Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Method in our madness

today was reunion day
10 weeks ago I ran an art course called 'method in my madness' as an effort to make some sense of the creative act of painting. It had to do with working in series and how to judge the progress in order to maintain a creative spirit.
Today we exchanged notes on how we have progressed since and showed examples of work and generally encouraged one another. 
All this mixed with lovely food, wine and streams of ideas.
The seven that could make it today were from the left, Christine Dunn, Hala Sabat, Sylvia Hassel, Mike West, Elizabeth Ellison, Sarah Stokes and Fran Elliott.
Such events are so good, to bolster confidence and stir the soul they work wonders.
Art is not a luxury, it is fundamental to life itself.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"I saw Billy today"

Mon, Early rise and walk in the morning sun - crisp and clear.

I look at today's work, 
A new day tells me the canvas is too complex, too realistic and has too many colours. With that decided, it is a matter of correcting the flaws. 

The avoidance of cleverness throws me back on to sharing sensation. Pigment like poetry has direct access to the nervous system. Spare me Art as eye candy, give me the power of human emotion laid out in colour. This is the currency. This is real work.

A high energy session with a massive rework - now in higher key and complicated in a simpler way. (above)

The last U2 track fades and I rest. Hunger nudges and I respond.   
a little ham in some brown bread, blackberries in a trifle, then a smidge of dark chocolate and coffee solves the problem.
in the midday sun I mow grass and save rocket seed from dry pods into a pot.

Studio: rejecting a temptation to 'tidy up' my mornings work it is put to one side.
'Shoreham beach' is in need of attention.
This is the third attempt at this piece. The 13 figures are are adjusted in black outline before a re-appraisal of the colour. This done two colours are 'knocked up' on the pallet to the appropriate hue and applied to sky and beach respectively.

The 'healing wing' image is much on my mind. I work it and rework it in the early hours, I must attempt it again this week. It is a work of human emotion, a metaphysical projection of love and response. Art as a vehicle is suitable but a tall order for this artist.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

tis enough for one saturday!

Saturday 10.00am

I want to be unencumbered, without weights and restraints in order to paint and draw freely. A sort of innocence, without utilities or clothes. Removing the baggage of the mind is different to removing clothes, if only it were that simple.

As Chaucer points out to me 'joy is only understood with sorrow' thus Freedom only has meaning within order. There is much rhetoric abroad about one being comfortable with oneself but I wonder if it is really so. Furthermore, if we had accord would that then become bland?

Tension, tension is the stuff of life itself. Perhaps conceit is the enemy along with lethargy that hold me by the feet. 
I have here a large landscape but it displeases me, Ha, destruction is so therapeutic.

New - > cut the ties - feel the lift beneath the wings

Plan: colour a large white chalk drawing I have just made
Music: African Ballads  
Colours: black, unbleached titanium, cadmium red and yellow ochre.
Result: powerful but ill conceived, now erased

Plan: repaint without red and its symbolism - (maybe a minor red as a tension) 
less realism - more mass
Music:      Uj Patria  Transylvanian Village music
Colours: black, unbleached titanium and yellow ochre.
Result: unsatisfactory. erased

Plan: a paper model
Music: John Coltrane: A love supreme  
Colours: White paper and black conte
Result: amusement - a Gagosian moment

Plan: repaint: reduce/remove realism
Music: John Coltrane: A love supreme  
Colours: unbleached titanium, cadmium red and cadmium yellow and cobalt turquoise (latter rejected and black re-incorporated) + naples yellow and cobalt orange
Result: muted warm and engaging. It pleases me! (today)   4.50pm 

then a TV WW2 film  and an Indian in the old town - tis enough for one saturday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

home and abroad

12.55 already - the fantastic Nina Simone sings 'My Baby just cares for me' as mood projector for me
Conil Beach is the order of the day

- how sweet it would if I found I could fly -  Nina just sang that line in the lyric! 
so John, time to fly.  
After an hour or so of working steadily I am pleased with it. 
Being pleased with work is unsettling - It needs time to mature in my thinking.

Settlement is the next task, 

Sitting six yards back with my eyes closed I open them now and again to see Settlement, and judge which colours do not please me then close them again. 
There is no thought or analysis, just 'what pleases me and what does not'. 

I cannot say if this judgement is objective or subjective for I know it is a landscape called Settlement. I am aware the judgement has a context but it happens without time for comparison - eyes shut - eyes open - answer. The upshot is that two thirds of the piece is to be discarded.   

