Saturday, 28 April 2007
Shutters down on Boogie Street
Seven days of drawing, painting, arsing about and exploring the insides of country taverns. I'll try not to be bored.
I suggest you do the same.
Friday, 27 April 2007
Some days you eat the bear ...
Arrived at the Art Club yesterday to be greeted by a doleful Prospective Buyer. The Prospective Buyer's Wife had failed to come up with the necessary enthusiasm for buying my Wobbly Bridge picture. I put it in a bag and brought it home.
After a few hours of energetic painting, I realised that all was not well with my Old Gadgie and Buildings picture. In fact, I had to acknowledge that it was never going to work. I painted over it with the remaining paint from the palette.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
I usually approach this onerous task by looking at what I've written before and seeing if it can be tweaked, enlarged or fused with another piece of fluff I've written to come up with a text that reads like it might possibly mean something.
I've just done it again for a proposed Figure 8 show in Darlington. We've been given the show, in fact, but the dates are yet to be arranged. Looks like four shows in the bag for 2008.
Anyway, this is what I ended up adding to our proposal:
The majority of my work is derived from the urban environment. I have long been fascinated by the play of light on buildings and my paintings have been constructed on strong compositional underpinnings based on the effects of sunlight and shadow. However, I am also increasingly concerned with the role of figures in urban spaces, where the mood may be mysterious and unsettling, or riotous and turbulent. The tonal approach I originally employed has given way to a brighter palette where colour can be seen to carry the main thrust of the painting. In addition, a greater emphasis on frontality and gesture signify a renewed concern for the integrity of the picture plane.
I'm not sure that this necessarily applies to the work I've been doing recently, some of which I've posted here. But one of the uses I find for such a Statement is to tell myself what it is I want to do, what direction I want the work to take. Whether it works that way remains to be seen.
Monday, 23 April 2007
Happy St George's Day
Friday, 20 April 2007
Across the Wobbly Bridge
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
Monday, 16 April 2007
The Annual Dilemma
The Great Moss (watercolour, sketchbook)
I'm no great shakes at watercolour; something which I think is adequately demonstrated by this example from my sketchbook. I'm not much of a plein air painter either. I think I turned to the sky over the Great Moss in desperation. I couldn't face looking into the wood behind me, so I looked out onto the peat bog. And watercolour seemed to be the only medium to hand to deal with the dramatic sky. I have little practice with it and I don't think the result is terribly good.
But it's come to that time of year when I start going through my materials wondering what to take on the annual Compo & Clegg Painting Week.
Last year we went to Grasmere in The Lakes, but there was little to show for it when I came back The best was a drawing I posted here.
The Great Moss watercolour sketch was done in South West Scotland in 2005. I also did this:
Dead Tree, Duntrune (4B pencil, sketchbook)
I think this is a much more confident piece of work which probably benefits from having no colour. But colour isn't always a problem. A few years earlier I did this in an old quarry:
Rock Form, Ford Moss (coloured Conte, sketchbook)
I suspect what it all comes down to is the subject matter and my old enemy, Green. Difficult to get away from Green in The Lakes, though. This year it's Langdale. I expect that, at the last minute, I'll just throw my usual drawing materials in the car and do what I always do, but it would be nice to push the boundaries of what I do, just for once.
Sunday, 15 April 2007
Friday, 13 April 2007
Venetian Wall (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 ins)
Iron Cross (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 ins.)
These are the pictures I put in the Art Club exhibition today. It's a small show, rather impromptu, as the opportunity to use the Guildhall came about unexpectedly, I understand.
It's currently the home of Newcastle's Information Centre, but has a reasonably sized small room which they let organisations use. The lighting is not ideal, with a couple of rather dimly lit walls, but we managed to make a decent fist of hanging the show (a hang which, from my point of view, happily kept my pictures off the dimly lit walls!)
There are things to be learned from these Art Club guys. The large Art Show - free entry signs printed on A2 plastic sheeting were a good idea: before we'd even finished setting up, there were people coming in off the street to wander round. I also liked the invitations to the preview which we've handed out in bulk to the several hotels round about.
I won't be able to make the preview, however. We - the Figure 8 painters, that is - have a meeting that day with the curator of yet another gallery. Blimey. It's all go.
Thursday, 12 April 2007
Wobbly Bridge; 4th Pass
For anyone still following this apparently never-ending saga, here's the state of play after today's session down at the Art Club.
I wasn't able to get as much done as I'd hoped. I have to hand in two pictures tomorrow to a small exhibition organised by the Art Club. Most of my pictures are mirror-plated, but these have to be strung. I could find no D-rings anywhere round the house, so before I went to the Club today I had to scour the hardware shops - few and far between in these days of out-of-town shopping - looking for some.
When I got to the Art Club, of course, I discovered they keep a supply of D-rings in the cupboard.
