Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Free at last!

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Courtesy of the Frootbat and his motor, I delivered my eight pictures to the Gallery on Monday. I can relax. The weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Tuesday, I sat around the house all day and basked in the warm glow of having nothing that must be done.

Today, of course, I have to think about dealing with the pile of post which accumulated during the paintfest, mowing the lawn and sundry other mundane duties.

So if producing those pictures was such a chore, why'd I do it? And as both
Anna and Marja-Leena have suggested, was it sensible to try to create eight pictures from scratch?

A couple of months ago, I went to see the Gallery's Director and showed him a CD of Interesting Work. "Bit dark," and "Anything newer?" and "Nothing like what we sold before?" were his initial reactions. Working on his lack of enthusiasm, I volunteered, if he'd give me a show, to come up with the goods. In other words, a set of urban subjects , like what you sold before, Guv.

Two days later, I got a phone call from the Gallery Manager offering me a "Booth" which could take six to eight of my pictures. "I understand from the Director that you'd be prepared to do a new set of work for this show," she said. My heart sank a little. Not entirely at the prospect of getting new work done, but at the thought of the old work getting older and not getting an airing. After a while, such work starts to look stale and I begin to question whether I might not reasonably paint over it.

Anyway, I agreed to have the work ready for the opening of the Autumn Show in September. The rest you know (assuming you bothered to read the possibly tedious progress of the work's construction).

I work from photographs. Sometimes they're very successful photographs. For instance, I held a show in 1995 in which the entire collection of 15 pictures came from one roll of film shot from the Tyne Bridge on a cold but sunny Sunday in November.

At other times, I have to be a bit more creative with the photographs and computer techniques have been playing an increasing part in that. Before I quit office work, I relied on the good old office photocopier. Now it's computer technology.

My working methods involve cropping, increasing the contrast, collaging (both onscreen and actual paste-up), cranking up the saturation and altering the hue.

And after all of that, I very often make drawings in charcoal, compressed charcoal and coloured Conte, using the printed results of onscreen manipulations as subject matter.

I make the paintings by working from the drawings, the printouts and the photographs, and whatever the painting says to me during the process.

Sometimes this preparatory stage is intensive. Sometimes it happens over a long period, as and when I feel like it. So it was that when I needed subject matter for eight pictures, I already had preparatory studies done for most of them (and two of the eight were, in fact, already complete)

But that doesn't mean it wasn't hard work. I'd rather not have to do it again, though I'm sure I will at some point in the future.

I'm pretty pleased with the results. Two, maybe three, of the pictures are, I think, a good step forward; probably as a result of looking again at the paintings of
Andrew Gifford, whose work during his training at Newcastle influenced me quite considerably while I was taking advantage of the OCA course there.

It might be argued that I sold out in agreeing to do specific work for the Gallery, but I don't think this is the case. My main interest is in urban subject matter. I like paintings streets. So it's no hardship to have to concentrate on them again.

And the Autumn Show is a good opportunity. I've been given pride of place, with two other artists, on the invitations. The Opening will bring in, on the evidence of previous Openings, around a thousand punters, many of whom will not come simply for the champagne. Who knows, I might make some money out of this. "Everybody needs money, that's why it's called money!" as Danny De Vito so convincingly put it in David Mamet's Heist.

My figure work is a long-term project, I think, and no doubt will go through innumerable phases before it gets where it's going (if it ever does).

For instance, I was sitting last night doodling on a little panel cut from an old painting. What appeared was this, which I might very well carry through to completion, just for the fun of it.

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