02 July 2020

Daffy Duck at lunch with V.


 Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 15 June 2020, oil on canvas board, 
30 X 25 cm


I met V. for lunch the other day, her lunch really whilst I watched her eat. Her tiny arms and small hand made me think of a wounded bird. She had explained to me when I first met her months ago that she had contracted Lyme disease, and since then, she was losing the use of her right hand. Immediately, I had felt pity. Now, not 3 months later she said that her other hand seemed to be 'going as well', as she put it somewhat cautiously. I think she is brave but also she puts on a good front to mask the fear. Who wouldn’t? But she doesn’t complain, a quality I like in people. I have a few friends who complain incessantly and I want to run the other way when they start up.

This was our first lunch date, as it were. We had first met on the street in Mullumbimby last year. A mutual friend introduced us but quite briefly. Then we met again on the beach where I paint most days. She sauntered down the small pathway looking a bit fabulous in an outfit right out of Vogue and wearing a large hat from the 60’s. She’s quite thin, actually.

Then, a while later, she began to compliment my work on Instagram to which I responded warmly, in my own way. When anyone reaches out to me, I thank them. I was taught to do so from an early age. 

Shortly afterward, Vita not only gave me likes to the work I was posting but also began making up titles for the pictures relating to the colour and her own impressions of them. Most of the time she got it right though. Things like ‘Cassis framboise, fromage blanc’ and ‘Baked Alaska’, and one of my favourites; ‘Indecisive Enlightenment’. My small pictures and her crisp visual metaphors, coupled together as if Katherine Hepburn was in the sack with Marcel Proust.

So, that was then, how we began our acquaintance. And I insist, it is still an acquaintance but beginnings do begin somewhere, after all. 

She began sending me rather cryptic voice messages on Instagram each night before she went to sleep to which I responded with even more cryptic GIFS. I sent them  later in the night because I am a night owl. GIFS are marvellous things. They display just the right touch, the light touch of the quixotic quip; Dorothy Parker drinking gin with Daffy Duck on a back lot at Paramount.

Thus, we continued exchanging a few thoughts online for a few months but when it seems to fizzle a bit and I don’t hear from her after a week I send her a GIF to stir the martini.

She likes calling me Mr Magoo which to be honest, kind of irritated me for a while. (Am I that bald and blind?) Go figure. But then she told me that she sent me voice messages because it was easier than typing with her crippled hand. So I felt sorry, and forgave her for the Mr Magoo thing. 

She likes speaking French. I do too, but somehow I felt awkward speaking it with her in the middle of Mullumbimby at lunch. So we conversed in English, and I watched her eat a Middle Eastern dish with her poor wounded hand using a large spoon. That same hand which I imagined wrote lots of interesting things back in the day of her career as a journalist. She seems to be a bright, clever woman despite the infirmity, I think to myself. 

I suddenly realised that she reminded me of my dear friend Joyce who passed away 4 years ago. I loved our friendship so much. I last saw her when I said goodbye after a dinner in her château in Autichamps. I was leaving the next day for Australia. It was early December. She knew we would not see each other again. She knew she was dying, and I imagine she was pretty sure she would end it herself a few months later before my return to France, but I couldn't know this that night. 

When I wrapped my arms around her to say goodnight she seemed so frail and fragile that I felt that I was holding a small bird in my arms. She walked me out the gate and waited till I got in my car to leave as was her habit. The good manners of a Dutch woman from another age persisted. It was freezing cold, but there she was, waving her farewell to me as I drove away into the black night. 

So at the end of our lunch date V. and myself said our goodbyes. I was off to an appointment with my doctor at 14h, and her, I don’t know where she was going. And though everyone seems to hug in Mullumbimby we didn’t, due to Covid, due to discretion, or due to what the French call Pudeur, sans doute.

01 July 2020

Léo and Giotto, Unity and Form


(This is a reprint of a text that I wrote for the Marchutz Blog Autour de la Table in 2019)




There are many places where Leo speaks of Volume directly. And yet in my memory, I believe he also often spoke of Unity when describing works which he felt manifested Volume, or a unified whole. And, though I have not read through all the transcripts there is something here that raises questions for me. I wonder if the transcripts will reveal them?

