Friday, 2 December 2011

Showtime!

Ok, the bad news is it went sort of rather well, I think....

Soooo, brace yourselves for the full fat 3D extended director's cut of the show that redefines the word 'what?' coming to a cheap plastic pub fag gazebo near you in the New Year.

In the meantime, if anybody wants me, I'll be in my trailer in a pink satin smoking jacket...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Making an exhibition of myself

Right...

If you want to see a grown man reduced to a trembling squeak, here's your chance.

The show may contain some adult content, but absolutely no nuts at all.

Do please come along if you are able/desperate/easily pleased and I will attempt to entertain and inform you as to why I do what I do.

It's on Wed 30th Nov, 8pm.

The evening is a scratch event called ITCH where new ideas get trialled before an audience of KIND people who then give constructive feedback to the performers, as required.

I'll be doing a half hour spot to see what happens, and if it works there are plans for a full on performance in the New Year.

You have been warned.

The venue is the Wardrobe Theatre, situated over the White Bear in St Michael's Hill, Bristol.

Bring your own fruit....

Check it out:

www.thewardrobetheatre.com

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Art! Tsk!...part 2

Following on from the last rant about making paintings pay, here's the update:

(I should point out that this is not a self-help guide to making art pay, more an illustration of what I've chosen to do. Everyone has to find their own path, I'm just pointing out that there are more ways of doing this than you might think)

So, I've set up regular, paid, creative sessions within several Care Homes in my area.

It's such a simple idea, and it's a joy to do.

I take my paintings along, the residents react/discuss/evaluate and generally air their opinions of them.

This then acts as the key to unlocking their own stories (which are frequently amazing, and always fascinating) which in turn gives me the source material for any number of paintings.

I then set up modelling sessions and paint them from life.

Painting someone's portrait is a remarkable experience, (both detached and intimate at the same time,) and a great way to get to know someone,

 I know of no experience like it.

At the end of it, we have another painting to discuss, we've showcased another person's experience, I've learnt more about painting, people and life in general and we've had a blast doing it.

Oh, and I get paid to do it (did I mention that already?), I still own the painting, and I can sell prints off the back of it.

The point I'm making is that there are more ways to survive as an artist than waiting in line for some ego in a bow tie to allow you into their gallery and then treat you like scum whilst charging you a fortune for the privilege.



Ok, so far so good, but it's not going to get you to the wider audience.

For that, you're going to have to get out there and shake your tail feather.

However you do it, you'll do it better than anybody else for the simple reason that people are much more interested in artists than promoters.

Does anyone remember the name of Leonardo's agent? - quite...

So I'm going for broke and turning my last two years worth of paintings into a one man show involving big screen projection, live theatre audiences, music, film and me standing in a spotlight trying not to soil myself.

My first ever appearance is at the end of this month and I have no idea whether this will be a turning point in my career and a whole new way of taking painting to a larger audience, or the last act of a desperate man who will never work in this town again.

Details in the next posting...

Comfort zones are for sissies

Monday, 7 November 2011

Meerkat






video



I'm doing an OCN in Creative Provision in the Care System (doesn't that sound grown up...) and as part of the course we're required to come up with some sort of mask related piece as a statement of our own creative experience so far.

So, rather than go down the papier mache and feathers route, I thought I'd opt for the difficult, painful and altogether messy/stupid alternative.

For anyone who has yet to try making a plaster cast of their own face (I'm guessing some of you haven't got round to it yet?) I would add a note of caution:

You're going to have to trust other people.

A lot...

You'll see from the photo's that it involves a lot of gunge, blindness, claustrophobia, hot plaster exfoliation, trust in people who enjoy watching you suffer, unexpected hairloss, taking of advantage whilst unable to respond and Vaseline.

Lots of Vaseline ( important to get that bit right, see unexpected hairloss mentioned earlier)

Anyway, never mind the suffering, check out the result!

Remember that what you are looking at is a negative, concave image taken straight off my chops.

Weirdly, though, when you light it, it appears to protrude from the surface as a convex, 3d face which rotates as you move around it, just like a hologram.

How mad is that!

