New Beginning

May 26, 2010

I am returning to this blog. I have been away from it for some time simply because of pressure from work which will not diminish until the Autumn, and it won’t end there (gladly). There is little time for extra things like writing blogs yet thoughts put into words and expanded, replies to interesting comments all help to stimulate the mind and keep the train of thought going. It also helps to put what I am doing into context; makes me reason even more about what I am doing and why.

I have just replied to an interesting comment linked to my last post (Allan Ginsberg) though not connected to it which has taken some time to compose and thus forms really the start of this new phase of writing, so please take a look at it.


Allan Ginsberg

May 4, 2010

Here’s something true. I wrote it down a while ago like a little piece of poetry.

Allan Ginsberg once came into the shop in which I worked. It was Allan Ginsberg. Selecting some postcards he asked “How much are these?” “50p” I replied. That was too much for Allan Ginsberg. He put them back and bought one at 15p. And went out. And that was the kind of man he was?

I think it was re-reading my Richard Brautigan books which brought that one on.

The Influence of Childhood

April 25, 2010

Playground 2007-8 1220x1530mm oil on canvas

It is time to re-start this blog.

A month ago I wrote this.

And now it is Spring. Not only evenings which are lightening but noons and early afternoons which are bright and with a warmth which seems to have welled up from nowhere. And the delayed Spring will have to race to catch up. It will all happen at once. In past years, since my days in the mild south-west, I have seen the flowering currant, forsythia, prunus and flowering cherry burst ever more flamboyantly, earlier and earlier. Daffodils, and Grape Hyacinths and Tulips, Wood Anenomes, Ground Elder, Wild Garlic and Nettles are not yet here this year. Yet the light and warmth means they will suddenly come.

(And of course they have come, though the cold Winter has slowed down the Spring to arrive at the time it did years ago).

I can almost smell nettles in the light and the sharp tang of Broom and of charcoal, of burnt ground. Childhood days spent playing in quarries and spoil heaps, on embankments of disused railway lines, in derelict barns where as successive gangs of innocent childish children, we thought nothing wrong with breaking down walls, setting fires, kicking down turf, or sods as we called them, to dam becks, then dambusting those dams with stones pillaged from drystone walls, kicking stone slates from the rooves of old barns and feeling the delight as they rattled down and smashed on the hard ground below. Then there was the running from the landowners and creeping back much later when we hoped it was safe to return. Our parents knew nothing of what we were doing. Was it vandalism, what we did? Was it delinquency? Something actually did tell us we shouldn’t do it and that was the reason we did. There was innocent excitement in the latent danger of it all. We were children still without the age of responsibility. On the edge of the village, when we played out, when Spring came, this is what we did.

Awakening Land – The Finished Painting

March 31, 2010

It has been a little longer than I intended in publishing this. Finishing this painting, and others, and getting them ready for exhibition has been as intense as can really be. Judge for yourself on the success of Awakening Land. New work, that for which the outcome is unpredicted and unexpected, which is mostly how it is now, presents such a suprise that it is difficult to judge its success. I once wrote in a notebook, 25 years ago as a student, that “I make the marks but am I really in charge?” and it still feels like this. There is always more or something different which can be done to a painting but the painting, once conceived, starts to say what it wants, though often the voice is difficult to hear or understand.

Awakening Land oil on canvas 61x92cm 2010

Awakening Land 5 Friday 27th March 2010

March 27, 2010

Awakening Land 5

The changes are there and I expect, obvious. There isn’t much more to say yet having said that I think there is much I could say. To emphasise; when change is needed, when you are trying to hold on to something which you know is not feeling right, then that change has to happen and when that seemingly drastic thing, knife to canvas, determined charcoal re-drawing happens, it feels good and you don’t know how you came upon such a wise decision. There is still much to go and I don’t have long.

Awakening Land Weds/Thurs 24/25th March 2010

March 25, 2010

When the painting becomes an exploration, when the built up layers and changes start to suggest ever more strongly at potential form, this is when the painting really starts to excite. Very subtle touches, putting that brush against the canvas, yes, but it is putting it yards, hundresd of yards, miles into space, a realised space, an illusion of a real, three-dimensional actality which actually doesn’t exist, in any part.

Nothing is without its troubles. Without troubles, if it seems too easy, painting, the act of painting i.e. the whole thing, not just placing paint on surface, lacks the edge to make me interested; in fact I don’t trust it. Except when I paint from life, a vital act but one which rarely happens with me now, I always encounter the problems of composition, which encompasses tone, line, arrangement of motif, application of paint, all of which affects, from broad to subtle ways, that which is implied in the work, the idea, the concept.

Awakening Land 4

Awakening Land Tuesday 23rd March 2010

March 24, 2010

Awakening land 3

It is actually Wednesday 24th but this image represents yesterdays work. Hopefully a new image will appear in the early hours, representing todays work.

