Wednesday, March 31, 2010

These paintings are a journey

revisions, revisions
These paintings are a journey, always the better for an open mind.
Being prepared to rework and knowing when to stop.
Here the right hand figure gets a total repaint from the shoulders down.
Much better

below are some stages showing the last major revision!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

blowing the lid off traditional watercolour

Watercolour workshop
Monday morning I met with eight brave people to expand our thinking about watercolour.
Following on from the watercolour lectures in February here was a day to put it all together in practice.
I admit to being a little apprehensive.
There was no need, it was a terrific day! After a few words of wisdom and encouragement all eight were unstoppable.  They were washing, masking, tipping and pouring more watercolour pigment in that day than than the whole preceding year!
The results were brilliant for such a sudden baptism.
Here was a day that really blew the lid off traditional watercolour.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

anything new cannot be recognized

This is the playing element, or perhaps it could be 'leaping and lounging'
Our ole' mate Pablo says, "anything new cannot be recognized", from which I take some comfort. 
Mainly because I am a little unsure about it.
here is a work that generates lightness and happy vibes. 
To see it, makes you smile, you can't help it. 
Perhaps it is just new.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I won't call it sky on purpose

Finishing strong.
I stood and looked the top section (I won't call it sky on purpose) knowing that some time all that yellow will have to go, my dilemma was what to put in it's place. I made up some gray, from Sap green, Alizarin crimson and white, and painted it all. Immediately better.
Hot earth and bushes followed and minor adjustments. See previous stage of this painting.
It is now speaking about the nature of work, hard, but mitigated by company. I will leave it now.   

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"You can't apply finish to what is not finished already"

Ingres said: "You can't apply finish to what is not finished already". I am working hard at finishing a layer on which to apply finish. Some knowledge of what a sub finish layer looks like could be a help. Anyway, what you see here is my shot at a sub finish layer!
This is walking, No5 in my five action series, and when complete should be the walking statement to hang in the Hexad show on May 6 - 12 The plan was to hang all five as a succession, but the colour in them seems to intensify each time I work on them, so much so that each one demands more and more space. They should be quite a sight when hung together!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

the truthfulness of lies

This is an attack on reality. 
Earlier this morning this piece had dark blue water and a bright blue sky, a reality that mocked me. 
Picasso famously said ' we all know that art is not truth. 
Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth'. 
I had to destroy the reality I had and find a better one.
As I covered the dark watery blue with peachy whites everything changed, The blue sky called for yellow and the figures went orange.  

I work fast to avoid thinking, pulling intuitive decisions from within. 
After all, no-one can fly slowly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

painting fight instead of fighting paint

Fight: stage 2.   part of the current series

Since yesterday's dip, things are on the ascendant, having said that there was much looking, thinking and avoiding this morning before actually committing myself with some very sloppy oil paint. 
All five are now at this second/third stage and look promising. 
Maintaining the energy is crucial, any slickness, any feebleness or safety will ruin the work so far. 
Boldness and belief.

The structure in this piece is of interest. The body parts of course are of unequal distribution and mostly disconnected. The body colour is pale and pink. Yet the square with a circular composition of whirling bodies above the floor spikes somehow works.

Do tick the new comment box below to indicate your thoughts.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Strong enough to fight

This curious drawing is dated 14 Feb 1997. 
I reproduce it because my work in not going well. Reading Collis over coffee this morning he quotes Churchill who recovering after an illness declared that 'though he was now strong enough to fight the Germans he was still to weak to paint a picture'. I am strong enough to fight but it seems deficient on the painting front. I worked all the morning but sensitivity, awareness etc was lacking. This Allowed movement without intuition. It becomes pedestrian and predictable.
Such a set back concentrates the mind, kills slickness and encourages risk. I will return to the work, confront the issue to see what can be done after dark.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Powerful, brooding and speaking of the earth's power

I love Graham Sutherland.  In Eastbourne's shiny new Towner Gallery there is an Exhibition organized by Tate St Ives called Dark Monarch. Within this Exhibition there are a number of Sutherlands, oils, watercolours and etchings. They are as ever, powerful, brooding, speaking of the earth's power and mystery. I examine them closely, unpicking the layers and underpainting. I stand back and feel the wave of feeling wash over me - I memorize them. I love Graham Sutherland.

