Really had no idea it’s so long since I posted – that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on, but maybe I’m not ready to share it. To update things here, there is a new strange family of clay figures, based on a photo that also provided the basis for some paintings. Very keen to do some drawing now, in a broad definition of what drawing might be, the sort of work I have previously described as thinking aloud. Meanwhile …
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.
Quite a lot of my recent work has been about faces, from simplified prints to a recent series of watercolours. So then I thought it was appropriate to review work I did several years ago, which was based on newspaper photos, chosen fairly randomly on the basis of visual interest. At that time, the paper I regularly read had a sort of design ‘tic’, where all the people mentioned in a feature would be shown in a block grid of close up portraits. I was interested both in the detail and texture of the faces, and in the degree of repetition, created by the presentation.This is an acrylic painting on board, approximately 3ft (Im) square. It sold quite soon after it was done, and I haven’t seen it since. It lives quite vividly in my memory. The subjects were all managers of football teams, at the time quite well known but relatively unremarkable people, faces you wouldn’t necessarily pick out in a crowd. It was the juxtaposition that intrigued me.
The watercolours I’m doing currently are derived from the family photos that have already been the subjects of other paintings. In this case the visualisation involves extracting each face from the photo as a detail, sometimes small and difficult to decipher. I’ve made several studies and the two shown here are to me the most successful, because I’m looking for an abstract quality to the interpretation – they are not portraits as such, although the people are or have been significant in my life. Both are on A4 size watercolour paper.
Among the early work in this series was a simple watercolour crayon drawing of a single figure – my grandmother on my father’s side. There is something appealing about the pose and the lack of definition in an ageing face. It seems this one will also lend itself to clay modelling, and I’m halfway through a clay version. This drawing is A4 size.
This led to using the image as a repeat – almost a pattern element. Throughout my work there is a recurring theme of seated figures in rows. The group of three uses watercolour crayon and watercolour washes, and is approximately 14 ins (35 cm) square.
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.
This watercolour has been hanging around for a while, it is a companion to some I have posted before (Revisiting 2, January 2014). In some ways it went all wrong – the colours, the quality of the paint, as the paper was not fully sized and so absorbed the liquid more. So I put it up where I keep ongoing work and it has started to haunt me a bit. I don’t know what I will do with it next, but it does ask for something else to happen. Curiously, my scanner refused to see it as a single image so I had to put a strip of tissue down to connect the two parts.
When I started blogging, I presumed I would add something at least weekly, so am somewhat daunted to find it’s over a month since my last post. I have been quite busy with random non-art activities, but also quietly progressing some new ideas. So I’m making a random post, to include a bit of non-art together with things I’m currently working on. If I wait till they are finished, it could be months.
This is a piece of party decoration that took up a lot of my time last week. I was quite happy with the way it worked out. Three different people had parties, and I made some giant letters of their names, plus a message for one of them who is leaving us, made of hand-cut paper lettering. The large letters are paper collage on mountboard.
I am also making some small cardboard figures. One set are drawings on thin card, the others are thick card with fabric collage. I have an idea for these that I’ll explain at a later date, and it’s also the start of moving (tentatively) into 3D.
And I’ll be grateful if anyone can tell me why I have never taken a decent photo with a digital camera. Convenient it is, quality – not so much.
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.