Some changes have occured. When I saw the image on screen, when it looked as though it was being seen from a long way away because of its size, I realised that I didn’t like the expanse of snow and the form of the rock even though I thought they were effective and in their looseness, well painted. When I looked at the painting after sleep I knew immediately what needed to be done. Those first fresh thoughts, like word assosciation are most important. I also knew that though the distance worked and worked with the painting and to any new viewer, probably worked fine, I knew that I have been there before, too many times. This image is one which I have rethought and reworked five or six times. I will only repeat images if I feel that I have not sufficiently achieved a result or that if the image is successful, that variations on that image become possible in my mind and that further exploration is due. Of course there are limitless possible variations using only one image but with this one I felt with the quality of light and the form of rock and snow as it is, that  in the receeding distance suggestive of birch/conifer forest and of frozen lakes, I had been there before.

Making such change, when a sort of success is there already needs serious consideration. Then its a brave hatchet job, or knife, to quickly remove what is unwanted. When you know you are dissatisfied with something there is no point in pretending its ok, no matter how much work you have put into it.

Awakening Land Monday 23rd March 2010

March 23, 2010

Awakening Land

This is probably the fifth day of working on this. Up till now most painting sessions have been short, 15 minutes to half an hour. The first sesion consisted of drawing out in charcoal, fixing the drawing and then working into the drawing with underpainting white which gives the painting early physical presence. When this has dried, burnt sienna, quite thinned with turpentine is washed over. Immediately this has touch dried (very quick, just a few minutes, though the paint is actually still technically wet its wetness has little effect on the thick paint which is then laid, undiluted on top.

All the painting sessions, including the drawing are improvised. I sometimes work from thumbnail sketches I have made but usually these only provide starting points and often I don’t start with anything. The work today took probably in the region of 6 to 7 hours but much of that was in making changes, removing paint, wrestling with composition and just looking, as always.

Awakening Land

March 21, 2010

With so much to do, always, it takes me quite a lot of effort to just sit down here to write this. I know that there are people who are sitting at their computers all day long, blogging. What are they talking about? Who is listening?

Just before Spring officially begins, here is Spring. Almost 60F and in westerley breezes, for the first time for months, the first rain and the first smell of that westerly rain and the smell of earth. In fields which were dry and brittle, the colour and texture of Shredded Wheat, the green begins to show, lower slopes on steep hillsides look like well tended lawns. Everywhere you can almost watch it happening; the green oozing up from beneath the old brown. Clouds of Snowdrops still lie like a stilled Summer sky but now new spikes and new colour. Whilst humans panic, nature which is such an unnoticed yet massive and unstoppable force continues to regenerate, to perpetually self-heal. We so underestimate its power of self restoration.

Cumulus drift in zephyr breeze. Birdsong and Spring sun and spray shadow.

You can call it pretty-pretty or twee or nature table or any other such terms (or insults) but nature is undesigned. The gift of flowers, say (I mean the wildflowers which cover the earth, not Interflora) seems almost to be to cheer us, to give hope and happiness and they do. Yet we know in an analytical, scientific understanding, the flower is only interested in its self-perpetuation and its DNA designs it to be attractive not to us but to the insects which pollinate it. Is the world a beautiful, incredibly diverse, safe and livable body in space, intended to evolve like us, or is it that we have come, over thousands of years to see it that way?

Every day for the next week I shall be publishing a photograph of a painting on which I am working. I have started it but it is very much in a fundamental state. It has to be finished by next Monday so it seemed to me to be a good opportunity to show a little more of my working practices. As always the painting has no preliminaries, no source except for what is initially in my head. You will witness its evolution.

Awakening Land

March 13, 2010

March emerges as a lamb, gently standing on wobbly legs. Every evening is burnished brass to copper and every morning the mountains are cut sharp against a sky which is distilled Cerulean Blue. The Winter slips into Spring and three months of snow shrinks back to neat shapes like Japanese islands in little valleys and ghylls as though brushed tidy by a Zen gardener. Skies are pure Cobalt Blue, lightening to the horizon and becoming yellower, like that early morning Cerulean. Stratus and cumulus and even much higher cirrus is lemony, yet pearl white and pearl grey. Then the mountains, for weeks now sharp edged as though rain should soon be on the way, though it never comes, are influenced by the same Cobalt Blue. This awakening land stirs like an old bear, heaving itself out of hibernation, and it has the look of an old bear, or rather an old teddy bear. The bottoms of valleys which would normally be scattered with nitro-phosphates, which would then be left to soak in the rain to make the grass as green as emerald, are as beautifully drab and dry as the high fells, since no reasonable rain has fallen since November. It is a landscape which under the brightening, almost-Spring sun, looks just like an old teddy bear, tufted and leeched of colour.
This mornimg I thought, even more than I have thought before, that no day, no condition, no atmosphere, no weather can be called bad, or dull, or uninteresting. Every day brings a fascinating display of change, like a fan or peacocks feathers unfurling. It is the subtleties which are there to be seen; they are like a gift. If this sounds soft or sentimental, so be it, though it is my fullest intention to pave a way in my thoughts and painting to a place where the notions of romanticism, beauty and even sentimentality can be considered in a fresh and unashamed light, as an integral part of humanity, there as a counter to the seemingly boundless oily slick of cynicism and post-modern irony. Don’t get me wrong on this. I understand the reality of the world as far as I receive it; I know its problems, but I also see its perfections.