I'm expecting a tick v.good and a gold star for this one....

Why meerkat?  Make one yourself, show it to your friends, watch them as they bob up and down to get the 3d effect, observe startling similarity with amusing upright rat thingies - simples...





Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Grey Matters

Whoever decided to make an Internet deserves a medal, a round of applause and a year's supply of free socks.

It really is that good.

You paint a picture of a retired lady living in quiet seclusion, and thanks to the power of digital earbending you are able to talk about it with her family on the other side of the world.
Add to that all the people who have seen and responded to it and all of a sudden you're global.

Nifty, isn't it?

Ruth is well pleased with the result, I'm relieved to say, as are all the other people who have their stories woven into the imagery around her.
For me it's been an education in allowing a painting to reveal itself through the people that it's built around, rather than dictating what should be.

It started out as a statement about age, indifference and the innate strength of people of experience but it's become something more than that.

Somewhere along the line it turned into a focal point that has got people talking to each other, formed connections and turned the spotlight ever so slightly onto a remarkable lady.

And just when I was starting to believe that I had the power to alter lives, shape the world and walk on water one of her colleagues casts a critical eye over it, declares it to be 'nearly as good as a proper painting' and sweeps past in a cloud of peppermint and disdain.

Feet back on the ground, on with the next...




Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Somewhere in France



Time to bring this to its conclusion.
I loaded him into the van and drove to France; to the battlefields, the stories, the events which no longer prey upon living memories.

I had always intended this.

In fact, the final chapter was the first thing I had envisaged.

The Great War has become part of a historical syllabus, a tourist attraction and a focus for the amateur militarist.
So what was I doing there?
As a subject it has a magnetic sense of drama. The statistics are so difficult to comprehend, the attitudes so foreign to modern sensibilities and the effects on the 20th century so seismic that it still has the power to draw us in.
For me, though, there has always been something else.

Despite all my understanding, all my research,and a sense of near tangible connection, part of me needed to know if in fact all of this actually occurred.
Was it real? Did this thing happen to living, thinking men?

I chose to place him in a wood overlooking a field where tractors trundled up and down collecting the harvest under gunmetal skies. Ninety five years before the weather had been similarly grim, and the wood had been a hollow in the landscape studded with shattered trees. The whole place has changed remarkably little, and dragging the inert weight of the wireman through the mud and undergrowth seemed fittingly macabre.

Adrenalin is a wonderful thing when you're doing something you don't want to explain.

I had dug into the top of the earth bank that bordered the site, cutting my hands and cursing the locals for filling the woods with broken bottles and cans.
Under cover of the foliage, I set the wireman in concrete, backfilled the hole I'd dug, filmed him and stepped away.

He's there now, and for who knows how long, facing what had been a section of No Man's Land well documented by war poets of the time and no end of historians since.

The bald facts are easily established. On a summers day in 1916 a battalion of the Manchester regiment (about 700 men) had attempted to cross this field and bludgeon their way into a position that was clearly visible about 300 yards away on the horizon.
It didn't happen.
Over 500 of them didn't come back.

The wood was a safe place then, a refuge from the gunfire. Men huddled together here before chancing the odds.

The tractors were getting closer now, ploughing up to the edge of the wood, so I packed up and left.
I gathered all the materials I'd brought, bundled up with the rubbish I'd unearthed, and crept back to the van, unobserved.

The next morning, I sifted through the rusted metal, earth and broken glass.

I'd seen the graveyards, the memorials, the lines of the old trenches still visible in the woods. I'd stepped around unexploded shells turned up by ploughing, visited museums full of artefacts, but nothing had really touched my sleeve and whispered in my ear of young men lost in a distant moment, far from families, never going home.

The dirt offered up it's secrets: a piece of barbed wire, a soldiers spoon, a fragment of a rum jar, a small unbroken bottle.

Was it real? Were they here? Can echoes last this long?

The bottle, heartbreakingly ordinary and yet, to me, so poignant has lasted nearly a century in the ground, and lived to tell it's tale.

This was the right place to choose, and the right thing to do.

I say goodbye to the lost boys.

The bottle's Yorkshire relish.






Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Phoenix

I was worried.

After all this work, after all the hopes that it would be suitable, fitting, relevant - would it work?

I was concerned that when he burned the wires that joined him would break, that he'd spring into an amorphous tangle of meaningless wire.

What if he collapsed under his own weight?

What if we couldn't get him to a beach - there are so many restrictions on what is 'allowed', so many voices ready to rise up in fear and disapproval.

With the concrete applied to his feet it was going to be a major event just getting him there.

As we drove to the coast, something with a touch of magic in it came along for the ride, and the day became a gift.

A perfect beach, a perfect sky, a perfect place to witness a baptism of fire.

After weeks of biblical rainstorms the clouds break up and drop a perfect orange sun onto the horizon, right in front of us.
As the sea breathes in and out the boulders sound like bones rattling.
There's just enough breeze to make the flames dance, and as we stand watching the figure of the Wireman emerge from the fire, a full moon rises up behind him and throws his shadow across the shoreline.

Something greater than the making of a wire figure has happened, and the occasion makes its presence felt.

I am with my son, on a beach watching something unimagined and elemental take place, and I am grateful for everything that has lead to this moment.

Thank you, Chris, for making the moment permanent - your photographs are an event of their own.








Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ouch...

After two days working with pliers, wire cutters and steel wire that was specifically designed to discourage close contact, I'm starting to wonder at what point this seemed like a good idea.

I  knew at the outset it was going to involve a certain amount of laceration but since the whole point was to pay my respects to men and boys who fought through forests of barbed wire whilst being shot at I could hardly make a fuss over a few scratches.

What I hadn't allowed for was the way it gets into your head.

Every time a length of wire coils round and snags my clothes, catches my gloves or bites into me it creates a curious sense of panic, a bit like claustrophobia.

Once it's got you, this stuff doesn't let go.

When it snags the tape and paper mannequin it tears it up like flesh, and there are parts of it that are now bloodstained from where it got the better of me.

Even the method of tying the strands together where they cross involves using two pairs of pliers and a circular coil of thin wire to stitch them together, the same way they sew up wounds in hospitals.

Having virtually finished the wire binding, I then have to cut through his legs to replace the wood and paper of his feet with reinforced concrete.
This will give him a firm base to stand on, and support the rest of the figure without it bending under its own weight.

Ok so far.

Sawing through the paper 'muscle' and on through the wooden 'bone'  feels uncomfortably like some bizarre field amputation.

I am now completely weirded out by the whole thing and beginning to wish I had never started it.

Knowing it's likely to rain I cover the now prone figure with a tarpaulin and give my hands a chance to recover.

Every time I glance out the window I can see it in the garden, looking like a dead body waiting to be collected.

The next project is going to have to be really really happy to balance this...  

Monday, 15 August 2011

Over The Top


Between 1914 and 1918 my grandmother collected every copy of the Bystander magazine for the humorous cartoons by Capt. Bruce Bairnsfather, a serving officer in the trenches of the First World War.
I still have them.
They were my first experience of comic illustration, and I believe they were in no small part responsible for me wanting to make pictures for a living.

However, there is also a dark side to them.

Humour and tragedy are close companions, and the idea of this chap being appointed as the official cartoonist to the British, and later American armies struck me as both brilliant and appalling.

How could you look for gags in a situation that was killing 3000 men a week?

Somehow he did, all in the name of keeping up morale.

Hats off all round, I say...

For as long as I can remember the whole story of The Great War has held a ghastly fascination for me, to the point where I wonder if it's all getting a touch obsessive and unhealthy.

For almost as long I've wanted to create something as what? - a tribute, memorial, personal show of respect, atonement?

Apart from a couple of exceptions, paintings of the subject just don't seem to work, maybe because photography has already produced so many iconic images.

Poetry is forever connected to the war poets themselves, and formal statues are so, well, static.

About four years ago I started on a lifesized figure made of barbed wire.

It began with a wooden skeleton  fleshed out with newspaper and tape to get the proportions and stance right.

This is then wrapped with the barbed wire, held together by clips where the wires cross.

