entering a mere two images anywhere almost defeats the point of this artwork, yet even as a couple they make for a startling display. The fact that the frames had to be fixed together made it technically difficult to enter more here. I'm disappointed that they didn't get in, partly because I've entered this three times and the previous two entries seemed to be well received (indeed, my Self-Portrait with Black Hole was commended, although they sent me the unexpected certificate folded by mail with inadequate postage, so I had to pay the postman at the door!)

It often seems that what I think of my best work is turned away, when earlier and less accomplished work does well. This happened too with the Tiger Moving Nowhere At All, which I developed over the course of a year for the annual competition at The Tabernacle, MOMA Wales in Machynlleth, a truly lovely place. I'd entered that contest twice before, always developing something specifically for it. For this third year I thought I'd push myself only to not even get selected for the show; yet it's still one of my most popular paintings. The staff there were consoling, as they rather liked my painting and agreed that the child-like scribble of a winner was an awful embarrassment too.

We can't step back but push ahead. We know what we want, what we like and what we don't, and why. Having been a judge, I know what a random process it is - sometimes farcical, like at the Association of Animal Artists Exhibition at Castle Park, where I and my fellow team of judges carefully assessed each work over a three hour period, only to have one judge arrive just as we were leaving, run around in 10 minutes and overrule everything we've decided. Such an insult to the judges and the artists! Such are the whims of judges.

Off to the R.B.S.A. this evening for the closing event of the Prize Exhibition.

In other news; am ordering a custom fitted cavalier hat, which is essential for painting Oliver Cromwell. Let us cry 'olé!' to the spirit of Franz Hals!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Art Videos

I spent yesterday editing and preparing the new series of art videos. I recorded eleven fairly quickly, but the editing together, addings stills at the correct times etc. makes this a long progress and it took all day to convert all of them, faster than I had expected. I wasn't happy with the Execution of King Charles video so I hope to re-do that. I've scheduled them all for gradual release on Wednesdays and Sundays at 7pm over the next few weeks, and the first, the replacement for the 'Transhumanic' video, is live now.

Many things to possibly do now. I really need to start planning the next Cirque du ArtSwarm event, as there are no acts on the list so far and there are only 2 weeks to go. Other work in progress includes a re-recording of The Modern Game music, and completing my Clown Poems. No time to waste on musing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Recorded 11 new painting videos today. The editing and assembly of these will take the rest of the week. I always think of everything I've missed or forgotten to point out in these short talks - or even got wrong(!) but there is no wrong in the workings of the mind, each mistake, slip, word was there because our minds put it there for a good reason. I like to take all video in one take and one stream because, like a sketch or dream, every flicker of word and thought becomes more true. Art is about truth, and surrealistic art is the most true of all because it is an instantaneous representation of current thought. As such, even these videos are unique artworks, and a different and unique truth to that of the paintings that they are enlightening.

The paintings I made film about include The Migraine Tree, my first painting to use my 'symphonic' technique of using repeating patterns to form a visual theme.

Also, Emotional Blackmail. I forgot to point out, or even mention at all, the elaborate frame for this which was quite a challenge and an integral part of the work. I had to create an outer rim of wood, textured with plaster bandages, and coated with epoxy casting resin, to create a unique, ultra-high-gloss finish. One challenge when making this was hiding any screws and fixing this floating rim to the inner frame os stained pine using gold metal tubes.

The other paintings I made films for include The Joyous Birth Of The All-New Transhumanic Super Beings, a second version of this because I wanted to improve upon the sound and have a consistent look. New painting "So, How Have You Been?" is included too. This to too big for the camera, but I will use close ups. There is so much more I can say about all of the artwork and I'm torn between explaining the meaning (or at least, my thoughts about a painting, even I don't totally know the full meaning of my work, it is this fact that makes all surrealistic paintings interesting; they are always enigmatic to some extent and the viewer can see more than even the artist) and the technical aspects. I aim for a bit of both.

Two of the new ekphrastic paintings: To A Fly Trapped In Amber; and Silver; are included too, and The Persistence Of Memory, a painting about the duplication and replication of information over aeons. The title exactly reflected what the painting was about, and was not an homage to Dali (so I'll contradict and 'correct' what I said in the film!), but it did seem like a perfect title for a painting that was literally about memory and persistence, perhaps unlike Dali's.

Flesh Vase With Stone Flowers, There Is Still Hope, and Being The Elephant Man are the final paintings chosen for film treatment. I could say so much about each painting. Perhaps one day I'll make some more in-depth films which perhaps go into the creation process of the paintings, materials, my thoughts and history behind the works too. All of this, I think, adds to the artwork itself.

I'll upload the new videos on to my YouTube channel as they are completed, and probably schedule them for regular appearance.

Monday, June 17, 2019


ArtSwarm filming today. The editing, uploading etc. took all morning, which is usual.

Then I decided to revise my painting prices. I've always priced my work based on the time and materials; it seems the most logical way. I also add a quality factor because some paintings are simply 'hits', and some worth less than the work put into them. Until today I also had a separate factor for prizes, so that paintings that have won awards or commendations are more highly priced. This can make sense because these paintings must be deemed 'better' by a consensus, but it can be a bit unfair because many perfectly good paintings simply never get entered into competitions. Also, the whole judgement process is very arbitrary and hit and miss; there are so many factors in art shows that using this stochastic process to affect the pricing doesn't make much sense, so I've removed this factor today.

One problem with pricing art by time taken is that over the years we get faster at painting higher quality work, partly due to the time consuming nature of experimentation as we are learning. Some of my early paintings took an inordinate amount of time. I'm organised enough to keep a strict diary for all of my 1099 works to date and it amazes me how long some of them took, such as the 37, 8-hour days it took to compose and paint Genesis of Terror, including 12 days just to underpaint it. To account for this, and occasional technical leaps in quality, I divide my paintings into 'generations' so that every few years new paintings go up in value.

