Can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted on the blog, partly it’s because I’m working on 3D pieces that take a long time to start to look like anything. At the same time, I need to get a sense of spontaneity into them that reflects my processes in painting, I want the development of a sculpture to represent its making history, rather than to be disguised as it may be if only a technical means to an end. But I am learning technique at the same time as image-making.
For now, I can post a painting and related small sculpture, inspired by a mummy I saw in Madrid, in the Museo de America. The painting is gouache and oilpastel. The 3D piece is a relief made of thick card, overlaid with fabric and paper collage. It’s fine, but doesn’t quite do what I intended, so more exploring of medium and method needed.
Following a different strand of ideas lately, although in my own mind they are all connected and will eventually cohere visually. Tempted to continue with 3D work, which is very time consuming, and at the same time feeling the need to work with paint and collage, which are my familiar territory. I am also still working quite small, whatever the medium, and now able to envisage scaling up on both the 2D and 3D strands.
The first of these images is one of the postcard paintings, in watercolour and drawing inks, the second and third are gouache and paper collage on A4 size, one squared off and the other using the full dimensions of the paper.
Some people like to use sketchbooks, I tend to do my visual thinking on random pieces of paper. There are always a few versions of things I’m working on that take them through the development of the image. Often the final outcome is a large piece of work. My current ideas are not coming from specific or individual sources, I’m taking all sorts of visual and verbal references and allowing them to collide. All the pieces shown here are on watercolour postcards and combine ink drawing and writing, painting and collage, and printing off card. As they are visual thoughts, I’m not editing much at the moment, just seeing how they turn out. There are eight so far, these are in order of making, numbers 1, 2, 4 and 7.
For most of this year I had the sense of floundering somewhat to find the purpose of my work and connections between different pieces. Now I feel like I have a bit more of a clue. Strangely it’s associated with the evenings getting darker, since I Ilve in a seaside town, it’s hard not to be distracted by a long sunny summer. Currently there is more impulse to work and the confidence to work randomly if necessary, especially when the venture into 3D work uses up a lot of time. For example, the cardboard/fabric figures in the last post are still taking shape quite slowly, overcoming (trying to overcome) some technical problems.
Meanwhile, another idea occurred about the strange photo of my dad in the car. The most recent version is cardboard cutouts painted in gouache, two pieces. They could be displayed as low relief, or as hanging sections
And I’ve been obsessing with faces. There is a sheet of watercolour faces, but apparently my scanner can’t read the whole thing, so this row is representative.And a sheet of potato cuts. Some artist friends recently reminded me of this simple technique, which as it turns out is not so simple. Doing this experimental set has explained how to take them forward.
There’s a section of the painting in the previous post that I particularly liked, both for the content and technique. It’s the row of figures drawn in watercolour crayon with a gouache wash giving lightweight colour.This technique gives a sense of liveliness because the drawing seems to carry more detail than is actually there.
I have since done two versions, in the second the paint colour deliberately overtakes the drawn marks, however the weight of the colour obliterates a vaguely ethereal effect that was was due to the pale wash.From here I want to work on a larger version in letterbox format putting the figures into a row rather than two tiers. The increased scale also means working in acrylic, which I’m not sure about because its ‘plastic’ finish will create very different surface qualities, and I like the softness of the gouache. So it may be that I will use acrylic washes, returning to the more transparent effect of the original detail.
I’m finding the technical elements of WordPress more difficult to work with now as the differences of scale are not apparent with all three the same size within the blog post, but using the first image smaller disrupted the text. You can see I didn’t quite solve that when resizing it. More to learn, but I’d rather be painting than wrestling with the computer.
Invented a complicated metaphor about crossing a river on stones and being constantly distracted by what looks like a better way, though without a clear idea of my destination, apart from the basic crossing to the other side. What that means for the art is, I am hopping from one idea to another and not quite seeing any of them through, and the confusion in these sentences does reflect my state of mind somewhat.
I am currently working on some cardboard cutout figures, a set of small paintings with a view to a larger one (or more) soon as, and some twisty wire shapes supposed to become a standing sculpture. These all have different origins but related themes.
For the past couple of years I have been introducing more of my own history and emotional life into the paintings, following on from the Family Photos series. Recently, through reading, I have been remembering a lot about the Vietnam War, which together with the atmosphere of the Cold War was a blight on my young life for years. There are many resonant – and famous – images from that conflict easily retrievable on google. The first attempt to make a painting incorporating this material stalled halfway. I cut off the bits I didn’t like, and am happier with the partial painting. I then took a look at various types of war art – and hats off to the artists who manage to bring something all their own to the theme, though this most often comes of being actively engaged in the conflict. To address war visually without being trite, overly dramatic or too obvious is a serious challenge. And all along there is the question, do I have a right to this story, having been present at the time only in my head and through pictorial media – both vividly enough as it seemed to the younger me. I am posting two of the current paintings here, very different explorations, and I hope to solve those problems as I continue, because it’s important to me.
Though I haven’t posted for a while, there is new work going on. But I feel as if I’m almost circling around the true focus of where the work should be. Until that new centre emerges I’m just getting on with what comes to mind. Here are a couple of strange ones completed recently, both watercolour and gouache 11 x 15 ins (28 x 37.5cm). These are flash photographs, not scans, so the colours are a bit too luminous, there’s a more earthy quality to the paintings, especially the first one.
It’s a long time since the last post on this blog. That’s not because nothing was happening, but I had nothing for a while that I wanted to share. The painting here is number six of a sequence, at some point I may post the whole evolution of the image but for now I just want to show this one. The figures and faces originate from newspaper photos, by now much changed, the painting is watercolour, gouache and watercolour crayon. The paper size is 11 x 15 in (27 x 38 cm)
Meantime, I also made a short trip to Barcelona and was particularly impressed with the Tapies Foundation, as expected, and the Picasso museum, rather more unexpectedly. I particularly liked the pigeon paintings, which appear to have been a recreational moment during the intensity of the Las Meninas series.
These paintings are also new versions following a drawing first shown on the blog in April. I’m repeating the photo to give context. The interesting thing to me here is the peculiar perspective, where the face seen in the car window seems out of proportion to the other figures. There is more distance between them than is apparent from what you can see of the cars, there’s a kind of telescoping effect.
The first revision is a simple drawing in charcoal pencil and watercolour wash.
The second is watercolour with some collage, the colour works quite well but my composition is off – too crowded, so the oddity of the space is lost.
The next piece is a deliberate effort to move away from how the photograph works. As with the station paintings, it maybe needs a definite change of scale to progress. The face in the car window is a photograph clipped from the newspaper (no one I know) with some gouache work added .
This blog contains some new images in the Family Photos series, and I expect that each of these photos will generate more paintings. The versions shown here represent initial investigations of the subject. There is a period of getting to know the photos, and then getting beyond them, which in this case hasn’t yet happened. All of these images are relatively small, which is typical of the early stages of the work: 1) Railway station acrylic and pastel 2) Lunch in Switzerland , both in gouache and pastel 8x11in (20×27.5cm). (3) Denis in the car watercolour and watercolour crayon 7x5in (17.5×12.5cm).