It's taken this long partly because it's so damned painful to work on.
The wire snakes around and catches on everything, the clips wreck your fingers and just moving him results in bloodshed.
In a small way it seems appropriate.

When he is finished I shall burn him to get rid of the mannequin, and after that he's going on a journey.
Sometimes the only way to deal with a compulsion is to let it have it's head and go with it.

Either way, this is by far the hardest, most physically demanding and troubling thing I've ever tried to make and it's taken so long to make that I've grown accustomed to having him around.

Mind you, it doesn't half give people a jolt when they come across him unexpectedly...

More to follow...







Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Art, tsk!



What do you think of when you hear the title 'Artist'?
Do you picture a free spirit, bravely defying convention to pursue their vision?
Someone who was not born to follow the normal pattern; someone who, by definition, is meant to challenge the rules that yolk the rest of mankind to the dungcart of mediocrity?
Hmmm?
Why is it then, that most of the ones I've bumped into seem hell bent on turning their dreams into 'product' that gets handed over to self important shopkeepers who take 60% or more, which in turn puts the work out of the reach of vast numbers of people who might actually love what they've created?!

And the worst of it is these brilliant, capable souls are so conditioned to it they're actually grateful for the opportunity to earn bugger all and be exploited from here to wednesday.

Blimey...

I'm not mucking about here, these are actual quotes from really talented, hard working artists that I've listened to:
"I've never met a gallery that wasn't completely up it's own arse"

"The last five cheques bounced, but he's promised to sort it out soon"

"I didn't like to ask about the money, but I'm sure it'll be alright"

People, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!

You're creative people, so think creatively.

You dream, you believe, you struggle, you achieve.

Now what?

Do you:

a. flog the results of your labours for a fraction of it's true worth, and accept that all that effort is then gone forever?
(rhetorical question, the answer is no no no no no - and.....NO)

b. find a way to make your work earn it's keep over and over again
(go on, have a guess at the answer....)

Ok, so by now you've gathered that I'm not going down that route.

Money where the mouth is time.

I'm going to make regular money from my paintings without paying anyone anything.

I'm not going to sell any of them. They are my collateral, my shopwindow and my advertisement.

Along the way I'm going to have a blast, build a following and best of all KEEP CONTROL OF THE WHOLE THING.

The difference is I'm not selling paintings, I'm selling me.

Today I made eight phonecalls to people who have never heard of me.

Five of them were interested in what I was offering, and I shall follow them up over the next few days along with as many other people I can get to press ear to plastic.

Watch this space...

Right, off to put on my lederhosen, a quick chorus of 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' and cocoa in the bunker.








Monday, 8 August 2011

Hammer Time

Right, making progress now.

Spent the weekend getting stuck into painting and preparing for the launch of all this stuff onto an unsuspecting world.

More info soon, you have been warned....


Finally, finally getting into my stride with this one, so progress should now be reasonably swift.
It's so frustrating when I get stuck after an initial burst of "Wow! I can do this!' only to  stall like a dancing dad who's spotted his reflection in the glitterball.

All I can do is adjust the medallion, close the eyes, go for the White Man's Overbite and keep throwing the moves until it all comes right again.

That's why artists have to paint alone.

Very keen to get this one finished now to see what Ruth and her friends make of it.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ruth



Blimey, it's been a while...

Still, never mind, on we go...

Ruth lives across the road from me, and it's fair to say that she has a network of supportive, involved people that enjoy her company and keep a caring eye on her.

Ruth commands respect.

Ruth is one of the lucky ones.

We talk about art, drink tea and  make each other laugh.

She writes the time of future visits on her hand with a big black marker pen to remind herself, which makes  her look like a vandalised underpass from the wrists down.

Ruth has made me think about all the old, proud, smart people out there who get overlooked and disregarded.

People who get assessed, categorised and cared for in a way that would make me want to start fires and tunnel my way out.

It's not the system, or the relatives, or the carers, it's all of us who turn a blind eye and put our own into geriatric landfill sites that have more than a passing resemblance to orphanages.

Anyway, this is what I'm trying to make into a painting, which is proving to be really, really difficult.