Now for some rest. I feel unusually weak, perhaps due to the long painting days. The energy of thought and concentration is very different from the energy of motion. I expect that thinking makes brain cells leap and dance up and down, performing neural jumping-jacks, hence headaches, the muscle aches of the thought workers.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tiredness and Lavender

Exhausted after a long day's painting. I seem to get far more done in the same time than I did seven years ago, but feel much more tired at the end of each day

Finished my 60ml bottle of amber medium today. I recommend amber glass bottles for storing oil media, I get mine from a company called Baldwins, where I also purchase my Spike Lavender Oil, also known as Aspic Oil. Incidentally, normal lavender oil is also a solvent and a weak binding oil which leaves a yellow reside. Spike lavender leaves far less residue, it's more of a powerful solvent. I painted Half A Broken Heart in 2007 using drops of lavender oil in the medium (one or two drops per day, so there are only minute fragments in there).

Still to do today; the script for ArtSwarm. Filming for the Pies episode tomorrow morning.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Colour Mixing with Glazes

A long day glazing a commissioned work today. I've had the same daily painting routine for some years now: 09:00 - 10:30 painting session 1, 10:30 - 11:00 break, 11:00 to 12:30 painting session 2, 12:30 to 13:30 meal break. 13:30 to 15:00 painting session 3, 15:00 to 16:10 long break, 16:10 to 18:00 painting session 4, 18:00 to 19:00 meal break, 19:00 to 20:00 painting session 5 - but rarely and only if needed due to some wet paint that must be tackled in one day.

I thought I'd write something about glazing and mixing colours in this wonderful, transparent dimension. In glazes, colours mix like transparent light filters. The primary colours of red, green and blue transmit only those hues, so a glaze of pure red over a pure blue background would result in black, not violet as in normal paint mixing. It's all about what blocks what. In light the secondary colours are yellow (a mix of red and green), cyan (blue and green) and magenta (red and blue).

This rule means that generally it's better to use secondary colours when painting in layers, unless you want to tend towards black or a primary colour. This is also why a grey underpainting is the easiest colour to use, anything over the top will colourise exactly as you expect, rather than obscure or malform, but the result is less chromanant (that is less 'saturated' in Photoshop-speak). Over many glazes, and the long term, colours will evolve towards the luminary primaries of red, green, blue; or towards black.

I favour one glaze layer, partly because it gives the most flexibility of hue with the greatest efficiency. The most beautiful colours are the most transparent, and perhaps more importantly, the ultra-thin glaze layer makes it easier to add extreme detail to a degree that is not possible in a single layer due to the viscosity of the paint. The more liquid the medium, the more transparent and weaker the paint layer. A good painting needs a solid, perfectly homogenous foundation to be glazed over.

As a rule, glazing a secondary colour over a primary or vice versa will enhance the colour of the primary. Glazing yellow over a green, say a blue-green like Chromium Oxide, will leave the green, contribute the yellow and cut out all of the blue. The same goes with reds glazed with yellows or purples etc. It is with this spell that your Venetian Reds and violet-tinged earth reds can be wonderfully orangified by using yellow glazes.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Glazing Day One

Very busy today on the first day of glazing a major painting. Unusually I chose burnt sienna and ultramarine for a blue sky (with white, naturally). Normally I think this is a bit too transparent but even the cobalt blue underpainting was very smooth, hardly needs a glaze, but I tend to glaze everything and paint everything wet in wet; a lot of work but it improves smoothness. Long day with only two breaks plus meals. My current routine has a 30 minute break at 10:30, plus an hour at 15:00. Day two tomorrow. On we march.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Postage and Walnuts

Started the day by adding a web-form to my website so that anyone interested in buying a painting can enquire with a click. Working out the postage and packaging for a wide variety of paintings; from 15Kg, 70cm paintings like the Tiger Moving Nowhere, to small watercolours is a challenge. I'd rather list everything for sale than limit myself to things that are easy to post, so working out the best delivery option on a case by case basis is the best option for the moment.

After that, spent most of the day glazing a small painting on panel today called A Light Can Shine Only In Darkness, an appropriate title for such a dark, rainy day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Home Life

Feeling inspired and joyous today. Have some ideas for Cromwell, but they can simmer for a while. Decided last night that it would be good to finish any paintings in progress this week, so I went to grab a painting this morning, and picked another instead, Home Life, which was so big and imposing and smoothly perfect in its underpainting that I'd been almost afraid of glazing it until now. That's always a good feeling. All good paintings should evoke that fear of touching it.

Here's the idea sketch, from 2016 or so I think.

For this, I simply scaled it up and painted it in. Here is the underpainting in progress, last summer.

I now tend to use a toned acrylic background, a change in my practice. I used to transfer a drawing, then apply an oil imprimatura; a similar toned wash, but the variety of surfaces and the consistency of the oil medium and rubbing away or losing the drawing made this less reliable than starting with a toned background. I'd never use a white background. There are three primary colours; three notes in a chord. Imprimatura, underpainting, glaze: let these be the three colours of chord for each atom of vibrancy in your painting!

The finished underpainting remained that way for a year and was glazed today, almost entirely in earth colours. I aim to use the most stable pigments and tend to avoid overly powerful or staining modern pigments (like phthalocyanines). Very strong pigments listed as stable might have their stability masked by their strength. Generally speaking I use ochres for everything and ultramarine or cobalts for blue. One exception is my beloved benzimidazolone red, Winsor and Newton Transparent Maroon, a real 'ultramarine of reds', blakc in body yet thins to an intense red. Many of the other modern reds make a sickly purply pink when mixed with white but this remains true. If I really need a bright intense red I'll use a pyrrole, but that's it. Cadmiums are lovely too, but there aren't many reasons to use these expensive pigments over pyrroles.