Having no permission to reproduce Sutherland I offer you a Scarland, above is a study for Transferred Care, that in a real way links with Sutherland and his poetic vision of the land. 

Another person equally connected to the earth was in Eastbourne today, it was my old tutor from the RWS, Bob Barlett. Well his etching were, I had missed Bob in person by ten days. He always seems to stand where the land meets the sea. No less so in this small show of his beautiful work at the emma mason gallery. 

Leaving Eastbourne we climbed up and over the South Downs in the afternoon sun, these majestic mounds now took on a visionary cloak to my still heightened awareness. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

a visual formula

This is stage 2 of the 'work' piece. It's beginning is gathering fruit or a similar labour. There is more to be done, a stage 3 and probably a 4th.

In 'The Worm Forgives the Plow' by John Stewart Collis, which is my current read he says, '. . .I begin to wonder if I can last out till dinner. At length the great moment came when we knocked off, and then I experienced a pleasure in just sitting down, and in eating cheese, such as I had never known before'. Much of work is toil and despite the many false dawns when we were promised the end of drudgery, it is in fact, still with us.

With this piece I am seeking to deliver work, the sensation of work, not a picture of people working. With Collis the cessation of toil describes toil, so with this, finding a visual formula that stands in as a description of toil is my brief. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

a core sensation

I found this in a drawer today, while looking for something else.
Painted from life about five years ago it was put away and forgotten. I am guilty of destroying a lot of work that does not please me, that this survived indicated that it had some value.
Looking at it now it is quite remarkable, I remember that my objective was to avoid outline and paint the form from the centre. That's the centre of the volume not the centre of the silhouette. We see others as an outline, and that is relatively easy to trace on to a sheet of paper. I suspect our self awareness is experienced as a core sensation so with this torso, I transcribed it as I felt, rather than what I saw. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

David Smith

While reading David Smith, A Sculptor and his Work by Stanley E Marcus I came across this work by called 'Sitting Printer' from around 1930 incorporating a printers lead type tray. At this time he was moving away from monolithic focus on what he called 'frontality and flatness and then on to examine the 'open centre' all things we may now take for granted but at the time, alongside painters, it was groundbreaking material.
I was reminded of my piece 'Puzzle' that also incorporated a printers tray, but in a very different way. The sub-divisions organized by ergonomic utility make a beautiful arrangement. Balancing colour within the segments I set  up an extension of that arrangement. Made around 1999, this piece still works for me and I rather wish I still owned it. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gustav Metzger

This picture I trawled from a very old file, I probably painted it in the early 90's and dates from the inception of the working figure as a motif. Hunter gatherers are as old as time itself and recently I read in a book by Gustav Metzger of a parallel between hedgerows and supermarket aisles and that we are still hunter gatherers.
The arrangement on the whole still works for me and the rather heavy atmosphere adds to the nature of labour. Labour is such a core activity it is small wonder it was the first of my 'manifestations of being'
The painting on the easel now will be somewhat different to this one. 


work work and more work

Monday, March 15, 2010

Manifestation of being

The five action series has been re-named 'manifestation of being'
These actions were selected as those that need no props or tools and that spoke of the physical qualities of being.
The more subjective activities of love, fear, worship and the like are encapsulated within these activities and may indeed be the primary cause of the actions. Thus the actions are the manifestations of a more complex interaction of emotions that we call 'being'

Today all five oils received the first application of colour, all five accepting the same base colours that will I hope give a sense of unity when seen together.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

week end work

Here is the next charcoal revision
showing is the 'playing' image
the other four and be seen at my flickr photostream click
at this point I have five new drawings and five new canvases.

