Saturday, 30 January 2010

For Someone Who Likes Large Chops!

This might not be here that long.........!

I haven’t had the best two weeks back at work after my long break. I’m still here but the events of the past two weeks support my experience that artists are much nicer people to hang out with than business people. The difference between the two groups is quantum. Because I was feeling so angry with the business world, I was delighted to wake up this morning to very bright sunshine; perfect conditions for artists and photographers. My nocturnal sketching during the weeknights hadn’t taken off somehow because the light wasn’t good enough, not even for spontaneous charcoal work. However, the light, no matter how good this morning, just wasn’t all that was needed to take a very good photograph of a very crazy painting. I need a new camera; more pixels and the correct lens.

Maybe a painting of lamp chops standing on their ‘shoulders’ on a bread board is not crazy to some painters, but I had never painted anything like this before. My experience with close-ups, still lifes and even outdoor scenes is limited. If I dare say it, my 'strength' as a painter has always been with conceptual work, huge non-representational works. Now, it is my objective to ‘get good’ at these more 'classical' genres just for the experience. For this still life I worked from a photograph, obviously, and didn’t manipulate the lighting or composition to make the scene more interesting or enigmatic. Just a straight shot – the bare bones so to speak – and a straight painting was what I was looking for. However, it took a lot of ‘seeing’ to get the chops to remotely represent the real thing, and I think I should have made them smaller with more space around them.

Another obstacle I faced was painting in oil on an acrylic primer. Mistake. I noticed the lack of sympatico between the primer and the oil with the first few brushstrokes and I thought that after the first layer of oil was down, the primer would have no influence. Wrong. I don't understand the science of this but for the record I now understand that acrylic primer is for painting with acrylics and oil based gesso is for painting with oils.

I don't know why I am posting this work because I am totally uncrazy about it - but I was determined to discipline myself to finish it. I might delete this post after a while but I do like getting work up on this blog for some reason or another. I'm now off to finish a pesky outdoor scene with lots of challenging foliage. After lunch of course.

"Lamb Chops"
Oil on Board - 12" x 12"

Monday, 25 January 2010

Determined to Draw

I am determined to draw a little, or a lot, each night this week. So determined was I when I arrived home tonight that I took out most of my charcoal and chalks, erasers, knives, and drawing pads and put them on the table so I would not be able to ignore them. This is a trick I have to play on myself. Although it is untidy and impractical to have all that material lying around, it makes life easier not having to unpack the material each night from my trusty toolbox.

I've decided for my next submission to the current Following the Masters challenge, I am not going to do a painting, I am going to do a charcoal sketch of the artist whose work we are paying homage to - Robert Henri. I have found a good photograph on the internet, so I'll work from that. I just don't know his work at all, and nor do I know the work of the Ashcan School. This makes me realise just how Eurocentric my art knowledge is at present, and even our libraries don't seem to have any decent monographs on his work or of his followers. I love to work from a good reproduction, but this time they are not available, so I'm going to use this challenge to practice my drawing. Not inventive, but totally practical. Some more clarity.

Off we go...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Feeling Behind then Gaining Clarity

At the end of my first week back at work after a long four weeks on leave, all I wanted to do was shut myself away and paint. I had been feeling huge frustration at not being able to complete all the paintings I had started during my leave. I learned a lot from that experience: the work I am doing is too ‘complicated’ in the sense that I need to wait for layers to dry during the process. I have to learn how to paint a la prima, and learn it soon. I think a couple of workshops are on the way. Unfortunately, as far as my research has taken me, the best ones are in the USA. Time will tell.

During my break, I wanted to finish work and good work at that – at least paintings that I was happy with. I usually stick with a work to try and resolve the problems and that strategy has always taught me something. However I realised that some of the work I had done was just not redeemable. So, I wiped out two and re-primed them with Titanium White oil paint, so heaven only knows what will appear on those surfaces. For at least two weeks it was far too dark to paint during the day and I had to paint with my daylight lamp attached to my table easel. Even with this lamp on I felt I wasn’t using colour very well. Also, it was far too dark to take any decent photographs – it still is, here in London. These are not complaints; just facts.

Today, I had planned to see an exhibition at the National Gallery, but when I woke up, the whole event and outing just wasn’t ‘speaking’ to me any more, (which was very strange for me) so I spent a few hours working on an outdoor scene I had photographed two years ago. This was one of the paintings I started during my leave, but couldn’t complete. Yet another work, too complicated to paint in a day; well for me at least. However, I made progress and learned a lot and even with these tiny, and I mean really tiny, movements forward with understanding and getting back to ‘seeing’, told me that I had made a good decision to stay at home. By listening to my own inner voice, I gained clarity. This clarity revolves around staying with my own work and spending more time on it instead of rushing around trying to absorb the whole art world in one weekend. It also revolves around really sticking with paintings that don't go well from the beginning. It also helped confirm what makes me really happy.