Here's a brief look at the finished painting, and a close up. The colours aren't true here, the white-balancing isn't natural.

Lots of tiny details there, something I could be lovingly trapped in for many hours, but I'm always aware of the clock. Good painting is efficient painting.

I paint better and with more endurance in silence, but often the same tune will play round and round in my head, so today I put some music on: Selling England by the Pound, then Foxtrot, by Genesis; The Dreaming by Kate Bush; and A Curious Feeling by Tony Banks.

Monday, June 10, 2019


Awake all night with stomach pain which made today tiring and difficult. Working on the Cromwell portrait, most of it is drawn out now, the panel is prepared and the basic drawing transferred but the composition still seems too simplistic. More work needed yet, thought, power, work, effort.

Sunday, June 09, 2019


It was 4am, two days ago. I was thinking about the mood of the country and, compared to last year, or perhaps even compared to before the European Elections,it seemed more sinister now somehow, riven with divisions. Suddenly I had an image of an Oliver Cromwell, his eyes shaded like a Rembrandt self-portrait. The rebirth of a spectre from the past... summoned. I was so struck by the idea that I thought about buying a cavalier hat! How good it would be to be Frans Hals every so often! - but only for short periods.

I spent today working on the plans for this painting. It's complicated by the fact that there aren't many portraits of Cromwell, there are probably more statues. The best painting is a miniature by Samuel Cooper, and a bigger portrait, which isn't brilliant, copied from it, which is often wrongly attributed to Cooper and silly on many levels (including wearing armour with a cotton collar!). Copying anything from a painting is difficult because so much is missing that our minds fill in automatically. Even Raphael's paintings are full of flaws that aren't obvious, never mind the poor quality of any images that you might have. Look how grainy this is!

Even here you can see the eye on the right which is lower and more distant has a larger iris when it should be smaller. Eyelashes, caruncles; lots of anatomy isn't there at all. Entropy! The disintegration of data with each copy! These are problems with every painting, and I have no choice but to fight my way through each problem to create a painting many times larger than the original. How can we paint something more accurately than the only painting painted from a live subject?

This idea reminded me that I had a Cromwell idea way back in 2006. Maybe I'll paint that up too, complete with carrots!

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Pi, Art

Back from London, collecting my unselected 'God Being Killed by Theists and Atheists' painting from the Royal Academy, a nice feeling that it was shortlisted, my second shortlist from three attempts at entering. The theme of religious battles might not be the most prescient in contemporary life, although the painting is, of course, as much about psychology as anything. It is one of my best paintings, although it is a few years old now; it is the new frame in gold and clay that is new, far better than the one detailed on this blog.

I did manage a pie/pi video last night. The problem I had with yesterday's attempts is that they were not new. Newness is vital to add excitement to anything, so I decided to made some new music using the mathematics of pi. First I convert pi to base 7. We are used to pi in base 10 (3.141... etc.) but the number can be in any number base.

Then I converted each numeral into a note, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and the same with timing, so the C was a short note, the D longer etc. This was my music, literally the music of pi. You can hear the result on the ArtSwarm Pies episode, due on the ArtSwarm YouTube Channel on 21st June 2019 at 8pm.

Anyway that is trivial and immaterial; last night at 4am I had a clear vision of new a great painting and will start work on this immediately. My "Resurrection of Napoleon Bonaparte" might have been shown at a few places (well perhaps only one, at the Discerning Eye) but I'm still amazed that my "Taking of Excalibur in 2018" has been submitted to the Discerning Eye, The Wrexham Open and The Grosvenor Open and turned down by all three, when for me it captures the drawn out self-harm of the Brexit process quite explicitly, without judgement. I avoid judgemental, critical, protest art; for me this is bad art. Show, don't tell, is every artists' motto. Art should show how we feel, or how society feels, or reveal some truth, but not criticise or finger-point or lecture. Perhaps this very paragraph is breaking this rule. Perhaps this is the difference between poetry and prose? Perhaps all rules need pushing.

More on the new painting as it progresses. I can't wait, but must make it as true as I can to the original vision. Now, to rest.

Wishing you a happy and restful evening.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Emotions and Pies

Awoke late, after a long sleep, to a slow day.

I began by trying to write some music for the ArtSwarm 'Pies' episode. I had decided to write some music based on the number pi, each note representing a digit of pi, like the music from my album of the same name. I loaded up a few of those pieces, and explored with changing them around. This took a long time and I remained unhappy with the results. Perhaps I needed to be certain what I wanted first, but in anything creative, actually trying something is almost always worth it.

I gave up after an hour, my head aching with strange, listless tiredness, the world seemed like a grey liquid that I had to fight though. In these circumstances the best course is to think without emotion, like Spock from Star Trek. I make a list of what needs to be done and consider every item logically, work out any problems and solutions, and make a list of steps to complete. In all lists I try to tackle the hardest and most unpleasant task first, after that, everything is easier.

I am always mistrustful of feelings, those archaic simian messages that flow up, down, all over the place at seemingly random. Some people say that the point of life is to be happy - how ridiculous! If this were possible, everyone would have attained it. Happiness is, at very least, a change of state rather than a state in itself, and besides, happiness and contentment are dangerous for productivity. How careless happy people are! Emotions are empathic messages. If we're on our own, I wonder if emotions are our cells talking to us? I once thought that our cells think of us, our self, as a sort of god, and perhaps feelings of holiness are actually messages from our cells, tiny animals in worshipful awe of the unknown body in which they live and work.

My list involved adding my portrait series to my website so that is now done. I had planned to paint lots of these, and might, but for the moment there are five. The third one, Tempus Fugit, bothered me a bit on the rightmost eye, the eyebrow parts too thin, so I grabbed the painting and touched it up, only adding a few tiny details, tiny, tiny hairs. This made all the difference, now it is complete.

