Monday, January 31, 2011

progressive colour

Painting is a progression, it builds on layers, there are a series of stages involved.
This is stage 4.
When faced with stage 3, stage 4 was an unknown. But when we see stage 4, (above) we cannot imagine how stage 5 will be, and so on.

I stood by the fire for nearly an hour, contemplating possibilities.  With earlier sketches in my hand I redrew the back three figure lightly in compressed charcoal. Having already decided to use a medium blue behind, I painted the figures loosely in mixtures of raw Sienna and Naples Yellow.

The blue, when applied, changed everything, working against the pink and foreground turquoise. I revisited the oil sketch prepared to inform the reworking of the yellow seated figure, this was in turn part painted again, leaving it unfinished is important to me at this moment. I adjust some incidental greens and oranges and stand back to reconsider the whole.

Aware of the danger that I was unsure what to do next I put it to one side. I have stage 4 and cannot imagine stage 5, all I know is it is not for today.  I leave it to work on other things.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A new home

This is Elizabeth Drury, or rather my interpretation of what Elizabeth Drury might have been like. She was the heroine in a poem by John Donne. Nearly life size it stands 1.74M high on a begonia coloured background.

Thanks to the services of The Redleaf Gallery today she officially takes up residence in a very fine apartment in the Kentish village of Groombridge. 

It is my aim to maintain a genuine respect for the human form, while making alterations that extend our perception of the subjects moment in time. I seek a language that communicates a physiology that we immediately identify with, where it becomes a genuine recognition of ourselves.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

stepping stones

Some time ago I painted some plates, as they were quite enjoyable, I called them Summer plates. The white drizzle painting above is the base layer of a little suite of three new plates that occurred this afternoon.

Now I had in mind to make some black plates, with a design that as yet I was unaware. In my studio there has been a stone jar (below) of African origin that pleases me very much with its simple tribal scratched design. It sits quietly and is just there all the time.

Add to this a commission from my son (the framer called Oyster) to make four new display supports for Mount samples to use in his now refurbished workshop. After a few false starts I came up with the design you can see below. The simple shapes will identify which set is which for quick selection as he discusses his clients needs. They are varnished emulsion on ply.

Now add to these thoughts my You Tube video 'Changing Heads'  and you can see some pattern emerging. Small wonder today I delved into the box of unpainted plates, mixed some off white emulsion to the right viscosity and quickly executed the design for the new black plates. Layers of black gesso with follow - I see them already.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Art: wider applications

Painting or Drawing is a series of choices
How we limit those choices or what criteria we apply to those choices shape what we do.

Today I resume work on my new website which is an art form that involves more choices than usual. The primary choice is to use Joomla, a 'content management system' that will deliver text and images to the viewer in a more flexible way. Then there is the serious question of style, and here choices are infinite. My aim is for a simple uncluttered look but then each element has to work even harder and proportions have to be just right. I recall Le Corbusier and his rant against decoration that he deemed unnecessary, his Law of Riplolin was 'paint it all white and if the proportions hold up no more is needed'. Getting those proportions right is not easy -  It just looks easy when it is right.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leaving home

Moving art is always risky.  Moving oils with a gloss finish is even more risky. Labans' girls (below) are leaving the studio and are on a visit to Francis Iles Gallery in Rochester and some protection for their trip seemed necessary. To make a traveling crate with a nice sliding interior takes me all the afternoon but does make them look rather smart and very easy for the dealer to present the pieces to the client on delivery.
I take the same satisfaction in this conclusion, as I do preparing grounds and papers. That before and after attention to the actual painting  firstly make ownership personal, and secondly this special packaging marks some sort of closure for me.
So the girls are leaving home, perhaps they will return one day, who knows.

Friday, January 21, 2011

John Berger

This, my current read, is proving the most engaging text I have read for some time.
On the back cover Berger writes,'The pocket in question is a small pocket of resistance. A pocket formed when two or more people come together in agreement. The resistance is against the inhumanity of the new world order. . . .  I've never written a book with a greater sense of urgency'
Drawing on a deep understanding and sensitivity to artistic activity Berger weaves profound truths from a very wide and varied group of witnesses. Cave painters, Vija Celmins, Degas and others who are brought to testify to a communion between people that can defy time and space. Away from cleverness and popularity there are human meetings occurring with an integrity that will resound over ages. Berger speaks to the heart with a quiet conviction that is compelling. He restores belief in emotional honesty and artistic truths.
I have found The Shape of a Pocket  a very refreshing work in these days of 'popular' books 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Gap in the fence' from Blurb Books

The Book
More recent readers may not be aware of this 118 page book about some of the main themes in my earlier work - this viewer shows the first 15 pages as a taster. There are distinct chapters on various groups of ideas revealing how these threads were connected and developed.
Order on line from the publisher Blurb or collect a copy from here in Park Road.

