25 May 2020

if there is a God she must like colour

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 16 April, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I just found this study yesterday which I had misplaced and never uploaded to Instagram. Or, maybe I thought weeks ago that it was too kitsch? Either way, I like it today.

Two nights ago the twilight hour exploded with colour. We have had a week of dark cloudy days which simply refused to open up. It has been cold too. An inversion kept frigid air close to the ground and in those circumstances it is just impossible to warm up. I went to visit some friends for a light dinner who live a little higher up in the hills. On the way up I saw smoke from chimneys hugging the trees like blue shawls. 

But two afternoons ago the colour did explode like cannons, painting the sky with fiery clouds every which way one looked. The after-burn was purple pink as seen below. 

I had been in the studio all afternoon because I had given up hope that the beach would open up and allow me to paint down there. So against all odds, it do just that! And I watched from the studio not without deep regret. Alas, "it won't be the last time", so I tried to tell myself. 

I rarely take photos of sunsets as I much prefer to paint them. And sunset photos are much too ubiquitous anyway. But this is a view from the studio to the East as I would have been facing if I were at the beach painting the sea. The sunset is directly behind. I am struck by the similarity of these colours and those of my picture done over  month ago. 

21 May 2020

vaporetti confetti

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 18 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This was the first of two pictures done the other night. I arrived a little late so I needed to set up in a hurry. A marvellous pink sky was unfolding over a cloud bank sitting on the horizon while still holding rays of the setting sun behind me. Sometimes, I really do have to catch my breath in front of such beauty. I can feel like an adolescent in love for the first time, each time. 

I made this in about ten minutes which seems absurd to me now when I write about it. But I understand the pace which hastens the fading sky to its death while I work with the urgency of an E.R. doctor.  

As if like the rest of my life, I only seem to thrive when I am pushed to capture something when my life is on the line. Years ago, when I found myself in Venice, I would often ride a vaporetto around for hours and filling up drawing books. I would sit outside in the back where the views opened up in three directions. One has no time to think, one just makes drawings. But so often in those days I was rarely happy so I would rip them into tiny pieces and throw them into the wind like confetti. 

19 May 2020

where the Universal dwells on a ledge

Lately I have been thinking of the Universal aspect of a specific work of Art and also conversely, the very the specific nature of a specific work of Art. Without being too pedantic I am always thinking about what makes painting work.
Being specific in a painting is about its solid and concrete nature. It can remove doubt but still be poetic. It can be of a political nature, a social, or of a moralistic affirmation. It specifies a place or time, but it can also  be  far removed and away from anyone else's curiosity or understanding. 

Not being specific in painting can also involve  personal or a self-expression that  has little or no meaning outside of the creator's own world. Often Abstract Art falls into this category as in the American Abstract Expressionist Movement which began  the 1940's. A risk of this nonspecific self-expression in an artistic sense, (on its own terms), is to fall off the nihilist cliff. 

On the other hand I can still ponder yet another kind of painting which is germaine to the previous one, but it aspires to an opposite world of Art; one which appeals to the Universal. And it is so much concerned with an ideal outside of oneself that it no longer resides in any specific place, but it lives in a kind of nether world which only aspires to the past accomplishments of our collective culture. It cannot even be specific to enough to a human emotion. 

So to aspire to a Universality, (on its own terms), can also place a work of art in limbo by trying to please the past, and by doing so, it too, is in limbo. By limbo, I mean -not here - but not there either - nowhere in fact, artistically and conceptually speaking. 

As I proceed out on the this ledge I may as well confess the I have battled this nether-world of self-expression in relation to an aspiration to the Universal.

Below are two works from the 20th century. The artist is very famous, and his works are in every American museum. I ask the question: What sort of painting is this? And is it a search for the Universal or is it just an abstract painting from the American Expressionist School? Is it specific about anything? And two of the biggest questions a painting must always ask are these:
Does it move me? and, Can this painting teach me anything about Painting or Life?

17 May 2020

Cato seizing the thing, before he committed suicide


This painting was done a few days ago. It had been raining for several days beforehand, and consequently I hadn't been out to the dune. The sky was stormy as the picture indicates. I only set up because I was desperate to do something, anything! Because even after just a few days of not working there I can start to feel quite wacky inside. So, I set up, but I was not convinced by the light, or lack thereof, as it was blocked up in the West behind me. I knew that any luminosity would likely remain absent.

In any event I made this somewhat quickly before a raincloud arrived and I packed up and got back to the car just as it poured. 