Tempus fugit - yes! Tonight I must battle with 'Pies'. I'm off to London tomorrow. I must aim for a Pie breakthrough in two hours. How can I inject emotion and meaning into that subject?

Thursday, June 06, 2019

So, How Have You Been Framing?

Steady steps today. First, ensuring that my new payment system is set up and working on my, and It's always good to update these things.

Also, for the first time, I've put first edition copies of The Many Beautiful Worlds of Death on sale on my site and Pentangel. The book is available on Amazon, but I had 150 copies printed when I first published it, and so had a choice of paper, finishes and other details that the modern automated publishers (a staggeringly recent phenomenon) don't offer. My books are the same in almost every way as the Amazon version, but the cover is thicker and uncoated with a pure white, velvety finish. Well, these can now be ordered from my site for the first time; until now they were only available from me in person at any events I attended.

Then an article for John Hopper of Inspirational Magazine about dramatic contrast in art. More on this in future weeks.

Then, framing. The big "So, How Have You Been?" frame. It looked rather strange in its brown and black, I wasn't sure if I liked it, and I began by sanding it off a little to distress and lighten some edges. This had an interesting effect and I decided to leave it.

The next step was facing my accursed foe of perspex! Horrid stuff, a nightmare to cut even with the sharpest blade, and here it crackled and tore under my blade like ice bitten by skates. Ideally I need some sort of tiny circular saw, yet tiny teeth tend to melt the plastic and clog up. Even pre-cut perspex looks a flaking mess on the edges. I considered options; a hot wire cutter (rather messy and gloopy, I imagine), then dreams of a solvent-based cutter. Surely acetone will melt the stuff; it's a good solvent for most acrylic resins. Perhaps a sword of frozen acetone, or, more realistically, a thin bath to dip the edge of the perspex into. When I get some acetone I'll experiment.

Yet, it's far safer than glass, and for anything big I'd not use glass for that reason. After that, a spacer from mountboard and a backing board from 3mm M.D.F. (which is hard to find these days, it seems, although B&Q now sell 3mm H.D.F. which can be used for the same sort of thing, albeit less beautifully).

Then cleaning up the mess and ready to assemble. The worst bit about perspex is the static charge, it sucks every dust particle and hair from the air like magic, even snow-like flakes from 15cm away magically jump up to stick to it. There are two tricks that can help:

1. Never wipe it or touch it with anything. Wear gloves. This creates static (of course, it's loaded with the stuff the moment you peel of the backing plastic). Another downside is that wiping, even with the softest of cloths can scratch it so very easily.
2. Use a hoover constantly running to create negative pressure and blow dust away into it. This works but it's noisy and difficult in itself. I must make a perspex nozzle for the hoover!
3. Use masking tape, or another weak tape (like Post-It notes) to remove dust. This works really well but has to be done particle by particle, it can take an hour or more, during which more dust will settle. Can I get Post-It note tape?
4. Have a black background, to see the dust with.

With that, you can eventually minimise dust, but it's still nightmarish and it's amazing how dust and hairs and scratches and fingerprints can magically appear despite all precautions.

Eventually, the frame was assembled. I take care to make the back of works as attractive as possible now, sometimes even painting them too.

Here is the finished framed painting. "So, How Have You Been?", oil on canvas panel, 80x60cm in its frame. I love this painting, it's an entire Bergmanian romantic drama in one image.


Artists don't compete with each other because they arrive at their decision of what they do and why they do it from every possible option, from an infinity of free choices. As such, each artist knows exactly why he or she is doing it and is unswayed by others. Artists, instead, compete with everyone; every person who mocks "I can do that!" - the artist proves what he or she can do by doing it, or at least by trying, pushing, striving. Artist is the ultimate job, the paragon of lives. Philosophers think, politicians argue, artists do, and give everything in the doing.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Programming Joys

A long day working on the shopping cart implementation on my website, well the PayPal payment integration, and I can sound the horns of victory and report that by this evening I managed to get it working and test purchased a CD from myself, which is the only way to be sure.

The PayPal API documentation is remarkably poor, it makes me (for once) thank Microsoft for its good quality Windows API documentation. So much in the PayPal gobbledegook seemed to be missing or contradictory. It looked like it had been updated here and there at random over the years. Another curse of any established API is that if can often split off (so-called branches) and have different options for different development environments, and different languages which pop up here any there. As an old-school programmer, my tools of choice are a text editor and my brain. Once you know one language, the others can be picked up in a few hours. The only ones I've studied were Pascal, Cobol, and dBase in college in the dark ages, but I'm self-taught in Dragon 32 BASIC (in childhood, which years later turned out to be useful because Microsoft invented it and it is still used today), Commodore 64 machine code (in childhood), Amiga assembler (teenhood), and C++ (adulthood) which I use for games.

Every step was slow today, line by line testing and crawling. One false move and everything vanishes in web programming. It's like typing a novel in a minefield. Taking a payment is also more complex than you might think, needing at least a list of items and prices and postage calculations, and taking and storing and emailing these details hither and whince (is that a word? It sounds like the perfect companion to hither!)

Well, the system is now live and for the first time in a long time I can sell art, books, and music online again; most notably music for the Music of Poetic Objects which is on CD now and isn't available from anywhere else.

Now I'm tired out and headachey. So much learned today. My strategy for any job like this is learn, do, test, then forget it. Tomorrow, the joys of art.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Programming to Stand Still

Woke late after a night of strange dreams. The most notable one featured a stocky, murderous child (dressed in something like lederhosen) who killed another child. I had to guard him, awaiting the police. I went to a kitchen to get some food and opened a tin of tuna for myself, although the fish inside was more like white fish. Also in the tin was a whole grey fish, about 40cm long and with dark, slimy skin. The skin was loose revealing horrid insides when peeled away. I shouted to my unseen mum if she knew the correct bits to eat; she didn't, so I told the boy that he could help himself to this fish, and left him to it. After a short while he said he'd finished it all, which surprised me, and I grew suspicious. I went into the kitchen. The plate was empty and I discovered that he had hidden the stinking fish inside my nice wool coat. I was furious and intent on exacting violent revenge. I then awoke.

