Monday, 30 April 2012

The Right to Bare Arms

I don't understand.

No really, I haven't got a clue.

Not even a geriatric glow worms arse of an idea to light the moles-pocket darkness of my total and utter incomprehension.

Throughout the passage of my disorganised, rudderless, futtering existence there has been one comforting precept that I have come to rely on;  that if I repeat any activity to which I bear some small aptitude a sufficient number of times, then I become tolerably proficient at it.

It's a strategy that has served me well in many areas:

Riding a bicycle, brushing my teeth without poking my eye out, avoiding IKEA, impersonating a stoat, getting fired from proper jobs, making tiny mice out of apple pips, buying shoes that don't fit.

All these, and more, are areas where I feel completely capable because I have done them so many times that I no longer have to think about them.  They just sort of happen automatically.

I rely on them.

Soooo.... why in the name of God's underpants do I periodically lose the ability to make anything even vaguely convincing appear on the evil, taunting piece of overstarched bedlinen propped up on the easel in front of me?

I mean, what if I suddenly forgot how to drive a car half way round Oxford circus, or had a momentary lapse of cognisance whilst doing something crucial involving a step ladder, a bucket of angry gerbils and an unusually large Swiss army knife?

I live in the cosy reassurance that such things are unlikely to happen, so why does the one ability I've devoted more time and attention to than any other suddenly decide to pack it's Speedo's and buzz off on its holidays without leaving a forwarding address?!

By now you may have gathered that the current bid for artistic gold has not gone according to plan.

It's like turning up at the Olympics only to find you've forgotten your PE kit.

It should be so simple: Paint the chairman's portrait as a present for his birthday.

I've worked with him for years, he's a perfect sitter, and I get a pretty fair likeness of his more reflective, personal side in a couple of takes.

Bung in his favourite winebar and a few memento's and the job's all but done.

All but for the foreground figure which steadfastly refuses to resemble a woman in a sleeveless dress and persists in looking like a haddock that's swallowed a hunchback.

Some days you just feel like sitting at the bottom of the garden eating worms.

At least I know how to do that....


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Woman

It's odd,  but reassuring,  how paintings seem to sort themselves out if you let them.

This one is far from finished yet,  but it's on it's way.

If you recall,  I'd made a pig's protrusion of it by trying to fake it using old photo's as reference instead of basing it on a real person.

Long story short:
Quick trip to a Burlesque show in town, friendly fabulous dancers,  a studio session involving feathers, glitter,  fishnets and a spontaneous symposium on the failure rate of merkin attachment products and I had everything (and more ) that I needed to complete this painting and a whole bunch more.

By now you will have gathered that this whole process is to do with so much more than making pictures.

It's about meeting some pretty amazing people,  being witness to their stories  and celebrating the magic and brilliance of their take on the world.

All I have to do is link up the themes and colour them in.

This, then, is the story so far of a painting that feels like it would finish itself if I stopped painting it.

Without giving it all away, I wanted to paint something around the idea of the point at which we choose to identify ourselves.

Do we identify ourselves when we are young and beautiful, or when we're rich with experience?

Do we stop the clock at the bit that represents us at our best, and if so, when is that?

Youthful and desirable or old and dribbly, it's all part of the same story.

Maybe it's good to hold onto the evidence of our lives as we go along, so that one day, when some well intentioned teen is tucking the acrylic blanket round our boney knees, we can take out the scrapbook of how fabulous we once were and beat the sanctimonious smirk off their face with it.

Time is a thief that steals your future while you're looking for the keys of the here and now, so make each day a burlesque show in your heart.

Just mind your merkin...