To be honest, I was not unhappy with it, but not unhappy either. I was happy to have gotten out into the windy ocean air in front of a rough sea full with whitecaps as far as I could see. It is a strange drawing but I saw it that way, and I didn't have time to think about it, judging from the dark clouds moving in from the South. It is strange because the upper layer of cloud is so cold in colour, the same for the middle stripe, it was a cool Prussian blue/citron mixed down to almost a pure wisp of grey. And below, the cold unruly sea full of Emerald green with a band of sunlight which kicked in but just for a moment. And after 15 minutes, it was done. 
There was something in the cloud band that bothered me so I scraped off some paint to try to resurrect any light initially there. It's better than it was. Nothing more to say. I was grateful that it came off at all. 

And this brings me to something which Cato said just over 2000 years ago. 

'Seize the thing, and the words will follow,
grasp the subject and the words will follow.'

And it makes me see, as a painter, that when we 'grasp the thing, style will follow.'

Style can never precede the 'thing seized'
any more than the cart can come before the proverbial horse.


one might say:
Seize the thing, and paint will follow. And this is important because the paint rarely proceeds the 'thing', the 'thing' must usually come first.

But this is a long discussion for another night.

14 May 2020

Manon from Nancy in Paris

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 6 May, 2020, 30 X 25 cm

This from last week, came quickly at the end of the session. The sky wasn't quite glowing but there was still something there so I threw up another board and I painted this mostly from memory, if truth be told.

I could hardly see the colours on the palette with my glasses which are outside of my prescription by almost twenty years. There are for long distance, and when the light fades I can no longer focus very well. But, I am attached to them maybe even for sentimental reasons. I had bought them in the Marais when I had gone to Paris to visit a girlfriend years ago but she had dumped me so I decided to stay for a few days in a small hotel I liked in Montparnasse. It was wintertime, and cold and snowing all day when I stopped into the small shop where I found the glasses I would buy and still wear. The saleswoman chatted me up, I think. Her name was Manon and she was from Nancy in the East which I had driven through in 1970 on my Triumph motorcycle while making my way through Europe when I was really even more young and foolish. We talked and talked, went for a drink, then we went for dinner. Much much later I walked the frigid streets all the way to Montparnasse arriving at dawn. It was what youth does. I had a wonderful weekend with Manon of Nancy in Paris, and so when I wear these glasses I sometimes either think of Manon or Paris depending on the mood. 

The light in this small picture also feels quite frigid to me tonight. Everything about it is cold; from the emerald green sea to the pale Prussian blue with a hint of citron over the horizon, and on to the cold pink in the sky above. It is a chilly painting, and right at this moment it transports me back to the memory of a youthful Paris years ago when life seemed simpler.

12 May 2020

une oeuvre est une oeuvre

Tangier, Morocco 2013,   

This came from a small MUJI book of drawings made with a bamboo stick and encre de Chine. Working with a small selection of bamboo sticks was as much an adventure as it was to be working in the streets again.

I am never able to really see a work I've made until much later in time. In this case seven years before I looked at these drawings again. I like some of them very much. But I couldn't see something like this until enough time had passed, enough time when I cannot remember anything about it. The feeling is all mine, for sure, and the strokes which create the light could only be done by me. In fact, the great things about this drawing are all mine, but as well, so are its mistakes.  

While one often only speaks of a drawing's successful attributes, a work usually possesses 'mistakes' too. These 'flaws', of which the creator is always somehow aware, are what make a work deeply unique and original. And these are the marks which give a drawing an authenticity which can only be made by just one creator. So to resume; I think an oeuvre is an oeuvre for both its attributes and its mistakes.

09 May 2020

Bonnard, and the possibility of tomorrow


This remarkable self-portrait was the last he made. Old and having survived the second world war, and having lost his wife (and muse) Marthe, he is in the winter of of his life. 

I saw it in a show in New York years ago at MOMA and I was quite rattled by it, enough that I went back again to be rattled. I was still a young man at the time, and I marvelled at his ruthless and frank depiction of himself. I remember that his eyes looked like the discarded pits from an apricot. It is a haunting portrait, and reminiscent of a Rembrandt at the end of his own life. A painter just keeps refining his work like  all artists do if they survive long enough. Goya comes to mind, and Titian, who painted his last self portrait at the age of 80. And  Tolstoy comes to mind too in The Death of Ivan Ilyich. I read it when I was 18, and sadly, I didn't have the imagination to understand it at the time.