ONE NEEDS FAR MORE than just a few paragraphs to explore this idea because for me, there is nuanced distinction between Volume and Unity even though Leo would frequently interchange these words. Leo most certainly used these words to express something vital for all of us. But how did he mean them?




Over time, I have personally come to understand that a painting can possess Unity but may not necessarily manifest Volume. Yet, on the other hand, a painting that manifests Volume will always possess Unity. Of course, this my own idea, and I don’t know what Leo would say about it. There are so many questions that I would like to ask him now, 45 years on, since I became a painter.


BACK TO THIS QUOTE, I think we all understand that he is speaking about the unified whole of a work to which nothing more can be added. But then too, Leo often spoke of a unified surface when speaking about the success or failure of a certain painting.


The second part of the quote could be a bit confusing because this was an improvised discussion, and Leo moved uneasily between German, French, and English. We often knew what he meant, but sometimes, for someone unfamiliar with his manner of speaking, the syntax and semantics had to be disentangled.


BY THE TIME LEO BEGAN WORKING in Tholonet in the 1930’s, one can see from his early oils that his understanding of both Volume and Unity held the paintings as if in a tight grip. His study in the museums would have prepared him for the structure of the Aix landscape, though perhaps the light of Provence would have come as a shock. One can easily picture Leo working out in the landscape because we have a few photographs of this. We could also imagine him painting a group of blue trees together in the hillside. But in that moment, what we wouldn’t discern might be his memory of seeing the extraordinary Volume in The Kiss of Judas by Giotto. We know through all of Leo’s subsequent work of the large imprint of that fresco upon his artistic sensibility. And too, it has a unified surface of which he always spoke with such amazement.


This reminds me of a late afternoon in his studio, probably in the Fall of 1975. We were looking at a large version of Peter with Christ (The Denial of Peter) and I remember saying to him:




“There is something of Giotto in this”

And he looked at me, and replied

“Yes, certainly… there is, but also… there is something in it which is not in Giotto!”

I remember it so clearly, it was one of those moments when he lit up in the autumn of his life.




I THINK ALSO OF HIS OWN LATE ST. VICTOIRES, and the late drawings from Venice from which he made color lithos. In these works there is both Unity of Surface, and Volume of image. Anything extraneous to the organic whole becomes a kind of bricolage, which Leo always abhorred. Bricolage is the term that François de Asis usually employs to describe a painting that doesn’t come together coherently. It is a picture that has been merely stacked up in a disjointed manner, one element after another, with neither visible Unity nor Volume.

So Unity and Volume are both elemental in the work of Leo. But how would he define these words and ideas? 



29 June 2020

Evening Prayers for the fun of it


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


"Cash burn is not necessarily a bad thing, if the money is being invested in a way that will lead to future growth and profit."


I read this one day a few years back in an article in the Investing section of The New York Times. At that time I was in a period of great worry that I was going through all my savings. I have always had enough to just slip by in my life, but after a few poor financial choices over the years I began to see the bottom of the proverbial barrel. I also remembered what Hemingway once said, or wrote, that "going broke happens slowly at first, then quickly". I used to recount this to friends when discussing money problems but I almost always recounted it with a nervous fear of its irony. 


Around this time I was just beginning this series of paintings done at the edge of the Pacific Ocean here in Australia. It has turned into a series, a long-winded one perhaps, but after three years it almost feels like I have been writing a book. A long book, a steady one, and one which has silenced my impatience and fear of failure.


Like a diary the studies are done most everyday, and indeed I have come to see them as paragraphs in a long autobiography. A painter   who writes might say: "these are endless waves arriving on the shore". 



Just as my confidence has grown in Painting so have my worries about money lessened. Painting is an investment in future growth. It is a byproduct of believing in one's worth, in this case cultural, but hopefully fiscal too. If it's a pipe dream, so be it. 


If it is of value I will eventually be compensated. If not, then I will have at least enjoyed myself here on earth. I just have to have enough to keep going, and all will be good. 



25 June 2020

Anatomy of a picture made in Provence



This painting was boxed in storage for several years after arriving with many other things form France. It was among many flat packed cartons which I had not opened, so it was a great surprise to re-discover it. I am pleased to have it here in Australia where light and colour are so vivid, and it fits in so well.