As Toulouse Lautrec said 'Onward breadcrumb'

6.35  with the revisions in place, it has an English mark on it, just as Conil beach is unmistakable Spain. This placing is important, an unspoken identity. 

Needless to say, I thought annotation was unnecessary.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

dirty beach colours

detail of 'Shoreham Picnic' at the end of the day

Delayed by reading Troilus and Criseyde with tea in bed - fascinating material.
8.20 and looking at my new Shoreham beach idea roughed out on a six foot canvas. I say roughed out, its a mass of dirty beach colours that need an injection of spirit

The choice and arrangement of colours for the day is so important. Reason is a poor guide here, sensitivity gets to pick the tubes and I squeeze it out with interest. 
Black, (despite a previous reasoning) white, soft pinks, creams, blues and ochres are the given colours.
I draw languid figures in compressed charcoal directly while holding the thumbnail sketch. One by one they emerge from the dirty base painting in soft and gentle colours. It cannot be hurried. Some drawn figures are moved and others are ignored. They make no complaint.  The rain has stopped and a woman sings.

Bernard Meninsky is open beside me - his 'individual poetic language', and 'lyrical figures in a landscape' accompany me while I work.

At the end of the day progress is made, still dirty, but now dirty with people in it. I think that is progress!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two bowls of fruit

Wednesday 11.05 am
There is an airlock between not painting and painting. A change of visionary atmosphere has to be achieved, one that is punctured so easily by the non painting world.

Work this morning is a medium size oil of two women cooking from which the top bowl of fruit is taken.
I am reminded of Georges Braque's maxim - 'To define a thing is to replace it with its definition'
A sort of realism is required, for correctness is the suffocation of life. I look for an inverted reflection that works in an inexplicable way, not a thing one can plan rather the truth Frank Auerbach recalls of Bomberg when teaching at Borough Polytechnic, his persuading them to 'instil a sense of the quality of form'.

Then after making adjustments a ballet piece of Troilus and Criseyde (featuring the lower bowl of fruit) that has been against the wall for some time, a drawing of Arbor Low in Derbyshire comes to my attention. Clearing my palette of remaining pinks, reds and a few darks I translate the drawing on to a primed board that was already coloured red. This landscape is already taking on borrowed looks, I will need to find that 'sense of the quality of form' that Bomberg spoke of instead of the predictable 'used up' solutions that feature in so many commercial landscapes.

Beyond the hiss of the airlock I hear the TV and the non painting world looms again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In praise of Shoreham Harbour

In praise of Shoreham Harbour.
at 9.00am it was high tide and the sea was up and the sun was bright.
sea cabbage, cargo, a cafe with a smiling girl who make our coffee.
the old fort earthworks hold against the tidal carvings of the beach
an ancient spit, a granite arm and lots of things that recall Edward Wadsworth

I must return another day.

Shoreham beach will host my problem picture
for an underpainting I choose Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Titanium white and Yellow Lake
The other side has Lamp Black, Brilliant pink and Manganese violet
The tiny drawing below is my guide.
The rain is beating on the roof and Tanita Tikaram sings to me - I begin to paint 

Monday, August 23, 2010

a matter of life and death

Mon. no white left. I tube up a new bulk tin of titanium white no2 as an opening chore - an aside to ease in the day. I have white now in plenty.
the day is about 'patience' calling for a gentle assimilation of sensation and then a thoughtful application. 
I have a small 'settlement' oil sketch up as a test bed for the action.

Michelangelo's late poems and feelings stimulate -'the power divine alone can alter fate' as an old man he also speaks of  'a tired and fragile husk'
Ruth slips me a warm apple turnover and a fresh coffee in the passing sunshine. I return to the work in hand.

The placement of colour is ridiculously easy. Given the variables of desire and prism, intellectually it becomes is fiendishly difficult, so the heart must guide.

twitter passed a quote by me this morning mentioned Picasso saying something like 'copying others is valid to a point - copying yourself is fatal'.

Conil Beach (above) in the form of a small drawing of  takes my interest, a new board goes up.
the secret life of under-painting is played out in some inverted loop of choices

What about a horse? I have one here, I shall paint a horse - why not? a horse is good.
This horse is wrong, I will change it, see it is changed.

into my upbeat day come two messengers with dark news of death and the shadow of death. Art and life is not only dreams, it is a fierce reality in black and white. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

a sunny place in my thinking

a new file 6.00pm Saturday (an opportunity slot)
Soundtrack - Peteris Vasks  'Message'

8.00 and Vasks has run his course and it is quiet.