In this time of haunting sorrow and great social unrest it is these creators who allow me to keep faith and hope in the possibility of tomorrow.

08 May 2020

Putting the earth to sleep

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 5 May 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25

These Autumn twilight skies give birth to colourful postcards. I feel as if I walk the cliffs of kitsch on clear evenings like this. It's a kind of danger but I cannot do otherwise. So much orange and pink! So much melodrama! So much peplum!

I follow the scent of the sky when it begins to turn. Moreover, it's an easy path to climb once a palette has been made.

One imagines the Earth slipping into sleep and especially so, in this time of the Coronavirus. There are no more airplanes overhead so I cannot mark the hour by the flights from Sydney. 

There is a quiet to these days, and the earth surely knows it. They say that pollution has virtually disappeared in the airs over Paris, Beijing, New Delhi, and even L.A. And the Himalayas can be seen from downtown Katmandu! 

The earth is a precious friend. Maybe some of us can now see it that way despite so many hardships during this time. There're may not be many of us, but the painter in me, has always been a friend of the earth. After all, I put it to bed most nights.

07 May 2020

Proust for tea in Tivoli Gardens

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,  4 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 35 X 40 cm

This is a curious picture which came to me seemingly 'zoomed up via a portal' from my early childhood. It isn't uncommon to be working on something when I taste my own 'Madeleine' of which Proust evoked so personally. It arrives through all the senses but this one came through a visual one as if relating to a pictorial memory as a young child in the act of drawing. 

Painting, at times, brings to the fore so many mysterious emotions. One suddenly stops in quiet amazement in its presence. In this small unremarkable picture it happened for me just as I was struggling with a (bad) drawing and with the fast fading light (and colour). I felt my own personal and iconic image raise up inside of me, one which may have no resemblance nor meaning to anyone else. When this happens it is always a wonderful feeling despite whether the picture succeeds or not for its very provenance is one's own precious past which still thrives deeply within. There is no conscious compass to access it. What else to say? I know that everyone who ventures out into hitherto unexplored places can re-discover it for themselves, even for the briefest of moments. Often a love affair brings it out, but that is another story, and another part of the heart. 

When I was four years old I visited Tivoli Gardens with my family who took us to Europe in the summer of '56. I have never forgotten a kind of danish pastry which I ate there, and which I have accessed ever since through my sense of taste. Even in certain Pastry shops in France my olfactory memory takes me right back to Tivoli Gardens. As I have grown older these earliest memories seem to have taken a larger place in my life, a bit like at the end of the day when the tree makes a longer shadow across the flat lawn.

And within any creative act it seems to me that so many rich memories are continually released, again and again, as if one has disturbed a large bush and dozens of butterflies scatter into the air. 

04 May 2020

Gachet, Muguet, and the Lotus Flower


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 1 May, 202, oil on canas board, 30 X 25 cm

This is from the other night. The skies have been pretty good lately. The Lotus flower opens after sunset, and it remains up there as if floating for the longest time while quietly turning from orange to a cool violet. Then it disappears upward as if watching fireworks but only in very slow motion. There are moments when I feel a small change begin, like the change of seasons I guess. But it happens when the mind begins to question certain aspects the motif. "What if?" it thinks to no one in particular.

It's the first of May and I think of Muguet being offered from one person to the next all over France today. And I always think of Dr Gachet whom Vincent painted with a small glass of Muguet on the table in front of him with his sad eyes. A marvel of the imagination.

30 April 2020

running with the fauves

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 25 April, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This came at the end of a session last week. It was the third study out of four. I have been feeling a little like a wild animal which tries to be obedient so much of the time. Under certain skies, which are already so sensuous, I find myself to be a painter from previous century who desires to capture sky, to meet it with my own sensuality. A certain sky brings out a certain part of me. Each study, each day, and each session is different, even when the weather makes every day look like a copy of its predecessor. And then there is the 'me' factor because I am different each day, and present myself to the same motif in a different mood. And then I break out that obedience I run like a fauve. And thus, a painting like this arrives quickly, almost passionately after weeks of a much more sensual obedience. 

I am lucky because I like so many things that I am making these days. This was not the case for too much of my life. I was never satisfied with paintings, never satisfied with much in my life. Happily, all of that changed just a few years back. I enjoy the act of painting more than ever.

24 April 2020

That which remains in that which passes

I enclose a recent note from my dearest friend and painter John Gasparach. It is his response to my asking about an expression which Léo often used when articulating a very particular aspect of Art's essence. I could not remember it correctly.

