On Melancholia. Acrylic, pencil and oil paint on prepared paper. 91 x 72cm. November – January 2021.
Another painting that took a long time, with a fair bit of thought involved. Again, the work was halted and not particularly ‘finished’. It started out from a great thirty minute pose, which immediately made me think of the Albrecht Dürer etching called Melancholia. It’s a riff on this work, rather than a copy. I’m still not sure about the nudity, which is strange for me. She was very nearly clothed but it might have looked contrived. Nudes were used as symbols in the past, though I don’t want the painting to be too ‘sexy’, At least she is covering herself a bit with knowledge, even if the book is closed. There is obviously a lot of colour and object echoing. Some fun balancing of objects in the pictures composition. An odd, dislocated atmosphere pervades. As near as I have got to Giorgio de Chirico. Books are becoming a theme as is a bright colour against coloured greys. Working the skin over in oil paint really helps bring the painting to life. Looking at it now, the shadows still need some work…
Details of the work. The head has a little bit of a photograph of Mary from Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Pietà. I’ve been using black and white photographs in a big old art book of his sculpture as reference for a while now, when my drawing hasn’t enough information in it for me to work from.
The first life study, the other paintings on the night. A space of sketches. The painting without frame. The fantastical Albrecht Dürer etching and another sketch by a renaissance artist.
On the theme of Samuel Beckett (PUSH). Acrylic, pencil, and oil paint. 70 x 92cm. 26 November – January 2021. This work had a lot of thought and time put into it. I treated it as a commission from a patron, researching and taking notes to make a multi layered painting. I joked that it was fitting that the painting I was making was an essay in failure! Enjoyable. It’s also closer to home, without meaning it to be. The work limped to a stop, the closed (golden) notebook was the last touch.
Here’s a ‘key’ for the painting: Remaking and revision until the work being left Mistakes on top of mistakes Concious seperation from the viewer Vision or the lack of vision Putting the creator on a pedestal Handsomeness and it’s part in lasting fame Vanity Quality and it’s opposite Growth and inevitably, death A soiled nature A closed notebook Unreadable and unknowable text A ribbon of tape and two rocks, as symbols for Krapp’s Last Tape and Waiting For Godot A sealed room A sly, black humour
Details, showing the different textures and layers.
The original life study, sketches and notes, the work in progress, reference images. I watched and listened to Waiting For Godot and listened to the In Our Time episode and different biographical programs. All interesting and enjoyable in their own way. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00021q7
Sebastian in the sun. Oil on wood, 41 x 41cm. This painting looks very different in different lights. Notice how there is a warm cast on the left and a cold cast on the right. Most of the time painting was spent going between the wrong tone and colour (too light, too cold, too dark, too warm) and moulding the features in various brushes and paint thicknesses. Getting the contrast between the brightness of the sea and sky and the subject really pushes Seb forward in the picture frame. The work has presence and personality, due to the painting and Sebs inquisitive look.
I see you. Acrylic and oils on canvas. 91 x76cm Another version on what to do after the life drawing session. This is a streamlined composition, with each element refined. There was supposed to be two life drawing sessions, due to Covid, this did not happen. In the first session I concentrated on getting a dynamic composition, thinking I would work on the chair at home and work on the skin tone in the next session. After the model had left the room a reference image of the chair was taken. When I knew the next session wasn’t going to take place, the painting took different tack. Gathering together different elements to help, from Rubens’ paintings for skin colour and treatment to Michelangelo sculpture for details of the foot. The model’s features and hair changed to make the work more confrontational. In a painting you can choose to disregard, rework of tweak every element. If you don’t want to paint purple, you don’t have to. It was fun seeing what clothes did to the painting. The title is from a brilliant Aimee Mann song, an imaginary portrait of a character from her last album. The frame is from the great Frans Hals exhibition at the Wallace collection.
The original life study, made in around 3 hours. The photo of the chair without model. A Rubens used as reference for the rendering of skin tones. A page from the sketchbook on the chair with colours from the painting tested around it. A sketch.
