Monday, 27 August 2018
regarding the 'pebble project'
How a spectator/viewer physically approaches a painting is always interesting, standing far enough back for any image to properly register, but then hopefully drawn in to study the brushwork. I'm so glad you mentioned this. What do you think about when you are actually applying the paint?
One of the problems I had back in Devon, before I decided to go 'back to basics', was 'over-thinking' and 'over-analysing' my work. An artist can, in my experience, think the art work to a death.
I could not turn off the 'inner censor', and it was a major distraction. Thankfully painting and drawing the pebbles changed that destructive thinking pattern.
I love to really look, (and to really see!) and you need to concentrate totally when wanting to really look, and really see. The somewhat awkward process of looking through a magnifying glass, and then at the canvas, backwards and forward, and through the act of painting, discovering more and more detail. There does not seem to be room for any unwanted thoughts while I'm involved in this process.
Sometimes I will think of other things... I will suddenly remember something from long ago...or a dream I had the night before. Sometimes these memories are quite intense.
If the work is not going well, my thoughts might start to drift...and then it's best to take a break.
But mostly, if I'm working well, my thoughts are only about the painting process while I'm painting. The 'analysing' is done when I look at the painting in between the 'painting sessions'.
Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Tuesday, 21 August 2018
regarding the 'pebble project
'It sounds like you have carefully eliminated a lot of things and honed a process to allow 'flow' in the making part of your practice; and then are able to step back and analyse more critically. Is it possible for you to tell me more about the analysis?
Are you happier with some works more than others? If so, what is it about them that makes them more successful in your eyes?'
An 'elimination' of sorts has to take place during every painting project. The process might be divided into stages, so that the first stage is looking for, and selecting a stone to paint.
The next stage is looking at, and maybe sketching the selected stone. Then comes the painting process, and during this the 'intent' will evolve.
I think a painting I can be happy with is one where the paint has become 'something in itself'...
when the subject-matter has been drained (so to speak), and the real stone is the one on the canvas, (although at this point, not a stone at all!) The canvas is also gone...I work to saturate the canvas so that hardly anything remains of the canvas weave.)
All of this is of cause mostly 'a feeling', but it's the process of actual painting that allows that transition...the 'detection work', and then a transition into a sort of abstraction, or 'new truth'.
I start off by looking intensely at the stone, and gradually end up shifting that intense looking to the canvas...in there lies the 'analysis'...if you can call it that.
Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Regarding the 'pebble project'
('Single Striped Pebble', Oil on canvas 86 x 78 cm)
('Single Striped Pebble', Oil on canvas 86 x 78 cm)
'You talked earlier about avoiding narrative meaning, and I would argue you have been successful. Instead, you have created something deliciously enigmatic and mysterious, yet your titles are dry and matter-of-fact. Can you say more about your titles? Are you tempted to call your paintings something more mysterious?'
My titles are carefully thought out. I deliberately want to give a very dry 'pointer', rather than a more enigmatic title. By giving the paintings matter-of-fact titles I hope to give the viewer a factual starting point, to allow the further reading of the image to be free and open-ended.
I have called the painting: 'Single striped pebble', because that was my starting point. It was what I was looking at, initially: a pebble with a single, thin stripe running round it.
Lets imagine some different titles for a moment. I could have called the painting: 'Large pebble found on sunny Devon beach' (already the title gives (unpleasant) emotional pointers).
I could have gone full-on Howard Hodgkin, and called it: 'Birthday cake on beach love was dead'... Or perhaps more abstractly poetic: 'Fracture of spirit'...'Emotional map #3'.... 'Meditation on divided space'. Etc. etc.
All those titles makes me cringe... I feel strongly that the only 'right' title is a factual one.
To call my paintings 'untitled' would also be wrong to my mind... If I call the painting 'untitled' it somehow suggests that I'm asking the viewer to tell me what they are looking at. I guess the irony is that we do in fact, as artists, ask that question: ...what is it you/we look at??... but I think the image needs to ask that question by itself.
Sunday, 12 August 2018
'Thinking about painting/thinking about drawing'
Oil paint, and charcoal on primed canvas
The idea that painting and drawing can somehow be combined is an old obsession of mine.
Many attempts at this 'combination idea' ended with me pulling my hair out in despair.
I came to (largely) separate the two distinctly different ways of expression. The work produced for this exhibition was an experiment, and it has reminded me of how co-dependent the two disciplines really are.
This painting/drawing was a deliberate question: when is a painting a drawing?....when is a drawing no-longer a pure drawing?...and why? And most importantly: does it even matter??
This is not a comfortable work, and this was not plain sailing. It's never easy to draw, or paint, but this was difficult for other reasons than the usual ones.
It was very difficult to keep the questions I was asking myself at the top of the agenda... I forced myself to leave certain marks, (quite a lot of marks) because they felt true to drawing, but less so to painting.
The image is a painting/drawing of a small stone. The stone is largely grey/black/white, but with a tinge of red and blue in the dominant white stripe.
I originally wanted to keep the image monochrome in line with the idea of pure drawing, but simply had to put the red and blue in there! (and again: is drawing necessarily monochrome??)
the yellow was a happy accident. I used Buff titanium/mixing white.....it's a tube of paint I bought to bulk out the white in the undercoats, to save on my Titanium white. It shows up as yellow, and happens to be almost identical to the colour of the raw canvas. That tickles me, because of the huge importance of the paper, or ground, in drawing.... especially if a drawing is to be viewed as original and not a reproduction.
Some prominent questions:
- Monochrome ? …... No, not necessarily.
- Ink, pen, brush, pallet knife ? …..... Not really important.
- The base/surface ? ….. not really important.
- Drawing digitally, with shadow etc. ? ….yes, any tool.
- Line, dot, line becoming a shading.... 'taking the line for a walk' ? …. Yes, all of that stuff.
- Can drawing and painting be combined ?? ….. yes... and no!
- Is drawing and painting totally different things?? ..... yes.
- Is painting and drawing co-dependent?? ….. yes, to me.
- Does it matter?? ….. yes, to me.
Saturday, 11 August 2018
Stephen Carley describes drawing as 'a form of collating, remembering, archiving, information gathering.' What is drawing for you?
Drawing is a lot of different things to me.. (and a lot of things besides!)
The sketch ..the quick recording of an idea, for sure, but I have never really been a 'sketch book artist'. I tend to write about my ideas in notebooks, and a quick drawing might be needed, but really only a doodle...having said that.. I do quite a lot of doodling!
As I'm now mostly painting from life....I use drawing as a way of 'getting to know' the object/pebble I'm going to paint (Stephen's definition in a way?).... But when is a sketch a step towards something else ?.. and when is it a work in it's own right?? (an issue that kind of separates modern art from the classical, traditional 'method'... probably starting with Cezanne who (maybe seen in retrospect) elevated the 'sketch' to a work in it's own right … he also had some pretty weird, and contradicting ideas about drawing!)
But when I'm doing relatively quick drawings of the object I intend to paint in order to 'get to grips' with the shape and structure.... I think this makes my approach to painting quite traditional. I do value those drawings too though...as they 'express' something that the painting can't.
Drawing is also a separate, and entirely self-contained expression for me. In a way I paint what I can't express in drawing, and draw what I don't feel I can properly achieve in painting. My paintings are observational, and my 'graphic novel format' drawings are born out of a totally different culture/genre, and set of ideas.
I spent years trying to 'combine drawing and painting'.. and I'm not even quite sure what that really means anymore (only that I was never happy with the results) ... I think good painting depends on good drawing, but my drawing is not dependent on my painting... only in that one can't substitute the other, and both feed of each other.