It must have been around the year 2000 when a girlfriend of mine was working as a chef at the Bard Lacoste School of Art in the small town Lacoste in the Vaucluse. I often went on weekends to stay with her there, and I was there for the exhibition of the students' work done that summer. They each showed in their small studio spaces where they had worked. It took place on a weekend in late August, and it was screaming hot. I walked into this small cubby hole of a room where an American from New York, was showing about a dozen things. I immediately loved this and he was happy to sell it, I forget how much, a student price for sure. 

He explained that it was a small cabanon in the valley below which he could see from the small dark room he used as a studio. I squinted off down into the hazy blue valley below Bonnieux and indeed I could make out the small stone house. For me it was a unique kind of vision, selective, and totally eccentric. An original, I could tell, a Black guy from New York, a gay actor, and capable of seeing something so differently, more differently than anything I had ever seen done in this iconic region. It was Canal Street meeting the route to Apt.

What I see is certainly not clear and which is one reason why I like the picture. It is specifically ambiguous. The luminosity of the pale, sun-kissed stone walls of the cabanon catching the afternoon rays is probably the most provençal visual truth of it. The sea in which the entire picture seems to swim is the big blue sky of summer in Province. The emerald green stripes running up and down across the painting are either the delineated fields so typical in Europe, or maybe hallucinations of  mature Cypress trees ubiquitously alining  small roads everywhere in France. Are  the small white popsicles lined up diagonally pale bluish olive trees? Or could they be small pickets holding up fences in lines along the field of grapes? Are the the black lines fields in deep shadow? Again, so much allegory of colour and form in here which allows a continual surprise.

Of course I have made all this up because I cannot for the life of me remember how he described any of this, though he certainly did at the time. I should check the back of the painting to see if he wrote his name by some chance. I could write him a card and ask what he remembers about his painting.


24 June 2020

Lincoln asleep in Lafayette park




During this awful US presidency which has pushed rationality up and away to the moon, one has to keep working to maintain one's sanity, one's hope, and one's sense of decency.

Personally, I feel caught between both the Left and the Right, between the Woke and the Asleep. And I always return to the importance of Art in all its forms. It is the one enduring activity which allows the creator to still believe in something bigger than all this essential nonsense. Our political battles and our social economic ties are indeed essential, but they are also nonsensical without a personal engagement with ourselves in a deeply personal way. And that is why any, and all Artistic activity is important for everyone, creators and participants. 


22 June 2020

some leap to conclusions, others to their deaths.


 Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 28 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I am thinking of Sol LeWitt, who wrote: “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.”

I have enjoyed Sol LeWitt for many years but I haven't been moved by his work. It has amazed me in a certain way but I have not been emotionally engaged by it. Yet, I like what he articulates here very much. Although I have never been able to move beyond the idea (which is the point I suppose) of Conceptual Art, I can see that Sol LeWitt was not the serious sort of boring Conceptual Artist as so many seem to be. He was full of mirth, and it certainly flowed out of him throughout his career as a visual artist and architectural decorator. 

I like the idea of being a mystic even if I don't really see myself as one at all. In fact, if I met someone who did consider him/herself a veritable mystic I would turn right around and run as fast as I could in the other direction.

A painting can be a mystical object in itself, but it can also invoke something deeply mysterious for the artist alone. He receives a divine treasure from the Muses or just maybe, it makes him a lot of money which is pretty mysterious too.


18 June 2020

Cézanne's apple and Van Gogh's pear


In France many years ago I dropped in on a painter friend with whom I was associated. He is someone I admired, artist whose mind had been educated in the French system, one shaped by rational thought. It was a Spring afternoon and he was in his garden when I arrived putting some last touches on a picture. Our usual banter almost always turns to Painting but on this day we spoke of a programme which had aired the previous evening on France Musique which highlighted the relationship between Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. At one point I said that although I loved Debussy, I had a deep emotional rapport to Ravel. 

Ravel seems to me more like a comfortable armchair of 19th century Romanticism in which no doubt Brahms had certainly napped. Debussy on the other hand, was steering music into the 21th century. So it was no surprise to me  that my friend replied that Debussy was the greater artist. Though this conversation was at least thirty years ago, from my diary at the time, I would summarise his thinking thus: 

"Unlike Ravel, Debussy's musical ideas were not weighed down by an excess of emotion."