"Ce qui ne passe pas dans ce qui passe"

("That which remains in that which passes")

A remark made by Gavarni (19th century French artist) whom Van Gogh admired. Van Gogh refers to and cites this phrase a number of times in his letters to Theo. Here is one example:
(from one of Vincent's letters, the following)
‘I think that if one has tried to follow the great masters attentively, one finds them all back at certain moments, deep in reality, I mean one will see their so-called creations in reality if one has similar eyes, a similar sentiment, as they had. And I do believe that if the critics and connoisseurs were better acquainted with nature, their judgment would be more correct than it is now, when the routine is to live among pictures, and to compare them mutually. Which of course, as one side of the question, is good in itself, but lacks a solid foundation if one begins to forget nature and looks only superficially. Can’t you understand that I am perhaps not wrong in this, and to say what I mean even more clearly, isn’t it a pity that you,   for instance, seldom or hardly ever go into those cottages or associate with those people or see that sentiment in the landscape which is painted in the pictures you like best? I do not say that you can do this in your position, just because one must look much and long at nature before one becomes convinced that the most touching things the great masters have painted still originate in life and reality itself. A basis of sound poetry which exists eternally as a fact and can be found if one digs and seeks deeply enough.
“Ce qui ne passe pas dans ce qui passe”, it exists.

I would guess Leo encountered this phrase of Gavarni in Van Gogh’s Letters since it was so important to Vincent.

The School is shut, we work now with all of our students ‘on line’ since they have all returned to the United States. This has freed me up to paint everyday at Chateaunoir in the forest of pine & oak. I’ve never felt better in my life (which is a terrible thing to say given the situation of our world).

Sorry I missed your call. Try again if you can.


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 17 April, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

20 April 2020

great painters are idiots! (and they should be)

A great painting defies gravity, and it must possess a quality of surprise. And I confess that I only wish that I would rise to this idea idiocy more often in my own work but I don't.

The paintings above came from a recent article in the NYT about what artists are getting up to during this time of confinement. I have no idea what to think about them except that they are so original that they make me think of Baudelaire when he said that all original work seems ugly at first sight. These are truly original things. They certainly surprise also. Sadly I have lost his name but he lives and works in New York. 

I had originally begun this text last week before seeing these paintings but realised that they possessed that thing of which I was wanting to say.

It seems to me that most painters are already 
half crazy enough to be painters in the very first place, that confinement or not, we are out of the conventional loops. 

I find that too many paintings of our own time, but also throughout the past are simply exercises in re-affirmations of what we already know. Indeed, Painting has become far too intelligent, and it has robbed us all of that element of surprise. Contemporary Art has become so smart that it needs to be explained to us all through reams of catalogue space and big heavy books.

And yes, I throw some of my own work in with this idea, I am not perfect. But, once in a while I just want to be hit with a freight train feeling.

19 April 2020

Claude Monet and Alice Hoschedé in Venice 1908

In October 1908 Monet and his companion Alice went to Venice for the first time on a painting trip. It was to be the first of two trips there. I have been reading the correspondance between Alice Hoschedé and her daughter back in France in Giverny. They exchanged letters each day without fail. In them Alice describes their days in Venice, the weather, the hotel food, the damp cold  or heat or Monet's mood, due to either the rain or the wind. They are charming postcards left to us from a bygone era when the world was very different in so many ways. Venice was even back then full of tourists, albeit quite well-heeled travellers compared with today. 

In this small fragment she describes being in a gondola with Monet in the lagoon at dusk when the lights are suddenly lit up everywhere to their amazement. 

She describes also sitting in the gondola while Monet worked every day on certain motifs. She had to be very still. Ha Ha... Great to imagine Monet painting some of these pictures from a gondola.

18 April 2020

Morandi and me

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 30 March, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This is a curious picture, full of a gentle  feeling like when one wears Cashmere. I don't thing about other painters when out working in front of this motif. Myself, yes, I often have the previous day's pictures' still simmering in my head, but other painters? No, never. And I am glad for that. Yet in looking at it now 3 weeks later I am thinking of just how much Giorgio Morandi has infected my artistic sensibilities over these 60 years or so. He was one of the first painters I immediately responded to as a child. My father had lots of Art books and several about Morandi. And I looked with a great fascination at how his small and intimate oil paintings seemed so alive to me. My father was a painter too, but in a halfhearted sort of way. He had lots of talent but also a life which kept him from the discipline of being an artist. He did paint wonderful and life-like portraits all over his bathroom wall (with oil paint) Piero della Francesca, Mantegna, Masaccio, and others. It was wild, and I was amazed that he would do such a thing. But my parents had their own bathrooms.