Details. Notice the difference between the chair and skin. The chair is in acrylic, the skin in oils.
Our cat, George, died, after 18 years of lazing about. We really loved that large, friendly and incontinent cat. A victorian idea after a favourite pet had died was to stuff or make a wooden effigy of the pet and get their butler to position the effigy about the house in the pet’s favourite places. This seemed a bit creepy. What to do? What did George most like? Being sleepy on a rug. Nepalese Tiger rugs are great objects, why not make George into a rug? So that is what has happened.
Study in the study. Acrylic and a little pencil on prepared paper. 3 hours. 1 brush. The idea behind this work was to spend time on the whole composition, rather than just the body. Objects were moved, some colours were changed and only one brush was used. I like the art within the art, the Peter Paul Rubens on the wall, the Monet’s in the open book. However long you look at these images within the image, they are never in focus. Also, the plant almost having the same presence in the painting as the model. the composition is purposely quite flat, to accentuate the foot and stool coming out of the picture.
Some details from the painting. I am trying to get the colours of shadows, which is endlessly fascinating, as your eye recalibrates them, making them lighter as you stare at them.
Under a bridge in the rain, Monsal trail. Summer 2021. Oil (and rain) on canvas. 40 x40cm. A plien air painting! Quite a situation, stung by stinging nettles, umbrella in free hand, brush in the other, children abseiling from the bridge near me. The green! A truly beautiful part of England. I’ve painted there before in acrylics, oil paint was more problematic but more rewarding. I was worked on at home as I wanted to finish the ‘front’ of the painting. My first Impressionist work. link to Monsal trail. I could spend months painting this half mile stretch of Derbyshire.
The work as it was that rainy day, the kit, where I was (under the bridge), what I could see and the painting without a frame.
S & L in the summer. Painted August- October 2021. Oil on canvas. 76 x 102 cm. This painting was a joy to make. I’ve tried to keep the joy, energy and fun of being young. The colours are intense and layered. The paintwork needed to look quick to go with the dynamism. Below is a selection of pages from the book of the painting.
Riffing on Patricia Highsmith (Ph.3). Acrylic, pencil and oil paint on prepared paper. 68 X 97cm. So, the writer’s books, personality and look are challenging and a great springboard for art. Even her drawings are pretty strong. You can like the work and not the person, though her real for love snails over humans make for some fun stories, not so her self loathing and mean anti-semitism. Trying not to be too literal (yes, that is a pun) and taking a recent life painting, I loaded the work with extra specific imagery, textures and mediums. Trying to get a feeling of her world. The Ph.3 is a pun as well. You can make of it what you will.
So there’s: • pretending to be another – the model being changed to the idea of ‘Patricia’ • The intense look • The angry typewriter • A lovely snail • A carpet to hide things under • The sharp scalpel • Paperbacks strewn • An exotic plant • The rented bare apartment • Jarring colours • A blood red sheet cascading down • A wall of what is real and not real (obviously a painting is not real; or as real as a novel…) • … is that a body behind that far wall?
See below for details.
Photos of Patricia Highsmith and an old sketchbook page and new sketchbook pages with lists.
Kit as French flag. Acrylic and Chinagraph on prepared paper. 72 x 102cm. 30 minutes. What a pleasure to paint this fine haired fellow. Friday night a St. Lukes. The texture of painting over old work adds to the texture. The dots on his skin were really there, put on by the tutor, John Close, to aid the artists eye. Something of the Edward Fox about the man.
Kit and Kit arguing. Acrylic and Chinagraph on prepared paper. 60 x 80cm. 1 hour. An entertaining time with the model going between poses, with much talk of Eastenders.
Kit breaks out. Used as an illustration. Kit playing the Dane. 15 minutes of trying to make all the marks work together. Kit framed. Something fluent about this. Yes, I could correct the frame but who cares? Kit portrait. Thought the large painting would work well as a small profile.