To get the best from the viewer below click on the full screen button with the 4 arrows bottom right!

Gap in the fence by John Scarland | Make Your Own Book

Gap in the Fence by John Scarland

I lay in the dry grass high above the English Channel, it is very warm. 
Ruth, lying in the sun reads her novel while I hold a new drawing book in my hand.
I make a drawing of the wide prospect beyond, then, mildly bored I begin to draw myself, not how I appear - but how I feel.
For some reason I draw myself in a narrow space. 
There were two drawings in my book as we left, one of the distant sea and one of myself.
Walking home - I glimpse other forms within myself, forms that will soon come to light, it is as if I lean against the door post of my own awareness, while bright visual packages are passed to and from the mind, 
For me it is an unexpected prospect.
For twenty years I had worked as a carpenter, making all sorts of things from wood as requested by the client.
My mind and hands were adept at translating two dimensional drawings into solid forms, 
Now life is about the opposite - it is about rendering objects as drawings, 
A reverse mapping if you like, of the undulating land or my shy interior forms. 
This book is about a carpenter’s reverse mappings that have occurred since that day by the sea. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Office work

From time to time old work of mine turns up on the internet and often triggers memories of work and projects long forgotten.
Through the services of the good Tony Roberts of Cider House Galleries in Bletchingly I began work on some large art installations for an office reception area. Actaeon  in the gouache draft above was part of my thinking and this was to form one of three large panels at ceiling height and each to be about 2-3M high.  For the waiting area I had planned a screen that protruded from the wall with another cut out relief image of Actaeon with a further huge 4 metre wide painting above.
The office in question was very sales orientated, and it was for this reason I chose the theme of Actaeon the hunter (salesman). That Actaeon was changed by Diana into the likeness of his own quarry (a stag) and then chased and eaten by his own hounds amused me but in turn may not have helped my popularity with the patron.
The gouache above was a draft for one of these unpainted works and I thought little else remained  until yesterday I was alerted to Cider House Galleries offering for sale again the large   work that was painted and installed in the mid 90s. They have it as 'Breaking out' but I have no recollection of such a title. I saw it as a more visionary motivational piece for people within office walls day after day. Shown below it was much liked by the staff when I went in to hang it so that was reward in itself. 
Should you have space at home for this dream painting, call Tony . . . . .


Monday, January 17, 2011

Crossover skills

I am at present working with my son Martin on a three week intensive refurbishment of his picture framing workshop. I brings back in sharp focus those years I spent as a carpenter in the building industry. This involved being shown a requirement, often designing the form, acquiring the material and then making whatever was required. It's what carpenters do.
So returning to a design and build project, I am made very much aware of how the skills of this former life have proved invaluable to me as an artist.

For example, the paper model above is drawn from the series I did that related to a derelict bus I came across in Crete. Needing some ideas for abstract figures to inhabit my 'bus' I began to sculpt/assemble some copper figures. This paper mock up (above) is in fact a pattern for me to cut the copper precisely before assembly. All very much in the mode of 'design and build' The bench (below) shows the transition from the 'idea' drawing to paper maquette and then to the work in progress. 

The way art is tied to method is different for all of us. At times skill can be a real nuisance and at other time the ability to understand how to plan ahead is invaluable.  
In this piece I am trying to express the idea of 'mother' and what elements of the form could best express that, in this case I develop the creative notion of the lap, a soft place for the child to be close and safe.
Finding a path from conception of idea to final realization calls for the orchestration of whole a range of skills from emotional perversity to physical dexterity. Calling such a tune is the game we call art. Not exactly effortless.
The final copper 'mother and child' can be seen on my Flickr site    

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January Sales

As an artist, income is very intermittent. Having worked as an artist for twenty years one becomes adjusted to the way things are. Even so, a cheque in the post is an event, two cheques even better!
Redleaf Gallery, that smart little galley in Tunbridge Wells have sold two pieces, 'Girls walking" shown above along with  'Drama at dinner' below, were sold just before Christmas. The Preview at Redleaf only just occurred due the awful weather, but a couple were lured to Castle Street to view 'Girls walking' by the glowing colours on the Exhibition flyer and money changed hands.