Ruth says it's a privilege to have me paint her, but actually, it's the other way round.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The King of Bristol

When I was a nipper my father gave me a book of The World's Greatest Paintings.
I still have it.
On page 52 is a picture of a king staring at a girl dressed in a simple leather dress.
It's hard to tell what he's thinking although the explanatory text tells us that he has chosen her, a simple beggar maid, as his wife over all the finest ladies of the land.
King Cophetua and the beggar maid, by Sir Edward Burne Jones.
It's a haunting image, full of Victorian charity, sentiment and chivalric charm.
The story of a monarch who defied all convention for love, truth and beauty, kneeling in supplication before the woman who has captured his heart.
It just wouldn't wash these days; the idea of royalty stepping aside so all the world could marvel at the beauty of his common born love as she steps forward into the limelight.
Or could it...

I like to feel that there is enough romanticism left to allow for the simple joy of infatuation to find its place without the cold touch of reason blighting its brief moment in the sun.

I just thought it might be fun to take that thought and plant it in a modern setting.

Bristol has staked its claim in the art world thanks to artists who are capable of painting faster than policemen can run.
We should be proud of their courage, wit and elusiveness, but theirs is not the whole story.

Within the city there are still romantic heroes and femme fatales, princes and princesses of style, charm and delight who daily present a vision of our city's artistry that has nothing to do with spraycans.

My thanks to Andy (Psycho) for being the perfect subject.

Rarely do you meet someone who looks, sounds and proves to be a perfect gentleman.  

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Goldfinger

In a spirit of blind, naive 'bless me for trying' optimism I have entered 'Under the Ivy' for the Royal Academy Summer Show.
In doing so, I am joining the ranks of about 12000 similar hopefuls, all of whom will be keeping their appendages crossed in the hope that this will be the start of Something Big.

The comparisons with the X-factor are toe-curlingly obvious, but I'm on a journey, living the dream and doing it so me babbies will 'ave a more better future than what I done.

Hard to argue with that, one thinks.

So, to finish the painting I have to have another encounter with the dreaded goldleaf.
Handling the stuff is like trying to fit pyjamas made of cobwebs onto a sticky pig.
At first, all seems to go well.
Stealth, cunning and a steady hand win the day.
And then it gets smart.
In playful mood the wispy glitter discovers the gravitational pull of my pullover;  I breath fractionally too much and find I have applied a gilded finish to my own face.
Things get worse.
The static on the screen of my immaculate Imac calls, and like Gollum to Mordor, the precious gold wafts off towards the light...

Meanwhile, the part of the picture I had coated in stuff that would stick down a badger has ignored the laws of physics and refused to cooperate, and all the shiny bits peel off at the first suggestion of a breeze.
Rude words ensue.
Walk away, deep breath, cup of tea.
I manage to get more of it onto the canvas, but it fights like a disadvantaged weasel brought up on Stallone films.
I decide to opt for a distressed look, which mirrors my own.

Off to the framers, hire a van, fight my way through Knightsbridge and hope I've timed the double parking on the smart red lines correctly.
Into the bowels of the Academy, register my entry and then, with its label dangling from its frame, my precious painting is carted off by a brown coated gnome to who knows where?
I have a sudden sense of empathy with mothers whose children were evacuated during the blitz...








I offer a small, thankful prayer, however, to the Big Art Pixie that Simon Cowell isn't on the judging panel.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

BTW

If any of you out there fancy leaving a comment/deposit/small consideration I'd be pleased to hear from you.

No, really, I would.

Then I wouldn't feel like I was talking to myself.

Again.



This is me giving one of my meaningful looks to encourage you...

Madonna of the Trainspotters

There seems to be a patron saint for pretty much every occasion, with one glaring omission - railway enthusiasts.
It struck me as a trifle unfair considering their devotion.
When you think about it, they have all the qualities of a religous order:
They are usually recruited at an early age and remain steadfast in their allegiance all their lives.
They gather secretly to avoid persecution, and wear discreet lapel badges so that other brothers may know them when they meet.
They wear a simple habit of beige.
Appearances would suggest a vow of celibacy.