So, in this picture, done so far away from Bologna, I can see the quiet atmosphere of Morandi. And while his pictures of bottles, cups and jars live in a small confined space, there is a connection to my own done out in the open sea and big sky. It is through the soft luminosity and sensual touch.

17 April 2020

a submission to the painting not to the Motif

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 30 March, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Bonnard once said a wonderful thing about Painting. Pierre Bonnard, along with Paul Cezanne, was a most patient painter. He worked and reworked his pictures for months and years until he arrived at that special patina he so desired enough to quit the picture. Cézanne, it was said, might wait up to an hour between strokes of his brush. He once famously said that his concentration should so acute as to make his eyes bleed.

But, Bonnard said something which deeply spoke to me when I was a student. He said, and I translate loosely from the French:

"Everyone speaks about this submission to Nature, (to the Motif) but there is equally the submission to the picture." 

I have never been too loyal to the 'Motif'. I use it only to garner enough information to make the painting. I am a sloppy expressive painter who likes all the drippy mistakes, but  only as by-products in my quest to get a picture finished, never as an end itself.

So once a picture has been started it is almost a race to finish it before either the 'Motif' peters out, or I do. And too, once a picture has been started I am only ever interested in the picture itself, the canvas embodiment of my creative act.

16 April 2020

paradise in a pandemic

In this time of pandemic people around the world are worried about everything. But most of the world population is already locked in some form of poverty or another. The Third World cannot make enough money to live in the best of times. And in the West self medication has replaced a spiritual solution. Now with the sharp loss of incomes and jobs scarce in the West, people will begin to know what the poor of the world have been going through all this time. It will not be a pretty picture.

I am living out this pandemic in a kind of paradise here on the north coast of Australia. Instead of feeling guilt about that good fortune, I practice gratitude at every opportunity I can. It is all I can do for the moment. But the economic toll whose bell never ceases, will toll for me too soon enough. 

What to do?? For the first time in my own small life I now have no Plan B except to keep painting each day both in the studio and at the beach. 

I used to be a worrier. I used to joke that when I was still in my mother's womb I asked GOD to please make me a WARRIOR for this next new life I was about to begin. He must have misunderstood me because I came out a WORRIER. But I have changed, and now I do not worry as a habit. I have too much to do before those same bells will toll for me too. In the meantime I paint.

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 11 April, 2020, oil on canvas board. 30 X 25 cm

13 April 2020

Brokenness, and the hands of Theloneous Monk

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 11 April, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

To convey an emotion from one human to another, it seems to me, is the whole point of Art. Of course, I live in the world of Contemporary Art, an age of political science and sociological precedence in all things artistic. This is a world wherein Art has been fused into an engine fuelled by philosophy, advertising, and irony.

I am no longer an emotional man which basically means that I don't rely upon my emotions to make decisions in my life. But I used to be.

But in saying that, I am an extremely emotional painter, and in fact passionate around all things artistic. I love Elgar's Nimrod, and Brahms' Intermezzo's and I love both Monk and Jerome Kern, and in another life Tim Buckley.

I love the sensuality of oil paint, I always have, and I  sometimes I wonder if I should have been a pastry chef. I love all of Piero Della Francesca's work. But I retreat from the overly ambitious and exuberant passion of Jackson Pollack, ditto for de Kooning and Twombly, but only after a brief seduction. Safe to say that I am uneasy around too much exuberant emotion. And yet, in all my paintings I am decidedly in favour of a sensuality and unabashed feeling. And I have always been this way in my work. 

In the painting above I realised that the fierce red cloud had been started with a stab of the brush and continued leftward because I do have a habit of working from right to left in this series. 

I liked it immediately upon making the brush stroke. That I left it thus means that I was happy with the abrupt, discordant addition it made to the painting. On another day I might have easily re-worked it to make an ordered and more symmetrical unity to the picture. Thankfully I didn't for I like the brokenness of it. It says: 

"This is a painting made from a human hand"

It's 'brokenness' cuts any pretence of  the desire for a perfection which seems to hang  over a creator's life like a sword.

11 April 2020

cri de coeur devant la mer méchante et tumultueuse

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 29 March, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

An interesting study from 2 weeks ago when we were covered over with crazy clouds from the South. I found the whole session incredibly difficult and was at the door of failure. To my surprise I shut it just as quickly and finished the painting. I like it very much because I had come so close to disaster. 