My objective was to enjoy the experience of painting,
as one would on a Saturday night, (out)

The fold, circle and now the wing. 
These are deeply rooted in me.
Above is a drawing of 'the open cube' from around 2005
it is a variation of the fold that engages me now
This evenings attempt at a 'fold' has not worked,
I will erase all trace in a moment, it is trapped in the geometric.

I believe that eventually, with total commitment, a transmutation from the geometric to the emotional can and will occur. 

To bring about this transmutation I shall cease trying to make them palatable or comprehensible. They will be allocated a sunny place in my thinking and whatever resources they need. Meantime painting more familiar work will maintain a continuity that stability requires.

Friday, August 20, 2010

erasure follows

Fri late morning: quiet. Keith Jarret plays effortlessly on the 'Paris' CD
Thumbnail sketches flow to assess thoughts, I rehearse yesterday
Yet again I rework ideas for the canvas reclaimed yesterday.
dark grey and dirty orange describe a new scheme - as above section shows

trying to be something will always fail
allowing what is myself is the only real way
if that naturalness does not work as a creative force then all is lost

still creativity will not be commanded or contained by theory

work, work till 4.30pm when I throw my brushes and rag at it. erasure follows.
gathering the strands of belief I will swing at it again after supper to recoup the afternoon

8.00pm even with Bob Marley it all failed: cleaned up in disgust.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Powerful things were abroad

I am returned from the Gagosian Gallery in Brittania St having seen current Picasso show. The best show in London, an absolute knock-out.
low key in profile, sky high in content and presentation.
I felt the energy flow into me.
Powerful things were abroad. The very life-blood of beings caught in a moment of time and delivered with such wit and conviction had to be seen to be believed.
we step into the street as if to another time.  

At home, I redraw the two tables composition completely!
closer, bigger and eye to eye.
see detail above
then in a sudden movement, the previous oil is obliterated at a stroke with a massive brush.
I have a better idea. It will take all my powers tomorrow to deliver it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

attracted by awfulness

I need easy today, no mountains today.
Some plates that await completion are attended to and now only need to be glazed.

the 'sisters' are calling for more black
I give them more black and they are quiet

during the night I had clearer thoughts about my work
that the shelter, folds and circles are my work.
I experienced a warmth of conviction that comforted me,
I am carried forwards.

tea, grandchildren and books. time passes.
five extra for supper a pleasant noisy change.

Dusk: and only two of Dr Pasang Yonten's Tibetan flower incense sticks left,
must, must order some more . . . . . I light one anyway
Dr Yonten's potion mixes with the turpentine in the air as I make some drawings.

The first is a tonal charcoal and unremarkable,
the last is as above, a wildness has at last entered - energy is evident
it's awfulness attracts me

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

the whiff of a minotaur

The mercurial elements that make a piece remarkable are evasive.
That special tension is about as rare as a minotaur in the garden 

A revisions to 'two tables'
bored with the mediocrity of it
nervous about damage to it
the boredom overtakes the nerves

I remove the pretty sky
encouraged I have a sandwich and check emails

Matisse! and the painting of an undark lightless patch.
convincing colour has a trillion variables
where neither system or luck holds good
theories are a quicksand - only intuition holds

3.18pm everything done so far is wrong, 
but everything is right - for I have broken its 'dominant prettiness'
and I have the reins again - I am bigger than my work!

finally: only red will do.  
A full on modulation of Cad.Red light and Cad.Red deep.
In turn this red will disallow any half-hearted work next time.
(I catch the whiff of a minotaur as I leave the studio - but that is all)

Monday, August 16, 2010

The healing wing

showing here is a watercolour study, 
painted in response to the text 'the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings'. 
this one of two.
I am considering the pair.

notes for mon 16

I revise 'settlement' from sat,.
to find the colour between something and nothing
the mind wants concrete and I want joy
what is the colour of joy?