Caterham Galleries have been seeing steady sales and before Christmas found a new owner for 'swan' - a charcoal that pictures a piece of classical ballet.  

The icing on the cake for January was Nettie Iles from Rochester inviting me out for lunch to discuss plans for 2011! I think the first time in twenty years a gallery owner has bought me a lunch, making the scallops more enjoyable than usual.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bedtime reading

There are always new books to read after Christmas, This one came from my sister, it is beautiful to hold, printed on beautiful bookwhite paper and a joy to read.
I need to savour it, I am prone to gobbling - here I must enjoy.

Gayford sits for LF while the portrait is painted, He records as a journal the experience and the conversations and after the regular evening sitting they would take supper at nearby restaurants so that LF could eat and continue to observe Gayford.

At 81 LF is still working on three sitters a day, morning, afternoon and evening, like a dancer he moves - mixing, looking and working. In the afternoon he is working at some stables painting the hind quarters if a skewbald mare and often gets chilled, but at six is ready to start again. Continuity is all important, observation continuous and intense.

Anecdotes abound. He and His wife visited Picasso, Picasso painted sun's and faces on his wife's fingernails - she nurtured them as long as possible but they eventually wore away!
How to approach colour, food and rooms. Why Leonardo is a bad painter. How Francis Bacon used to mix paint on his forearm till an allergy prevented him.

"the picture in order to move us must never merely remind us of life, it must acquire a life of its own, precisely in order to reflect life" LF   

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lion King and the V&A

An integral part of having grandchildren is the occasional trip out. I have been wanting to see the Lion King for some time and have now booked the tickets. Not a fan of the musical as an art form, the sheer spectacle and power of what LK trailers I have seen enchant me. 
First up on the day must be a look at the costumes in the V&A . The extraordinary quality of design and execution has earned them a place in this world class museum. To the colouring, stitching and beading close up will be fascinating. 
The clever puppetry is part and parcel of the show. Above is the Hornbill with a simple rod and trigger to manipulate the head but other shadow effects have up to five puppeteers. I found a video clip of this particular bird being painted and the patient assembly is only a fraction of what must be an enormous industry.
The actual show with full sound, animals in the aisles and the full on Pan African effect will be phenomenal. I am rather looking forward to it (my grandchildren tell they are as well) 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Digging deeper

For years now name Clement Greenberg keeps cropping up in my reading - he was that notable American art critic who was so influential promoting Jackson Pollock and others of that period.

In order to get to the bottom of his take on Modern art and his criteria for judging art I began reading this book by Jonathan Harris. There seems a real collusion between the art critic and the contemporary artist to add value and credibility to modern art. Or certainly the art critic seeks it to be so, by weaving complex webs of thought and counter thought around the mystery that is art.

 The role of the viewer is increasingly important in the life of art in what they do or do not bring to the art by the very act of looking it.  The old Hegelian idea of some a priori knowledge is long abandoned but an infinite amount of personal 'experience' brought to art by the viewer is still unavoidable.

Greenberg championed Caro for the transparent, industrial simplicity of his work that allowed, even demanded an uncomplicated evaluation. This may be so - but then he goes on to suggest a notion that the 'experience of experience' is crucial in personal evaluation of works by the individual that contradicts the earlier statement.

I will continue to read and perhaps learn more about this interwoven thinking, fascinating  material that widens the horizons of art.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beach house

Why not a change of air?
To breathe with time to read,
a place to draw some new ideas.
with uninterrupted view.

rented, simple open space
unpredictably exposed
on the margin of the land
breathe with the motion of the tide

Monday, January 3, 2011

A little comfort

An oil study

I needed to resolve an issue.
The couple on the stairs,
how should they be?

to contrast competition,
to contrast bravado,

simplicity of thought,
in simplicity of treatment.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

subconscious mechanisms

This is where I left off painting yesterday afternoon.
The figures have weight, posture and interact with some natural narrative.
I had spent time searching for acceptable levels realism to set against an inherent wrongness that would extend our felt perception of these, our fellow beings. 
The group here is open, making room for the viewer, their game is also our game.
This is about an engagement, a known phenomena reawakened as we read the image. 
All superficial artiness must be banished, any contrived marks are unwelcome, for marks here must be anonymous.
Marks are made by subconscious mechanisms in order to serve the same mechanisms in the viewer.   
It would interest me to know what sensation these figures generate as you contemplate the work, let me know . . . . .