Saturday, July 28, 2007

Finalist in the 24th Annual Artist's Magazine Competition

My painting "Untitled" (oil on canvas, 24" x 20", 2007) was selected as a finalist in the 24th Annual Artist's Magazine Competition in the Experimental category.

Friday, July 27, 2007

These are a selection of new sketches.


Sunday, October 29th, 2006
At present I am reading some earlyish American novelists: Cather, Capote, Hawthorne and I greatly moved by some of the characters and especially by their pioneering status within the environment of the hot American prairies.

I painted an earlier work based on a Woolf character called "Self-portrait as Shelmerdine". I am fascinated by the surreal both intentional and not, and find it in a lot of Degas' works, and also Balthus, Hopper - more influences, although not literary of course. Capote's early work is so wonderfully strange - Other Voices, Other Rooms, for example- and together with the slightly mesmerising quality of mid-summer in certain US states it makes for highly powerful imagery.

Monday, October 30th, 2006
I am trying to achieve the seriousness of expression you would find in a Capote or Cather novel in my work. I use myself a lot as a model because photographs are so static for me. When I paint myself, each time I look I am in a slightly different pose and this helps to create a movement and life. Also, you can completely change your mind and find what it really is that inspires you. Sometimes things just seem so tedious and not worth the effort when I paint and by moving around I am finding that I need more of a sense of solidity and form and, at the moment, a light and dark contrast - I am discovering I love to work with the reflected light in the shadow; to create interesting paint and purer color as well as achieving a sense of visual reality.

Saturday, November 4th, 2006
I almost always paint from life, although I on occasions forced to use photos. I think working from film stills might be more interesting, as there's a sense of movement there, and you can play more of the film and get a truer sense of physiognomy and character.

Thursday, March 8th, 2007
I have always been influenced by music, and not always classical, in my painting. I have also been influenced by literature and theatre too. I am very often inspired to express the idea of music in my work but it has been difficult to discover a way of doing that satisfactorarily. I did attempt to do a work on the theme of Grieg's Peer Gynt suite. I had just read Ibsen's play (which actually moved me more than the Grieg music, but you can't read and paint can you?). At the moment I have been thinking a lot about Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado as it is currently being performed where we live. I am most moved to paint something on Yum Yum's song "The Sun and I".

So far, though, my attempts to express these ideas fall very much below the height and intensity of my emotional response to the music. I am trying to get my work more equal to the abstract qualities of musical notes - to get colours, shapes, and contrasts such as vigour and tenderness in the brushstrokes to fore so that I can move away from illustration to a more musical feeling. I do often feel when I am painting well that it is akin to singing.

I have been influenced by the composer Satie very much, and, early on, by the Beatles, and also the Paddington Bear theme and the Wombles (British children's programmes from the 70's), so it all depends on where I am mentally and emotionally (how nostalgic I am feeling or how much I feel I can face the brave new world!).

On a side note, I am, at present, influenced by the books I am reading. Willa Cather's novels brought a bright, yellow sunlight into my paintings, while Faulkner's "Hamlet" turned my paintings more towards a green grey light and shadow. This was an unintended development. I wasn't trying to paint what I read at all. My mood changed naturally by reading these different writers, and the resulting expression was unforced and unexpected and because of this, it made a powerful and convincing feeling in my work.

I don't paint while listening to music, although I have very much done so in the past, listening to radio stations that play classical music so that I don't have to break through my concentration and reverie to turn over or change cd's. I found the interruption of the adverts very irritating, though. And even the music itself became irritating because it often would not coincide with my particular mood - i.e the station would often be garishly dramatic when I was trying to paint something delicate and difficult, which made me too angry without being able to use that anger productively.

The memory of music (and of plays and books) is most important to me because it is with that that the aspects of things that I have assimilated come out in an honest metamorphosis of the original theme.

On a last note, my musical appreciation and ability to play the piano certainly improved when my painting began to mature. I had a much deeper understanding of music when I began to understand what it was to paint like an adult - with larger ideas more encompassing of a universal humanity; or when I began to get to know myself as a human being living alongside other human beings.

Monday, March 12, 2007
I did my Master's thesis on the topic of tactility in contemporary figurative / portrait painting. I focussed on the loss of boundaries between the artist and the painted object and, subsequently, between the viewer and the resulting painting.

I was fascinated by the question of what makes or made a figure painting great. i.e a real sense of flesh, touchable and human. This idea was spurred by the sparsity of luscious contemporary figurative painting like the paintings of Courbet, for example, and by the lack of interest (it seemed) in painting in general.

My idea of loss of boundaries is, I think, similar to your idea of an abyss. It's a loss of self-consciousness, of agitation, over-passionateness, when you become physically tired and your body's excess energy and excitement don't interfere. In the beginning or when your painting gets stuck, I find it's very helpful to be angry or passionate because it warms you up, if you will, wrenches you out of your complacency or out of your old and exhausted ideas to new ones, or to a place where your subconscious is not hindered in it's expression. But it is at the time when you become dreamy, doodley, or quiet that things really start to happen. You forget what you have in mind to achieve, and just paint. It's at these times that the painting breaks through to a new level, and you stand back and are amazed at what has happened and are at a loss to say how it came about.

With my own work I generally have to have everything very quiet and be alone to have this happen (that's why I paint so many self-portraits). And as I grow more confident I can take longer breaks between paintings and between painting sessions. The less confident I am the longer I worry over a work. These breakthroughs, for me, are generally short lived, but when they happen I achieve more in a 2 hour period than a week of constant fussing.

So I think these periods in the "abyss" don't need to be lengthened, or forced. They happen naturally and at the length your mind needs. It's really a matter of allowing them to happen. Your own mind, your subconscious, is really the foremost painting guide you should have.

Michael Fried, and American art critic and historian, wrote a lot about Courbet and the idea of absorbtion of the viewer in front of Courbet's paintings. It's about bringing the viewer into the same boundaryless state the artist was when painting the work.

Here's a link to him on Wikipedia with a bibliography. Fried has some very exciting ideas, and he is well worth reading.

Sunday, June 3, 2007
With painting the skin, I don't often use glazes because I don't really have the patience, but I do have a number of layers of paint from all the workings-out I do before I am finally satisfied. So that creates a kind of depth which is sometimes like polished precious stone i.e it looks as if you are seeing the colours and lines under a glass-like surface. You see the ghosts of earlier painted, partially destroyed, figures and that brings a mystery to the work, as if it were telling its own story and dictating my actions. I love it when I achieve that because I feel I am much freer from my clumsy self-conscious ideas - as though the painting itself has taken over the responsibility of its existence.

Orator, oil on Canvas, 30" x 24", 2007

This painting was inspired by the effects of the scrapings-off that happened during it's initial progress. The effect of the light having more presence that the form and solidity of the figure was exciting, and it suggested a kind of heat-haze or glare from footlights on the theatrical stage. I am very often drawn to the idea of the dramatic arts with the flamboyant characters and narratives, the dramatic lighting and the freedom to portray exaggerated poses and costumes with the risk of affectedness.