I put it aside. 8.20

not. it grins at me looking like a theme park
it is irredeemable
it is gone now and I am placated

has 'top gear' become an artform
I am between max and capsize

a revision of the healing wing theme by painting 2 W/C. it is a possibility
C+M for lunch - v. pleasant.
tea and looking and nothing 6.45

7.00 Coltrane now plays 'a love supreme'
I make something happen - oil out - falling into a painting
It's ok, I do no damage to it, I find a few new colours that work
we eat corn on the cob hot with butter
relief is present 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

settlement iii

A move into pastel this morning.
This is one of two I managed this morning from another drawing in the Spanish Sketchbook.
It is one of my 'enclosures', a place to be. It is of course an extension of yesterdays ''settlement' with the coded spiral more in evidence. This spiral and the colour/tone arrangement draws the viewer powerfully to the centre and one has to fight that pull to examine other corners of the work.
(Those rows of cabbages are a step to far and I believe will have to go, giving a clearer opportunity to evaluate the trees.)
The use of tone to lift the central portion unfortunately adds to the realism, my intention at the beginning was not so and to rely on colour alone to generate this attraction to the middle and my next test will pursue this objective.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Settlement ii

Such a drawing as this from my Spanish sketchbook is complicated. 
Although executed rapidly, to unravel it will take time. 
Following yesterdays 'settlement' I returned to this drawing labeled 'settlement'.
Essentially the foreground is an entrance, the centre contains a sort of circular fold with crops nurtured on either side.
I continue to read and feed the mind with material relating to archaic settlements from pre-history that were set around the hearth in an uncertain world.
The gouache painting below is on a similar theme and was titled 'temporary space'
Pulling a line between and uncertain world (life) and deep ancestral roots in the land is a the present tension.
The drawing above with some meditation may yet unlock the answers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A playfulness with a serious intent.


This, is a portion of a recent oil painting.
Staying with friends, I was moved to make some drawings one morning. That is to say, moved by the way their house engaged with the terrain, by its integration, its enclosure by steeply rising contours. Beyond, the plot it continued to fall so the site was not surrounded or claustrophobic but more like the seat of a comfortable chair.
I did not want a map or an aerial view, I wanted the sensation I experienced in a particular place, of being embraced and supported without any hint of suffocation. I required the building to be obvious without being explained. The small portion reproduced represents the building or dwelling.
I have seen film of animals and birds courting or dancing as a precursor to intercourse, There is a display, a running back and forth, a game and a conclusion. This has similarities to the experience of seeking this emotional likeness in paint, a series of faux attacks and retreats. A playfulness with a serious intent.
I think there will be more dances around this particular bird.
 I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

the unique energies of hot black basalt

Earlier this year I sold this 'henge' picture to a well known contact Ann Edwards, She and her husband had been attending our show for some years. I took the liberty of asking if she would write a few words on this recent purchase - below are her thoughts/

' I was drawn to John's large Henge stone circle picture at his recent Open House day...it spoke to me somehow....in particular, I am a Lastone therapist who works with the unique energies of hot black basalt & white marble stones in my therapy practice.
 I will be putting this wonderful picture & 2 of the smaller pictures in The Therapy Shed when I open it in the Spring. The Therapy Shed is an unique location , it is a converted Victorian workshop at the bottom of a lovely garden...rather like John's studio in spirit but different in its colour & design theme ...more Moroccan/ Swedish fusion!. 
We have many of John's pictures & drawings , which we have collected over the years as they reflect his developing style & unusual themes'

For more info on the Lastone therapy contact her at    http://www.ann-edwards.co.uk/

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lightness of touch is king.

testing the water(colour)
This is a detail from a larger watercolour executed to find solutions.
So often watercolour is used in a planned/controlled fashion that hampers it's wonderful free nature. 
Here I scribble some pencil ideas on nice paper and follow up swiftly with a limited palate and a range of tone to establish forms and activity.
I work them in series to develop compositions that will work as a vehicle for the idea I want to communicate.
Lightness of touch is king. 
All those curves of table, stairs and bottoms is in harmony and the eye can wander at will. The wine bottle fixes everything.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An intuitive sense of rightness

Cooking supper

Following an ancient tradition I spend time this morning making ink wash compositional sketches. In much contemporary work 'composition' is an uncool thing to bother with but I cannot help but address such issues as I begin a new painting. I have no golden section guidelines only an intuitive sense of rightness for the message the work has to carry. Buried in this rapid sketch a number of agreeable angles and reflections work in an abstract way to communicate a pictorial narrative. This doubling up of message reinforces it's power. 

Transferring the lively energy into and medium size oil painting is reserved for next week.