A frustrating day. I started by staining a frame, the large ragged wooden frame for "So, How Have You Been?" that I've been making this week. Choices came down to brown or black, and I went with black after a quick Photoshop mockup. This was stained and varnished.

Then I investigated the shopping cart on my website, which it seems doesn't work. It seems that the PayPal integration is out of date (but it should theoretically still work fine). This is the curse of all programming. In a year two, everything goes out of date and you need to learn something new. Programming is all about learning new things just to stand still. Things break constantly for no reason, and we must battle just to try to get back to how things were, in a pure world where everything was quick, efficient and simple.

So I've spent all day researching the PayPal API, Curl, php, json scripting and other complexities, an arduous trawl. I try to approach technology like a child, wondrous, unafraid and by repeating 'I can to it, I CAN do it!' even if completely mystified. I believe that I'm capable of learning how things are done; we all can, eventually, but this isn't easy, and sometimes seems to be a near-impossible struggle. After six hours I've achieved nothing but headaches and failures, and still don't know what I'm doing wrong. In four years of my current system I've only sold one thing online so is it even worth it?

So a long day ends with no achievements except a stained frame. Problems and puzzles bother me enough that I'll probably keep trying and thinking about this, but it feels like a waste of skills, a gamble whether anything will come of it. This is typical of programming and why I've grown to hate it; it's one of the most Sisyphean of jobs. Art is easy; what we do is, at least, visible. A lot of programming is really hard work and hidden, or actually achieves nothing, and then goes out of date and becomes useless to everyone.

It amazes me how many years I've been working on my games, like Flatspace II and Future Snooker, as written even on this blog. This year I found myself still updating those old games, just to ensure that they worked on new computers as they did when they were made. Perhaps everything needs updating, even art. The more we create, the more we must caretake.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Hair in Miniature Painting

Some woodwork on a new frame today, but in the afternoon I thought I'd do some painting. Why start new painting when there are half finished paintings ready to be completed? Thinking about that, I had six waiting a glaze layer, some for over a year.

I have a miniature portrait for an old work called 'Love is Dead' in progress; I was unhappy with the first version of it, so started work on a replacement a year ago. Today I decided to add a glazing layer. I normally paint one underpainting in opaque colours, then one glazing layer. This, I think, is optimal. Years or trying alternatives revealed very little quality difference between one glazing layer and many; in fact it's possible to destroy the smoothness of a painting with more layers, more doesn't always mean a finer, softer finish.

But more layers can have a few effects. Firstly, they can allow a deepening of shadow (if, by accident, you had foolishly not made your underpainting dark enough). They can add special effects, like glazing with a particularly beautiful but transparent hue, such as ultramarine violet, which is really only possible to use in a many layers (I've never managed to even do that with it, it's just too transparent, yet it is extremely beautiful. My best use of it was in combination with azo yellow to make a highly transparent and beautiful range of greys in a painting called The Time For Love Is Nearly Flown).

My miniature so far was evenly painted in a greyish/greenish/yellowish hue and needed a coloured glaze, so I've simply matched the colours on my palette with those of flesh. This was complicated by the fact that I'm painting from a black and white photo, so I needed a colour photo of another face to copy from. The key is simply to match tones; light glaze on the light colours, dark over dark. Once everything is shaded smoothly (by sort of rubbing the paint in with a very soft brush), details can be added.

The expert miniaturist, and one of the few true sfumato experts in the world, David Lawton, told me that he disliked painting hair. I can understand why because hair can't be layered easily. It demands definite lines, not gentle 'smoke'. The key here is to paint those lines, as finely as possible, with the most liquid medium, and the finest point. I use a half-rigger for this; a discovery made in the past year. For me, riggers are joyous and essential tools for fine details. I've yet to understand why sets of so-called 'miniature brushes' are short and stubby. Maybe I'll find out one day.

One thing about hairs and layers is that you must be aware that the hair might necessarily be painted on the last layer, but not always. Generally, the more detail on every layer, the better, but if you paint your eyelashes in the underpainting (assuming you had a magical super-liquid medium and a dry background, which you won't have) then you would have to repaint them, and at least as finely, during glazing over them.

I'll probably add another layer to this, to darken up the inky blackness of the background, and darken the hair. This is an exceptional work for me because I aimed to paint many layers, the subject is about care and attention and love; the level of work and love in the painting itself is part of the art, it's a painting about the obsessive love of painting, so this must be evident, and the painting of it must be obsessive.

This can dry now. If I can sleep well enough I might glaze something else tomorrow. Last night was too restless due to general excitement.

Black Wood Stain and Golden Fluid Acrylic

I wanted to enter a diptych (or triptych or tetraptych) into the R.B.S.A. Portrait Prize, but, after enquiring, it seems that I have to fix the works together so that the separate images are in one frame or as one, so that rules out three or four for sheer practical reasons. I think the simplest option is to screw two frames together with a strip of 3mm wood as a separator, and enter two.

I've stained this strip with black, a mix of Golden Fluid Acrylic Carbon Black and water (about 1:1), which makes a fantastic black wood stain, better for staining wood than the solvent-based stain one I have. I've found that this mix applied with a sponge is generally the best way to paint anything black (I've even used it on my hat!) Solvent based stains tend to work better than water ones on wood however; water stains are usually weaker in power and make the wood expand, like any water does (even my Golden mix). I wonder if I mixed a solvent with the Golden paint I'd make a better stain? Immediate solvent options I can imagine would be isopropyl alcohol, or something stronger like ethyl acetate or acetone.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

New Paintings

Well I started today by photographing a new painting in its frame, There Is Still Hope. I do think paintings online look much better in frames, it proves that these are real paintings not mere digital images.