It is my spontaneous cri de coeur at the dark and difficult weather change in the middle of a painting.

07 April 2020

the terrible beauty of the Coronavirus and Otto Dix

This is the Covid-19 virus clinging on to fungus in a lab magnified with a microscope I don't know how many times. The virus is all the small pink bits. It's a thing of such rare beauty, and amazingly, it follows the usual laws of colour harmony in the natural world. The hot pink colour looks a bit like Magenta or Fuchsia which compliments the warm-green of the fungus and it is perfect harmony. In paintings which succeed, warm always compliments cool, and vice-versa. When warm greens are placed next to warm reds, the picture will always have problems unless the painter is extremely clever.

In my opinion Otto Dix was one clever guy. The German painter in the middle of the 20th century, managed to break these usually iron-clad rules in a most particular fashion. He broke them by the sheer force of his originality.

His work stemmed from his wartime experiences in both WWI and WWII. I wonder if I associate the Covid-17 with him also because of the terrible beauty in his work?

06 April 2020

for clouds form, then blossom only to die in the course of a day....

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 April, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

The skies have been magnificent since the rain ended last week. The horizon is again full of luminosity and clouds are but a small head of purple hair racing across the sea until it's eaten up by the dusk.

And now we have a lost an hour, but the horizon could not care less. Moreover, human troubles mean nothing to it, for clouds form, then blossom only to die in the course of a day. And while the pandemic rages through the world, here is a painter looking at the evening sky.

04 April 2020

"Oh! The sun is so beautiful in the middle of the summer......"

"Oh! The sun is so beautiful in the middle of the summer. It beats down on your head, and I've know doubt at all that it drives you crazy. But since I am already I simply enjoy it!"
V. VanGogh in a letter to his brother from Arles

Well, I can't say that it beats down upon us more violently here in Australia than in Provence at the height of August, but the sun  sizzles here too. And, the light is somewhat similar, eucalyptus trees appear violet red, then violet blue like the plane trees in Arles. 

But it is looking out over the horizon where the Australian light really differs from the Mediterranean basin. I believe it is only due to the pollution which has infected so much of the coast line from Cassis, all the way down the Amalfi coast, down to Bari, and over to Athens. But further out, the Greek isles are forever happy, and their sunsets are free of a grey fate. 

Here is something from last week which I wasn't sure about, but I like it now. I don't want to be repetitive but I cannot underline enough the joy of working from the sea at sunset. Its possibilities are limitless.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 31 March, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

02 April 2020

Jumping into a painting

Evening Prayer 26 March, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This is another example of jumping into a painting but holding only a vague visual thread in one's fragile mind. But I know that this sort of thing is extremely good for me because it breaks up my habitual way of working. I do risk however, to make some crazy images. I like this one above yet it is certainly out on the limb of uncertainty.

Below, is a Whistler, done probably in the 1890's in England. It is a beautiful example of Painting as cheerful diversion. He was a proponent of "Art for Art's sake" and caused quite a stir for his ideas. He was a man of intelligence but also of sensual and poetic invention. And this is a great example of it. 

31 March 2020

Hands and Clouds

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 26 March, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Alors, this picture can out of a very frustrated painter who could not decide how to treat the vast mess of clouds in the sky. From the start I decided to grab the smallest of ideas which raced through my mind and to run with it. But I couldn't keep up with the changes going on as twilight accelerated which forced me into an idea, or concept, about how I might find my way into it. I was on dangerous ground.

Unless one is Bonington, or one of those magnificent Flemish painters of the 18th century, a sky full of clouds can be a hairy operation for an amateur like myself. There are too many problems with it! It is a lot like the difficulty of drawing hands. Unless one is Van Dyck or Van Gogh, one must be prepared to fail. Or, one paints them like Picasso with a graphic audacity which spins the attention of the viewer away from his mangled hands like a magician distracts his audience.

And these clouds overrun the sky, and they distort the distance which create a host of problems for the painter. How to push the horizon into the painting when overhead, a cacophony of clouds run amuck like children at recess hour.

This is how I felt. My idea was to fail without shame as the Buddhists love to say when beginning many activities:

"I am already dead!" they exclaim.

And I often use that idea when faced with a wall of insecurity like before an important  tennis match I will recite it to myself.

And so the other night, I just let go as if already dead, and something wonderful happened. I had decided to proceed differently, and I found myself on thin ice yet weightless. When I had finished I was very surprised by it. And I suppose, for me, that is the whole point of both creation and participation in art; the element of surprise.