Anyway, for all those delightful, mildly eccentric and very British devotees of the iron road, here is your saintly guardian.

May your ticket be forever clipped by the celestial inspector.
May your summer seaside excursion be not filled with footie fans.
Grant, we beseech you, the grace to smile when rude words are spoken into your microphone by irreverent oafs as you try to record the sound of a Class 5 thundering through Little Knobblington on a wet wednesday afternoon.
And, when your number is up and the Great Trainspotter in the Sky signals that it's the end of the line,
may you be eternally chuffed.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Pants



The ancient Romans believed that the creative process was a collaboration between the artist and a spirit helper that lived in the walls.
If you put the hours in, worked hard and struggled to master your craft  it would reward you with moments of sublime, inspired magic.
It's a lovely idea as it takes the pressure off trying to be brilliant every time.
Sometimes your Genii (hence genius) will pop out from behind the magnolia to lend a hand, sometimes it won't so there's no point beating yourself up if you've tried your best only to find the little bugger is having a duvet day.

However, this painting:

It began with a question: Would a Gothic washday be all dark and stormy skies and funereal laundry?

The model is Leanne, who is adept at all manner of performance skills involving silks and Samurai swords,  ( think Cirque de Soleil with sharp objects...eek!).

She struck me as someone with a lot of steel behind those pale blue eyes, and even more available if it came to a fight.

Once I got going with this painting I remembered something she had said about being underestimated and prejudged by people who choose to form an opinion on the slightest of impressions.

Not a mistake I was going to make with someone for whom the cutting edge is not just an expression.

Anyway, this is what appeared:


I'm not entirely sure whether this is a result of the Wall Pixie going for broke, or too much Bovril.
I like to think that even getting the unmentionables out on the line can be heroic, and that strength, beauty and magic are just as important when it comes to the daily grind.
That's why she has a tattoo of another Roman Home Help  on her shoulder - Hygieia, the first Domestic Goddess.

ps. For those of you who thought the pictures are a bit on the small side - try clicking on the image.
Either it will get bigger, or your computer will get much smaller....

At last

...and there we go.

Didn't include the confetti/leaves after all as it just looked wrong.

'nuff said.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Wedding Blues

It's 5.00 on a Friday and I have been working diligently all day on a sensible, money earning illustration job.
I am seriously thinking of impaling myself on my own pencil, but I am too bored to sharpen it....
I know, 'I'm lucky to have work at all in the current climate' etc etc.
Mustn't grumble.
I am now going to turn a blind eye to myself while I bunk off early and get on with The Big Blue Painting.
Also, if I post images of it so far, it will make me finally finish it.
The concept came from a photoshoot last spring.
A crowd of outrageously decorative creatures had turned up at a rented studio to model for me.
Amongst them was the tallest, most exotic and ethereally beautiful young man and his equally stunning girlfriend. (The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that she also features in the Adoration of the iphone)
Enter Andrew and Amanda.
He had been described to me as a peacock, and it was obvious that together they were a painting waiting to happen.
During a teabreak, they stepped outside and as they did so a wedding party went by and gave them the sort of look normally reserved for things you've trodden in.
Considering the bride appeared to be wearing a meringue and her intended bore more than a passing resemblance to crippled penguin I thought it was a bit thick, really.
At this point it would be easy to get all crusading about narrow minded bigotry and xenophobic intolerance towards people who step outside the perceived norm, but in truth it was really just one numpty moment.
The fact that some of my lot had come on the bus in all their Gothic splendour without any problem sort of balanced the whole thing up, but it gave me just what I needed as a counterpoint.
I'm more concerned with celebrating the colour and magic that interesting people bring to the world.

So, here are the various stages so far.
It's a big painting (about 6'x3') and it's taken flippin' ages.
I've changed the background so many times it weighs more than I do now.
I started it last April and it's been treading on the back of my shoe ever since.
I've finally worked out was missing, as a result of standing in Westonbirt Arboretum on a windy day.
A big gust virtually stripped a Sycamore tree, and for a moment I was surrounded by falling leaves  - just like confetti.
Bingo...
No more excuses, I shall now finish it off and get it photographed.
Honest.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Mining the back catalogue

Ok, so here's me thinking I've finally devised a new style for myself - of the moment, fresh off the block.
And then I find these two little watercolour sketches in an old portfolio of mine, dating back to the early 90's, and I realise that the seeds of the current stuff were sown a long time ago.