My method with regard to oil painting responds to the subject,
on Monday I will approach the drawings, test my sensations and begin the work.
Some colour ideas are in my mind, that may be enough to launch the work. 
Then sense will judge its rightness and control the course.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Picasso and Matisse have a lot to answer for.
This watercolour just owes too much to that dynamic duo.
I like it, as I like their work from the thirties, but it misses the mark by around seventy years!
Now this is good.
Understanding the underlying shortcoming now means I can take steps to redeem the concept before the oils are started. I can actually use the oils to bring the image forward, keeping discovery high on the agenda.
Perhaps some destructive charcoals in between priming canvases will give me some pointers tomorrow.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

fighting lethargy

By listening to myself yesterday, this happened today.
a development.
Based on a number of previous drafts it delivers on a number of fronts.
sort of boxing ring and sort of circus ring and sort on neither.
33cm x 33cm on arches paper in watercolour and Indian ink.

I will now go and source materials to make supports for next weeks oils

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


If you know exactly what you are going to do,
what is the good of doing it?
There is no interest in something you know already.
It's much better to do something else. Picasso

this is the point.
With this one on walking I took some local risks
In order to expand, the experiment needs to be more global.
All said and done, I like it,
making this piece a stage,
a cradle from which to launch the next set
something we don't yet know.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

my addiction

 colour - how much and where?
Apart from those questions its quite easy.
The more I paint the same composition the more I understand it.

I am addicted to black, 
I have a whole gallon of Indian ink that is super black.
It completes the tonal range.

black is the sum of all pigment
white is the sum of light
colour lives in between

there is a need to move on with the next working of the 'actions'
On monday there must be a beginning made on the oils,
this solution will not do, fortunately it is exhausted, demanding new answers.

Monday, March 8, 2010

attacking work

for the watercolours, this is a start.
The right attitude is crucial, a belief, a leaping off the edge.
more full bloodied than feverish
more furnace than firework

a few adjustments will be needed to complete it, or rather, to take it as far as I would like.
A quiet look tomorrow will be better that a rushed splash to-night.

the size is half a sheet of Arches Fabriano
I have two full sheets for swimmers tomorrow.
(tonight I can rest easy)

Friday, March 5, 2010


There are times when I think I am in charge of things . . . .
Most of the time I am not.
I did two of these ink studies like one in my black idea book.
With the third departed entirely. It was playtime.
Then from nowhere there appeared a figure in a tree and a woman in the grass.
I showed all three to Ruth for her preference.
When she chose the last one I said why? 
'Only because I just love it' she replied
So here it is.

I myself am not good at playing, I prefer working.
If I play at work, the work is better.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


  . . . . . the morning discipline continues

These test ink studies are for my series on five actions.
Next week I want to devise five watercolours that depict these actions.
I am already working from a coloured sketchbook of 40 test ideas.
I do not have much experience of painting the fight, 
and how feels to inflict grevious bodily harm to another person.
This is then a projection, an extrapolation of the imagination 
While painting, I did recall those early bleak paintings by Cezanne that I think were entitled 'The Rape'. 
On reflection within this part of the project I thought were very effective.

again I paint three studies as an experiment before the day begins . . . . 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

activity 3: walking

Again I work early, I have to be in Haywards Heath by 9.30.
thoughts about walking together as metaphor for agreement
as friends would
and as the ante-diluvian Enoch famously walked with God

This is the last of three.
the point is a loose reworking of the theme
an examination of possibility
a thinking walk 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

head above the water

keeping our head above the water
The figure in the middle is not a swimmer.
the arched back and high head is an obvious mistake.
The water will not support us in that position.
to place trust in the water means to relax in the water.

I painted three of these ink pieces after breakfast before the 'day' started
Like the good swimmer I have to commit myself and not arch my back,
I need to roll in the water and enjoy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

stealing time for watercolour

At 5am I am awake thinking about the day.
It looks busy.
I decide I need to begin the watercolours before next week. 
A sudden demand on creativity and the self will be fatal on next Monday morning when I planned to start.
By setting the plough in gently this week, it will be preparation for next.
So, I am to paint five actions, thus with five days available this week it is one a day.
I just need to find an hour a day.
I found 3.00 - 4.00pm and here is one of three wash drawings from that hour.
I am looking for power and clarity without prettiness.
Using three dishes of Indian ink strengths and a sable brush I work quickly drawing into the wet ink.
These are early days, movement will occur over time.