I also have to learn how to manage my time. I am awful at it. Not going to the art exhibition, gave me time. The painting I am working on will not end up on anyone’s wall, but it is in the completion of it that I get clear about what it takes to be a painter and the feeling of satisfaction is incomparable.

Until the Summer light comes, I think I shall spend the nights working on charcoal drawings just to try and keep creating each day and practicing, practicing, practicing. The weekends shall be reserved for painting. I have one nearly-finished still life from my weeks off work which I tried to photograph today but for that, again, the light was poor. It is the weirdest still life I have ever attempted, and maybe, if I am in a quirky mood next weekend, I’ll post it here.

a.m. - Feeling Behind & Out of Focus

p.m. - Progress and Clarity

Monday, 11 January 2010

Homage to a Homage

This is my submission to the latest Following the Masters challenge. I have been waiting so long to photograph this work because the light has been so poor lately. However, today, I decided I could not wait any longer as the deadline for submission is tomorrow, so I chose the best photograph out of many and felt it would have to do as 'good enough' for the project.

I chose this Picasso because it was one of the works on show at a magnificent blockbuster exhibition held at the National Gallery in 2009. The format was also roughly the same as a spare canvas I had, so a lot of practicality was involved in choosing this work. It is not my favourite by a long distance, but I loved its quirkiness. This massive show was titled "PICASSO - Challenging the Past". The entire exhibition was based on Picasso's own homages to past masters and the pictures he had painted directly from their masterpieces, e.g. Velasquez' 'Las Meninas' which was for me, the utlimate picture at the show. So my work is a homage to Picasso's homage to Lucas Cranach the Younger! It was a spectacular show and I found it very difficult to leave the exhibition halls. The energy of all his work together was staggering. The original work is actually a linocut and to emulate some of those effects was difficult but I didn't try to push that too hard. In addition, the yellows and ochres were incredibly hard to paint. I had to go over them many times to get them to look solid. I should have thought this through carefully at the beginning but I was so eager to start. It took a lot longer than I anticipated. I kept seeing extra details that I had missed but all in all, it is close enough to my original vision to send it off to Following the Masters. Another interesting part of this challenge was finding the original work by Lucas Cranach the Younger which inspired Picasso to do his linocut. I find all these transitions over time hugely absorbing.

My homage to Picasso

Oil on Canvas - 30" x 25"

The Original Picasso
"Portrait of a Woman after Cranach the Younger"
Colour Linocut - 25" x 13"

The Original of Lucas Cranach the Younger

"Portrait of a Woman" - Oil on Board - 83 x 64 cm

Kunsthistorisches Museum - Vienna

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Pepper Study

This took 45 minutes. I was desperate to paint something, anything. I haven't been able to paint under good light conditions for days as it is so incredibly dark here and my daylight lamp is inandequate for more demanding projects. This type of exercise reminds me of school art class and quite frankly, if memory serves me well, I could have pulled off a better realised represenation of this type of object in those days. I didn't make any effort at a special composition, nor did I fuss with background colours in an attempt to create a more visually interesting arrangement. I just placed the pepper on a breadboard and painted what was in front of me.

I will photograph it again in better light (when we see the sun again), not because this small work is worthy of it, but I just can't stand colour inaccuracy when posting my work to the blog. This is a discipline for me only and not because I expect anybody else to care too much, if at all, but I also like getting my work up and posted as soon as possible after completion. It's a trick to feel good.

"Yellow Pepper"

Oil on Canvas - 8" x 8"

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Charcoal Portrait

At the beginning of my annual leave, I decided I would do some sketching as well as painting. This is the first sketch, a warm-up so to speak, and even though there are many things I would like to correct, I am quite pleased with it, especially the likeness to the 'model' which surprised me as I wasn't too concerned with that at first. It was sketched from a rather dramatic photograph taken in artificial light. I just loved the way the folds of the scarf emerged from the pitch black background and this was a delight to represent in the sketch. I had forgotten the range of options available with charcoal, and I unfortunately started this out on paper that was slightly too rough for the effect I was trying to achieve. I thought I had finished it last night with only a few minor corrections to make this morning, but when I got close to it in the cold light of day, I saw there was so much more I could do to bring it closer to the actual photograph. The first layer of charcoal on the background wasn't intense enough to convey the stark chiaroscuro of the photograph, so I was glad I had sprayed fixative over the whole sketch last night. This gave the surface a 'tooth' this morning and I was able to darken the work quite considerably. This was a good learning excercise for me and I had forgotten how quickly one can finish a drawing compared to an oil painting, with the added benefit of it being suitable for night time work when it's easier to work with black and white knowing there will be no colour mistakes in the morning.


Charcoal on Cartridge Paper - 11.5" x 11.5"