Why has it taken this long to realise that I already had it?
Why did I not get my act together twenty years ago?
Why don't sheep shrink in the wet (what?!)
The answer is moleskins.
I started keeping track of my ideas, thoughts, rambling incoherent futterings and scraps of dreams in little black moleskin sketchbooks, a well judged present from Mandy, who knows better than anybody when I need a constructive boot up the upholstery.  
(They're not made out of real moles skins, that would be unacceptable. I think they're actually dolphin).
Anyway, they have become a treasure house of all my creative thinking; a familiar friend to revisit when I need a direction or an idea.
Over the years they've filled up with thoughts and responses to virtually every situation I find myself in as an artist.
Can't/won't get my finger out and start?  - turn to page 4, book 2 and there's a whole page with 'JUST DO IT" written all over it.
Stuck for a figure to fill the middle distance? - page 17, book 4 and there's a sketch of a gent who's no stranger to pies sitting under a tree.
If I'd had those books back in the 90's, I might have kept these little watercolours to hand, and be twenty years ahead of myself by now.
So what am I faffing about with now, I wonder, that I won't get organised until 2031?
Enough of this fuckwittery, by then I'll probably have trouble remembering where I live...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Under the Ivy

I remember my teens as a time of almost painful awareness. Sad theme tunes to crap tv shows, poetry, birdsong, even statues could provoke an intensity of feeling that is both wonderful and destructive.
You just can't feel like that on a long term basis.
Just to make things worse, I had very little in the way of skills to translate all that passion into anything worthy.
King of the world, bottom of the ladder.
But I did have a little flair, and a lot of desire.
I also had some very undesirable flares...
Fast forward several ice ages and I've learnt my craft.
Working late in the studio I heard a song that summed up all that adolescent purity of feeling in a way that made me realise how much I wished I could go back there.
(Kate Bush, Under the Ivy - listen to it on your own, with no grown ups around)
To have that sincerity, and the skills to represent it would be amazing.
So, with the finished painting already in my head, it was off to the Goth clubs again.
To their endless credit, not one person has reacted with suspicion or concern on these occasions, even when a total stranger invades their space and asks them to 'model for a painting' - it's like restraining orders had never been invented.
So, once again, thank you to Becky for being a perfect subject and making it possible for me to open a door to a past version of myself.
For those who like Victorian symbolism, there's no point in pretending to be mysterious:
The rose is for purity, the snake is sin, the Large Blue butterfly is about impermanence and ivy has always had associations with constancy.
The rusted lamp is an old favourite, and can be found in Holman Hunt's 'Light of the World'.
In fact, I hadn't realised how much I had been influenced by it until I'd finished this painting.

Incidentally, I built the image around the principles of the Golden Ratio, which is supposed to be the ideal proportion for the human eye to accept (much used by ancient Greeks and the like, so who am I to argue).
Somehow, it just seemed right:
The whole painting took exactly 40 hours, over the fortnight after Christmas, and it really did feel like it painted itself - I just waved a hairy stick at it and watched it emerge.
This does not happen very often...
Oh, and Becky...?  - loved painting the boot!.


Friday, 25 February 2011

Adoration of the iphone

Until quite recently the Vatican paid women not to reveal that the father of their child was a priest.
Sometimes the children were placed in carehomes as well.
As recently as the '70's pregnant girls could be sent to secure institutions to hide their shame from a stern, unforgiving disapproval.
As a punishment for their waywardness they were made to do menial work, under brutal conditions.
The concept of women as architects of deceit and temptation, beguiling creatures capable of derailing even the most virtuous of men, goes back to the dawn of history.
Hmmm....
It struck me as odd, then that a symbol of religous veneration could be an unmarried mother.
Also, if Jesus came back, would he Tweet?
Just a thought.
Maybe I need to get out more.