The character actorat rest. Acrylics and Chinagraph on watercolour paper. Around A3. Such a pleasure drawing Robin. This session was loosely based on some of Francis Bacon’s set ups; I couldn’t seem to come up with anything quite as dark. The palette is good and strong on this painting,
Robin facing himself. Odd how not having the real head to draw means the composition usually gets better. The unframed version of The character actor at rest. Note the paper. Robin as a Minator like character. Wow, that was fun. Robin in a box. I used to do a lot of characters like this around 1987… Robin framed. 15 minutes, frames make measuring proportion easier.
Going to Rodin at the Tate Modern, was as good as I imagined it could be. Really thought provoking and exciting, a show with ideas on scale, theme, revision, finish, intuition, lack of colour, the body and sexuality. It makes you want to sculpt. My friend Steve and I had a great time looking, chatting about what it would be like modelling for Rodin and sketching; the work was so overwhelming we needed a gap for coffee and cake.
Now and then. Acrylics and pencil on prepared paper. 90 x 70cm. The painting set up had A Rubens reproduction on the wall, a life model on a chair and a fake fur stole. The mix of textures from the shiny art print, the fur, skin and fabric give the painting variation. Working on a dark ground always makes for drama. Yes, they did have cool light pink hair.
Seated, fabric, red paper, wings and the window. Acrylic, pencils and oil paint. Made from four fifteen minute poses. There was talk in the studio about the prop wings from Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s paintings. When I got the work home my daughter thought I should add wings to the figure, so it seemed fate. I kept on adding to the work intermittently over the next week, in-between other paintings. Fun having a small detail of a window.
Stand. Acrylics on paper. A fifteen minute pose working on slightly at home. It has a questioning atmosphere. For once the white paper is doing something in the painting.
Man on blue. Acrylic and pencil on prepared paper. This week I wanted to focus on skin colours. We were in a big room and the model was fairly far away, so no distortions. There were a lot of blue chairs about, which gives the image rhythm.
Man on blue. Acrylic and pencil on prepared paper. Four 15 minute poses. The room had a bright red walls which added some zing. The hardest thing to do in colour choice is to get the skin tone in shadow correct, as if you look at it with focus your eye will change their aperture to make the colour lighter.
Friday life drawing has started again, this time in a small group of talented artists at St.Lukes, South Islington. www.slpt.org.uk I miss friendly The Mary Ward Centre with it’s purpose built life room. The tutor is the same, the great John Close, the room is smaller but interesting and there are different props, including a nice chair.
Lady in grey, red and green. Acrylic and pencil on paper. 95x70cm. Nice to be using acrylics again, more immediacy and quicker drying time, less worry about paint on my clothes. The paint is mixed from tester pots with names like ‘Scotch grey’, ‘Vineyard and 'de Nimes’. The chair leg really helps the composition, with it echoing the models legs. Note the amount of time spent on the blanket, which in real life is dark magenta.
Some 30 and 15 minute poses. I felt very calm and just let the work happen. You can see the different techniques used.
Here’s looking at you. Oil on canvas. 90x90cm. This probably the last painting I’ll make in the wonderful life room of the Mary Ward Centre, Queens Square, London. Friday nights will never be the same. That large, purpose built space has been one of my favourite places on the planet for the last 8 years. Mary Ward are moving to Stratford, which is understandable but a shame. This painting is over an old work of mine. I covered the canvas with plaster and coated that with gesso. There were two live sessions with the model. I found a spot behind a fellow artist, the perspective it gave and the trope of artist painting artist painting model made the composition work harder than normal. On the second session the lady artist didn’t turn up which was a shame, in the last minutes of the time I had an artist quickly take a photo of me in the pose. In the next few sessions at home, the lady was morphed into a self portrait, colours were changed and the composition tweaked. Finally some art within the painting was added.
Previous stages a photo taken outside the Mary Ward Centre and reference material.