Then I took a look at my old sketchbooks, looking for inspiration for the commission, or food for the eye to help the dream-like process of visualising. Here's an average page:

My sketchbook have always been more like ideas libraries. I've always made and stored far more ideas than I could paint, partly because when the ideas flow, it's good to keep them for later, perhaps for future years. The problem with that is that painting ideas can go out of date, and even meanings and feelings can no longer be as correct as they once were. I suppose one advantage to this though is that the best, most timeless ideas, will remain powerful.

After rediscovering a few paintings in there I became inspired and ached to paint them! Such a crime to have these lying there unseen in books, those sad children, locked away in the dark!

Just get them done, as quickly as possible, while they are still fresh, I thought. I often think I can spend more time agonising on why than it would take me to actually paint them. This is the way I used to work often; assemble 10 to 30 paintings, normally over winter, then paint them over the next summer. The problem is that the finished paintings tend to just lay there, unseen, and good as not there at all for most of the world, and we only have so much space (I don't know a single artist who isn't also the guardian of an art storage facility). Over time, I began to slow down, painting less, and only for specific reasons or events or contests.

Yet in art the best things are the often the things made for no rational purpose. It seems to be these that in the long term turn out to be the special works. It is perhaps that spark of joy, enthusiasm, and excitement of the new idea that is the eternal thing, and the key thing when making art. Nobody remembers Mozart for his unwritten music! And the goal of competitions etc. well, those are artificial anyway, and their purpose of enthusing us and supplying a deadline isn't important if we have our own passion.

So, I've grabbed a few ideas and will draw them out this week, with the aim of painting them as quickly as I can. Re-reading this blog has at least reminded me that I can paint much faster now compared to a few years ago. What is an artist to do but paint? In fact, what is an artist to paint but not what the world wants, but what his or her soul demands?

I've drawn out two today: The Safe Box, and Land of Beauty and Sorrow. Small, weird, meaty works that are (probably) about social media and the technological world. On we march.

June Plans

The start of a month means a monthly goals list (more of a to-do list).

I'm working (unusually) on two painting commissions at the moment and must make plans for these, one at least will be on public display so must be an indisputable massterpiece... that's the only criteria, but I must decide exactly what and how.

I'll write some Clown Poems too. I've had a poetry collecting in progress for many months. Oddly, I've not published any of my poems since the ones I wrote per-day in 2010 (as 365 Universes). My alst book, Deep Dark Light, included some, but they were rather strange, stream-of-consciousness things that defy normal poetry classification. I think my poetry has improved a lot in recently years (improvement is such a subjective term!), partly due to getting to know and meet with local poets, so I really should get a collection together. The 'Clown Poems' are simply themed around the circus. I've written 30 or so, but need to structure the book so that it's more than a mere collection of poems. The structure of the book itself needs to be poetic.

I also want to work on some new song vocals and re-record some for existing tunes. I love singing, it's a matter of gently squeezing each cell until some sound squirts out. Each cell must simply express the flow of the music, thus singing is like free-dancing.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Seven Years in One Post

At last at LAST! The four days of tweaks and blog changes are done, four of the most intense days I've had in a long time. I spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday underpainting a new painting that espouses my ideas of 'symphonic painting', ideas which are probably scattered here and there even in this fragmented blog.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I gradually faded off from blogging at around 2012.

2012 was a great year for productivity, a bounce-back from about 18 months of lows and anxious difficulty. I painted the Richard Dadd painting and made the cabinet for it, completed The Many Beautiful Worlds novel and published the poems I wrote in 2010, founding Pentangel Books.

I continued the trend of pushing as many boundaries as my resources would allow. The Eden Iris in 2014 was a logical step up from the Dadd Cabinet, circular, hand carved, and with much more complex engineering. I began to continue to learn many new skills, to supplement mere painting. Lindsey Piper's Art Up Close started a new art club in a Nantwich photography studio, that of Adam Capper and a small group of us, perhaps under 10, met there regularly.

I entered my first art fair, paying £1500 or so to exhibit in Chelsea Town Hall for the Parallax Art Fair, but this was a huge flop for all involved; two scorching days at the height of summer, and a major football match perhaps contributed to the lack of visitors (the art was, sadly, really good quality and many artists had travelled from across Europe to attend; in contrast to many other fairs I've visited). The plus side of the fair was that I met a few fabulous artists, and made contact with a short-lived gallery named Gabriel Fine Art, who I subsequently exhibited a few times with.

In 2014 the art club building succumbed to its decay and I took the initiative, running a weekday art club myself in a church hall, although it was always a struggle to find enough regular participants. I had my first London solo exhibition, The Phenomenology of Love, in March 2015, and in July my first art performance event, also in London at a Gabriel event where I played piano for the first time, with other artists Sabine Kussmaul projecting video, and Escargot reading stream-of-consciousness text in French. This event began a trend for live performances and a lit the touchpaper of a passion of piano playing.

I appeared on local radio station, RedShift, to promote an art event. Liz, the wonderful station manager asked if I would like to host an arts programme, and after some hesitation, I agreed and joined the RedShift team to produce and host ArtsLab from October 2015, closing the doors on the moribund art club soon after.

I continued to paint, write music and everything else, of course, but I took part in many more live events. In 2016 I began to attend monthly art performance events in a small bar, helping to organise these with Sabine. Sabine and I collaborated on a few performances and installations, and in September I premiered 6 of my piano pieces in the magnificent surroundings of Chester Cathedral, to her projected videos.

