Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011


Working Drawings

I am always surprised when looking through old work files, that sort of year-end activity that happens easily on a damp afternoon. This one, 'Chamber' was a rare thing, sold long ago, I wonder where it is now.
I had some old drawings that I had acquired in a junk shop many years before, and this one, in pre-scanner days was taken to the library to be photocopied over 12 sheets to make up a large size. I soaked them and pasted them on to stretched paper. Gouache was worked over to colour, obliterate, enhance, change and mystify!
Now this gives me some ideas again - there is more mileage here . . . . . .

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Polke and Tiepolo

Yesterday afternoon I made this drawing of two figures. Its not unusual for me to draw such a thing and having read a lot of Roberto Calasso's book Tiepolo's Pink, to make a drawing that reflects late 18thC composition is to be expected. Although I am always drawn to the wonderful side of Tiepolo, is only a late flowering of a decadent wealth that I really dislike which makes me wonder why I emulate this style.
Another unfinished book by me is Sigma Polke: We Petty Bourgeoise, an artist to whom I am equally drawn and whose every stroke is to subvert and attack the establishment. 
My drawing was made as a compositional study for a new work and from the series  of studies it seemed the most satisfactory. Looking at it now it displays those 18thC characteristics of line and design that I admire while drawn in a rather jerky abrupt manner strangely at odds with the design. As I study the lines there is a distracting violence about them as they describe beauty that is not apparent at first. This I believe has always been part of my drawing and it is only now that I begin to see it.
Next I will have to transcribe this energy to the canvas and devise colour and tone schemes to complement the line type.
Can I really combine Polke and Tiepolo?

Friday, December 23, 2011

A white Christmas

Where Monet meets Constable

Some years ago I was called on to do a painting demonstration, and in order to give structure to the lesson took a copy of Constable's 'Hay Wain' and proceeded to translate it into a winter version with snow using a Monet reproduction as a colour reference for the winter weather.
The result as shown still pleases me, replacing the obvious wagon with a fallen bough helps and Monet's colours are always wonderful.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'tis the season of new books

Lucien Freud on paper

We are just back from France with early Christmas presents! This new book of Freud's drawings  came my way as a present, wow, all those early drawings in one book with etchings as well.
From my reading newspapers on the boat from St Malo it seems that drawing is gaining favour, what with Tracey Emin's new marriage to the RA as professor of drawing  and Royal Acadamy's  new show 'Driven to draw' it seems drawing may be all right after all.
My new book contains all sorts of drawings by Freud to revive the spirits and full of links with the past, including the Watteau inspired drawings that are so wonderful. My weakness for books continues, but here it pays off as it fires up my mind and motivates me to draw much more.
2012 could be good!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Mary and Joseph come for Christmas
Last week I posted some thoughts on 'Direct Painting' that featured a couple on a yellow ground.  Recently I took up this canvas again to make some adjustments to it, the adjustments turned out more radical than expected!
Not only has that Indian Yellow ground been almost completely over painted but the woman now appears to have a baby! My revisions are usually driven by overall abstract qualities in areas of the work that are unsatisfactory. These revisions are a series of testings that enable me to find improvements to the grand scheme. Babies were not the idea, but a revision test that I approved of had a real suggestion of one and it has remained in the work.
The temptation to encourage this seasonal context is possible, that Jesus Christ should have a place in my work is OK by me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sketches of Spain

Los Remedios in Veher de la Frontera, Andalusia.

This oil painting hangs in my bedroom, I rather like it.
I have some habits when working, but I am not bound by them. The embryonic drawings are shown below are taken from the travelling sketchbook and show the source material. From my notes on the next page I was unsurprisingly much in mind of Matisse while in such heady surroundings. and looking at the drawings you can see I was not drawing what I could see in front of me but my experience of being there instead. I took no photograph, for the knowledge that I have a photo, stops me seeing and feeling.
In the studio, as I begin,  I have the drawing and a strong sensation with the memory. It is enough.
After some warm under-painting had dried, I began to establish a layout that followed the R/H drawing that itself imagined an elevated viewpoint, the oil drawing was now a sort of second generation imagination.
The key colours are the top ribbon of sky and trees that took time to co-ordinate, the worked down maintaining the harmony and creating interest within the colour/shape register already agreed in the top ribbon.
The loose foreground always pleases me.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Thinking aloud

I call this piece 'hotel' or away from home
away from myself
amid silent expectations

I found this in my archive
a recurrence
a beckoning

new year is like a new day
after the feast
will I listen?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finding a hot beach in the winter

Finding a hot beach in the winter.

This picture is is warm to the touch! It is a theme I have worked on before, and as the weather turned cold I felt the need for some hot colours.
Assembled from figure drawings made while in Spain (see below) they take on the 'wall of figures' type of composition I saw in the British Museum recently.
Seen here in an unfinished state more colour revisions are called for to offset the rather simple blue orange combo that is in evidence here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Direct painting

 Couple on Yellow
Today (Saturday) I have worked on two paintings, this one in the afternoon. I like to clean the palette between pictures to keep the pictures fresh, old colour can influence me and taint the new colours - at least I find it so and that is how I work.
I favour a bold approach in order to achieve the most spontaneous effects working wet colour over dry. This piece has been worked on twice now and will need another session at least to solve all the remaining problems. The conflict is between simple and complex, time brings on complexity in the piece and then eradication occurs with swathes of new colour that reshapes things and so the cycle continues.
Once a colour combination with acceptable forms are arrived at finer issues can be addressed but with the same method.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

in the British Museum

The ancient halls in the British Museum

I love the British Museum. Filled with visual wonders from all time and all places, beautifully presented for all to see. Free.

This tiny Ivory relief has that figure composition that was common from 500 - 1500AD and a composition I use and need to study more to exploit its real power. The drawing below is an example of a recent use of this 'wall of figures' not unlike these ancient masters.

I find the quality, the sheer excellency of these work invigorating, a spur to do my best. Privileged to carry their ideas forwards in our time, these latent pieces of beauty can be resurrected to speak our language in our time. Understanding them is the first stage in recreating them.