I'm still not convinced by the awkward ribs at either side of the bridge, but the paving has been lightened and warmed up, which throws the figures more onto centre stage and draws the eye away from the peripheries of the bridge.
"You'll have to grade the tone of the paving, " said Plastic Man, "so that it recedes properly.".
"I can do anything I like with it," I said. "It's my picture and there's no reason why it should obey any laws but mine. You should welcome this rare example of Japanese-style flatness in my work."
"You're absolutely right," said Plastic Man.
I'll work on those ribs more next week. I'm confident I can get them to pull themselves into shape and the Prospective Buyer (did I mention there is a Prospective Buyer?) is pleased with the way it's going.
Saturday, 7 April 2007
Rearranging the Deckchairs
On a whim I strolled into J G Windows in the Central Arcade. There's always something of interest in Windows. They have a policy of buying one copy of every CD released in the UK. Naturally enough, they don't manage to sell them all, so it can be a profitable exercise to call in to check if they're having a sale.
Shock horror! The firm have been taken over and the store is being "rearranged."
The first and most obvious rearrangement is the absence of the the huge and chaotic CD racks behind the counter where they filed the discs to put into the cases when you went to buy. All replaced by an alcove with some DVDs and a fire-damaged piano.
Most deplorable of all, however, is the total absence of the helpful staff. In both the Jazz and the Classical sections, there were people who Knew Their Stuff. If they couldn't help you from their own personal knowledge, they had piles of catalogues and would spare no effort to find and order whatever it was you were looking for.
Now? There's a girl with a till. She can, however, "tell you where the jazz section is ..."
I walked off under a cloud. And found myself climbing the stairs up to the art section of Waterstones. Ever since Waterstones took over the Dillons chain, Newcastle has had the daft situation of two Waterstones stores staring at one another across the area round Grey's Monument. It might have seemed a sensible solution to rationalise the content of the two shops, putting some departments in one, the rest in another. But no, we have two bookshops with more or less the same stock. I was climbing the stairs in the one that used to be Dillons.
When I got to the Art section, there was a rather hassled-looking girl flinging books onto shelves with reckless abandon, oblivious to the few punters who stood about trying to see what she was putting on the shelves.
I went to the Poetry section and read some Simon Armitage until she was done with her rearrangement.
And what wonders had she wrought? Much of the stock - never very interesting, but sometimes containing a little neglected gem someone had thought to order in - had been whittled down and then padded out with Taschen books in their many sizes.
In what way is a bookshop fulfilling its function by putting seven copies of Taschen's Gauguin on a shelf, leaving the rest empty space?
I read recently that Waterstones is to close 34 of its stores round the country (this, after winning a contentious bid to take over the liked and respected Ottakers chain). In the rest of their shops they intend to concentrate on the more popular titles like celebrity biographies, cookery and so on.
Are these people absolutely mad?
It seems to me that Windows and Waterstones are set on demonstrating their complete misunderstanding of the modern market. Sales of books and records are falling off in the High Street because people are learning more and more the ease and lower costs involved in buying online. Where actual book and record stores can compete is in catering to the niche shopper. The person who likes to go to a shop and find unexpected treasures, things they wouldn't have known they were looking for, or couldn't find easily online.
With two major record stores (HMV, Virgin) and music departments in WHSmith and Woolworths all vying for custom, I think Windows are likely to go down the tubes and I'd be surprised if at least one of the Waterstones doesn't follow suit.
And the cultural life of Newcastle will only be the poorer.
More Wobbly Bridge
I've reached the slow, painstaking part of this picture. I'm not sure whether the photographs will show the differences between last week's state and what the picture looks like now, but using quite small brushes, I've painted in the top edges of the ribs of the bridge and have started to develop the figures.
A family group have pushed themselves into the space between the foreground figures and those crowding towards the back end of the bridge, linking the groups.
Some of the figures have turned around and are now walking back towards the viewer.
I've knocked back the red building by glazing over with a rather loose mixture of ultramarine blue and viridian. The medium I'm using at the moment is Daler-Rowney Alkyd Flow Medium. I bought it because the shop had no bottles of Winsor & Newton Liquin, my usual medium. I quite like the new one; it's more viscous than the Liquin, and "sets up" quicker, becoming thicker and stickier as the session goes on.
I found it easier to get work done at the Club this week. There was still the usual round of banter, but it's easy to establish a routine which takes account of the occasional break. People are sensitive enough to realise when you're working and don't really want to be disturbed, especially if you say, "Bugger off, I'm working and don't want to be disturbed."
I'm happy with the way this painting is going, but I'll be happier when it's done. There won't be too much more. The rib arrangement at the right needs dealing with, and some of those on the left aren't finished. After that, a little more tweaking of the figures and a rebalancing of the tones here and there and it'll be time to call it complete.