After a first year of seeking and listening to avant-garde (well, to me!) music, the radio programme ArtsLab became more experimental as I changed the format, inviting anyone to create material to premiere, all in an attempt to boost engagement and the number of listeners. This requirement for new content, and the exploration of new music changed my music. The albums The Anatomy of Emotions and Cycles & Shadows, as played in Chester, were in a new direction to my music from before.

In 2017 I began to perform with Deborah Edgeley as 'Fall in Green', myself on piano and keyboards, with words by Deborah, creating a contemporary 'lieder' form of music. In 2018 we performed about once a month, adding to the invaluable experiences of staging live performances. After two years on the presenting radio I left ArtsLab to start a YouTube video version of the show, ArtSwarm, for a mix of reasons: the workload of the voluntary radio show was all-consuming; I'd explored experimental audio thoroughly and wanted to move to a next logical step; and so few people could listen to the internet radio, we often had less than 10 listeners.

In 2018 I published my first non-fiction book, 21st Century Surrealism, and held a solo exhibition (my 15th) in Stockport, inviting poets from the Write Out Loud group to contribute poems. This collaboration has led to a second; an exhibition exploring ekphrasis, and my latest album, Music of Poetic Objects.

Well, this is another mammoth post, so well done for getting this far. I thought it would be useful to put this update here, because quite a lot of this information is missing on this blog, and I wanted it to all feel neat and complete in one space, at very least. God bless the organisers! I'm more convinced than ever that the purpose of life is to order and to organise. Thus, those who do so, we cleaners and filers, are the most living of beings.

Now it's time to catch up on the things I should have been doing this week. Enjoy your weekend.

The Blog is Reborn

Well, it is done. I've spent most of this week updating the 1200 or so posts on this blog.

I'm filled with a mix of joy, but much regret that I haven't paid more attention to it in the past few years. The first few years worth of posts, from around 2008 to 2011 give a good diary-style account of my art activities in a nice format. After that, Facebook, and other similar distractions, intervened and came to replace these posts, but in recent times, Facebook has become a strange and unpleasant environment.

There are a few reasons why, I think. First, the site has become complicated to look at and to use. The pages are flashing, blinging, instant attention-grabbing displays. This is something that, on the internet, has grown notably more of a problem in the past few years. Even the BBC news website annoyingly includes links to other pages in the middle of stories. People might complain about the reduction of attention spans, but then exploit this by trying to distract people more and more. It's like a disease: distractomania, where people dart from one thing to another, like a fear of focusing on one thing, a fear of missing something better, perhaps.

This was always a bit of a problem on everything internet related, but in the past two or so years, Facebook has been so focused on advertising that every other post is an advert; items designed to distract. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with advertising, but distraction makes people unhappy because happiness is giving your care, attention and focus on one thing exclusively. Distraction, therefore, causes unhappiness, and naturally causes anxiety because anxiety is a chemical breakdown of extant neural pathways in anticipation of forming new ones; a mushing of learning. It makes us ready for new action, but is, as a result, the opposite of relaxation, which is, neurologically, riding the rails, so to speak.

Secondly, the 'social' aspect of Facebook itself is rather odd, and changes as the number of 'friends' grow. We are expected to connect with our friends (and people we might encounter once, and strangers who might become friends). These begin as a limited group of people we know well, then expand into a larger group of slight connections, and into total strangers. The vastness of the group makes it feel less 'friendly', but at the same time, it is too small to broadcast general information to the world, thus, Facebook recognises that many people want to make posts public, worldwide and eternal (Twitter-like formats have a better system for this, everything is visible to everyone and we can, in turn, choose who to listen to).

On Facebook, this is all to confusing. Having more Friends is better, but too many is unwieldy, yet we can hardly cull a few off; that would feel rude, but also would reduce our feelings of impact in the world. It's like a lose-lose situation.

There's no intimacy and few actual feelings of friendship on Facebook because the place is like a virtual expo, something like the E3 show, a bustling hall full of several hundred people and sales-stalls. The people, in this vast swirling exhibition or sales fair, are chosen by Facebook's algorithm, so although we're not seen by everyone in the hall, we are seen at sort of random. Any conversations with someone in a virtual corner and not remotely private. We all have megaphones in this hall.

We also discover that we all have sales stalls too, and this makes everything worse, for we distract each other as much as we are distracted.

The very instant nature of social media makes posts short and snappy, and also ephemeral. Long posts like this would be difficult to type and edit, and so many sites are so geared towards tiny phone screens, that large posts, even news stories by major news organisations are discouraged.

One big positive that Blogger has over Facebook is that the content is relatively simple, that we can download our stuff, and delete it if we want. With Facebook, we have the impression that they own everything, won't delete our content even if we ask, and that we can't control what they do with it. The Donald Trump election and the Brexit vote were key events in the history of Facebook, they made the social media experience horrible en masse; it was like entering a battlefield of angry catchphrases.

To the future. For me, I've posted some updates of my activities here and there, but the blog became a resting point for the ArtsLab listings, the weekly list of the music and guests on my two-years of local radio broadcasting. I also shared a few philosophical and pseudo-scientific ideas that I also included on my website; but a general of what I was doing, feeling and thinking as an artist has often been lost, or scattered across Facebook and Twitter (which is as good as lost).

I toyed with the idea of locating some of these posts and posting some sort of update here - my obsessive neatness and desire for completion would be the end of me! But I've settled for tidying up the HTML of every post here and adding new, more easily located, tags/labels about painting, music, poetry etc. I've removed many links, as these tended to go out of date scarily quickly, and dead links can lead to exploitation. You might have to search for the ends of those links in old posts, but that at least, today, is easy.

Gosh, this is a long post, well done for getting this far! I'm assuming that you are now some researcher of art from the distant future, and so, hello from the murky past of 2019.

