Thursday, 29 March 2007

Wobbly Bridge

Settling in to a new work space isn't easy.

I lugged my gear along to the Art Club today and piled it into my ducket - my fears were unfounded, my name on the piece of masking tape still there for all to see.

There were cries all round of "Mr Zip!" except of course they don't know I'm Mr Zip so they used another name entirely. There was a short period of good-natured banter and then I was urged to sit down with a cup of coffee and eat my lunch.

Eventually, I started to get things sorted out. I hauled an easel over to a handy spot next to The Salesman. I haven't seen The Salesman in at least six months and as he was just about finished what he was working on, we had to go through the Catching Up conversation. A necessity which I didn't resent, but I was itching to get on with some work.

"You'll find, " said The Mad Doctor, "that towards mid-afternoon a lot of people are packing up for the day, so they like to come and look at your work and talk; yes, definitely talk. You won't get anything done until they've all gone home."

Eventually things calmed down again and I was able to get my canvas on the easel. I'd decided to bring along a picture I started a little under a year ago, in the hope I'd be able to resuscitate it. It's a picture of one end of the Millennium Bridge - the "Wobbly" Bridge - seen from the window of Tate Modern, and this is how it looked at the beginning of today's session.

For a long time now, I've wondered whether I might have bitten off more than I could chew. A gallery owner once said to me, "You do like making life difficult for yourself, don't you?" And it's true; for some reason I'm drawn to complicated problem subjects. And the difficult problem area in this picture is, of course, all those bloody ribs on each side of the bridge.

I was attracted by the scatterings of people and didn't honestly think about the ribs when I started the painting, but now was the time to try to make something of them. Some time ago, I'd pencilled in the divisions between the ribs and now I needed to get some paint on them, to see how they might shape up.

As it happens, it went quite well. I did a lot of huffing and puffing - which The Mad Doctor found most amusing - but overall I'm quite pleased with the way it's going.

Sometimes I find that there's a kind of mental log jam builds up and it becomes very difficult to get things moving again. Just doing something different can be enough to get those mental logs to shift. Even though I probably won't be able to do more to this painting until next Thursday, I feel today's efforts should get me painting again in my own studio.


marja-leena said...

Interesting to see your process and to see the improvements - thanks for sharing! And it's good to be with other artists some of the time, isn't it? I find it does keep me working, once all the catching up is done early in the season.

jafabrit said...

Oh, those ribs would scare the art heebie jeebie's out of me too. But I really liked seeing the process you used and the painting itself.

Mr Zip said...

Marja-Leena: You're right, it does help being with other artists who understand the pressures and the concerns we all have.

Jafabrit: I should make a resolution to avoid these complications in future, but I've done that before and look where it got me. I guess we're all drawn to what we're drawn to.

ian gordon said...

I really like the sense of movement in the figures, and of course how that relates to the subject.

I'm reluctant to work alongside people. When I was a teacher I used to paint whilst supervising the art exams, because the atmosphere was really conducive to that. But in your art club I'd start feeling like I aught to socialise for fear of seeming rude.

Very interested in seeing you resolve the problem of the ribs. It's always the challenge - to paint evry brick / spoke / trig / branch, etc., or just relax and get into the feel of it whilst still making the underlying structure convincing.

Mr Zip said...

I like the contrast between my studio and the Club. I spend most of my time alone in the studio, so it's good to do a bit of socialising once a week, I think. And I believe that, once I'm more of a fixture there, the chatter will die down, except at the lunch-break and when we're packing up.

Some of these guys are the friends I go on a painting holiday with each year, so I like to see them more than just on that holiday.

I intended to treat the ribs on the bridge in a much broader manner, but it wasn't working out, which was why I had to pencil them in again more carefully. I'm still trying not to be too descriptive by using the biggest brush I can.

Winchester whisperer said...

Can't you put St Paul's in it as well?

Mr Zip said...

Given that it's on a pre-stretched canvas, adding St Paul's would be rather difficult - it would have to become a diptych. It would also have to become an entirely different painting. Making a painting of the Bridge isn't what it's about; it's about making a painting that satisfies in terms of composition, colour etc. The fact that it's of the bridge is secondary.

Birdman said...

Paint them naked. The Tate would buy it.

Mr Zip said...

Could I keep my socks on? It's somewhere to keep the brushes ...

Anna said...

As you say, that is just such a difficult angle, dead clever of you to catch it. If I tried it it would look like a ziggurat. It has drama from the light on the central surface of the bridge. Like it a lot.