I haven't really written posts since before ArtsLab, so I'll work on a post that tries to summarise my more recent art activities that are absent from this blog. This is nearly impossible, as my posts can be as long as this for one day, but I'll try at least because I wouldn't want my life to miss out a huge chunk, like van Gogh's did when he paused writing his letters to Theo.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Blog Life

Well, an interesting day today, going through some past blog posts. I used to blog regularly, but since perhaps the ArtsLab programme, I stopped, perhaps preferring to write more on Facebook, or on offline channels. I always kept and keep regular work diaries for every creative project, recording my thoughts and technical notes, and perhaps those have gained priority in recent years.

I do notice that I used to blog a lot more, prior to 2011. I also notice, annoyingly, that many of my posts, over 1000 or so, have problems loading due to https issues around blogger. These need manually updating, no small feat. I could potentially do this in a day or two and am working to do this; mainly updating each post, checking links and various things.

It feels good to read back some of those old posts and perhaps I'll get back into the habit of doing this more. Social media, that fad, was social and blog-like once, but now it's more advertising based, and not very social. The Facebook method of adding 'Friends' isn't as useful at the Twitter (or Instagram, or Blogger) method of posting anything, viewing anything and allowing the same. the benefit here is that it is NOT social; it can be interesting, like Wikipedia can, and perhaps that is one key benefit.

Updates continue. I'll aim for 400 posts per day.

The Shape of Cause to Effect

Everything that happens now, the current state of the universe, is a direct result of the state of the universe one tick ago. The state of the universe one tick ago is the result of its state one tick before that, and so on.

Could this be true for all time?

The first, amazing conclusion when considering this is that, at some point, somewhere at the instant start of time, this could not be true. That there had to be a start without a precursor and that the pattern of all things would be made by the initial conditions of the universe, and that time would somehow emerge or be kick-started into existence. This seems to be the predominant idea in current science.

Let's think about this. Assuming that an infinite amount of energy, or stuff, shines out in a fixed space, like a sphere or hypersphere. This smooth white ball conveys nothing and could not change. Some sort of pushing forwards, a kick, is needed. It is essential that there is a deformation of sorts to create a particular type of seed of information, something that will grow in a fashion that will not lead to perfect stability, and not puff away to nothing or pure randomness either.

What if the sphere was not a sphere but a different shape, that had different sizes of dimension, a rugby ball perhaps, or a more complex shape, like an origami dragon or something? A homogeneous flow of information covering this shape must stretch in unusual ways such that it could never explore it all. It would behave like a puzzle with no solution, one where the solution seemed ever closer, but always a little out of reach, somewhat like, well, the laws of physics themselves. No matter how much we know, no matter how close we feel we are to knowing everything, a final truth seems just a little out of reach. This could be the very nature of the universe itself, and if so, there can never be a solution to understanding the universe beyond knowing that it was unknowable.

Perhaps a point of time with no precursor is impossible. There is a second alternative to the cause-to-effect model of the universe; that all existence follows this pattern for all time, forever. This would mean that time would be infinitely large; or at least as large as space, the finite distance between its two most distant objects. Even here, an initial emergence or explosion of information would be needed at some point, to define the shape of everything that followed, wouldn't it?

There's something magical about fractals, pretty shapes like The Mandelbrot Set. These seem to contain the correct mix of order and chaos to create life-like complex arrangements of patterns that include finite patterned areas, like our galaxies and planets, and areas of infinity, like the black holes that we see. The areas typically shaded black in a Mandelbrot Set represent infinity, where the calculation could continue forever without conclusion. It is interesting that supermassive black holes appear to have existed since the start of the universe and that their formation is still unexplained. These objects, filled with infinities, seem to match the properties of the black areas of a Mandelbrot Set, as though we were living inside a giant multi-dimensional fractal.

One thing that fractals have is symmetry, even The Mandelbrot Set has perfect vertical symmetry, and other types of fractal tend to have other perfect symmetries. The universe we see does not appear to have this symmetry; if this were the case then there would necessarily be one of me typing this now, somewhere, and one of you reading it. Perhaps this is the case, in some domain beyond the visible, detectable horizon.

Fractals use complex numbers, which due to their mathematical utility must be a fundamental part of the universe itself. It is the crunching of these that determine the look of the fractals. Any theory that unifies physical laws must necessarily unify mathematics.

If all of existence follows the cause to effect model forever, then perhaps there could be an exact symmetry across the time dimension to create a fractal type pattern. What we think of as the start of the universe is acually the point of reflection, and everything before that point would move, as we would think, backwards.

An interesting thing about The Mandelbrot Set is that, at the point of reflection, its line of virtual mirror is filled with infinities. Perhaps these reflect its state of shapes to come. Perhaps this area of mock compression could appear like an enfolded shape, crunched and compressed, ready to give birth to it large scale forms.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

ArtsLab: Open Week 2019 Special

ArtsLab produced and presented by Mark Sheeky
Open Week 2019 Special
Broadcast Thursday 7 February 2019, 4pm to 5pm GMT.
A special one-off ArtsLab programme to celebrate a new-look RedShift Radio.

ArtsLab content is typically original, created by artists and poets for each episode.

Jimmy Spaceman, I Like It When It Rains
Ian Parr, Angels In The Hedgerows
Duplicate, Plaster
Deborah Edgeley, Matt Hassall, Fifty Words For Sun
Fall In Green, Time Falling
Deborah Edgeley, It's A Mystery Blubbers
Mark Sheeky, Lets Take A Walk In The Desert Wouldn't That Be Fun
Ian Parr, Tony Wilson
John Salmon, Ragtime Blues
Andrew Williams, Raw Chicken
Andrew Williams, Furious Bells
Ian Parr, Turquoise
Mark Sheeky, The Lost Princess
Duplicate, Send Me Off
Brian Eno, In Dark Trees

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