We then engaged in very precise criticism as always, sometimes to the point of didactic exhaustion. But that is also what I loved about living in France among these hyper-opinionated participants in our collective cultural brawl. And Art criticism was part of our own brawl, our bond, the artistic glue which allowed for the relationship to replenish itself over years. And yet, I was annoyed by his confidence, his certainty, in placing one accomplished artist above another on a shelf in the Pantheon. 

Any avid listener to France Musique receives a large dose of both composers on a regular basis. I had listened a lot to both Ravel and Debussy since arriving in France years earlier. But for me, I have learned to love artists for a variety of different reasons and I  don't generally attach my feelings to a hierarchy. I have learned over the years to critique the work by an artist, not the artist himself. It keeps me out of a lot of problems. It is diplomatic, for sure, but also it is a cleaner, more precise way of looking at art. I have found that in all things artistic, roads should never lead to Rome, but away from it. And Rome, as destination, would be a conventional art of little interest.   


Paul Cézanne is generally considered to be the father of Modern Art. Like Debussy, he ushered into the 20th century a new structural form which broke away from centuries of pictorial thinking as if a dam had burst and swept away most of what was housed in the Louvre. To a great extent there is much truth to this. 

Vincent Van Gogh, on the other hand, isn't considered in the same light, and he, like Ravel was steeped in the 19th century structure of Painting arriving from both Delacroix and Rembrandt, among so many others including artists from Japan. Yet Vincent Van Gogh opened up the palette to more light than the world had ever seen or experienced beforehand. He was a new lightbulb.

But According to Emile Bernard who knew both Van Gogh and Cézanne, Cézanne had heard of Van Gogh, but thought he was a mad man who made mad paintings. Alors? Quoi faire?

I am someone who detests the word genius, and I never use it. But I do use the words Greatness, Great, Good, OK, and Awful, to describe Art in general, but also people too.

It has been many years since I have often remembered that conversation with my old friend. I remember being a bit shocked at the audacity of it. It still shocks me in a way. 

All these years later have given me more clarity to see that greatness comes in different colours, different forms, other even newer tastes. To compare two very great composers is like trying to compare Cézanne to Van Gogh; an apple to a pear. 








14 June 2020

Satie went out without an umbrella


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 June, 2020, oil on canvas board

In Painting, I never struggled with the painting, nor colour harmony, not even drawing. I had to learn a lot and work at it of course, but it was never, ever foreign to me even from a very early age. It was a gift which allowed me to proceed in this thing I came to understand as Painting. I had a very intuitive grasp of Art, and in fact I took it for granted. I couldn’t believe that others around me didn’t share this.

My problem in Painting arose from me. I had to overcome all my own very personnel issues around creativity. I was my own problem, but Painting never was.

By studying music I have had to overcome the difficulties of the music. I was propelled
into piano from a long secret obsession with this black beast of creature which we had in our house. I never took lessons which were somehow reserved for my sister who didn't really give a hoot. But I languished underneath the piano until I was discovered and thrown out. 

Fortunately, by the time I really did get ready to jump into the work I had been sober for a long while yet sadly, I am already of a certain age so my hopes have been somewhat muted thus far.

It has been work, and work which I have loved doing. Most of the time I am a mountaineer at the bottom of the cliff looking up to see what the task is for the day. I wasn’t given the gift of music. I was given the gift of Painting but something deep inside of me wanted the music. 

But how?
At 14 I imagined that I was too old to start but began a few lessons anyway with a teacher at boarding school. I must have been so unteachable and scatter-brained that she lost interest in me and I gave up. At 19 in my second year at University, in the Art School, I thought I would really love try to play piano but I then thought; for sure I am too old, so I gave up again. Much later in New York I exclaimed: Screw Everything! And I bought an old creaky upright which was delivered on my 30th birthday. So now, I have played off and on for 38 years. Yes I have learned to read a little, I have learned a few classical pieces under my belt. Satie especially makes me long for the Moon like a teenage girl in love.

But now I have jumped into the Standards, the old show tunes from my parents youth with an abandon which almost shocks me. I determined to understand enough to enjoy myself which, to be fair, I already do a dozen times over. More to be revealed.


13 June 2020

Chopin's grand spiderweb of melodic harmony




I was listening to Chopin's Études (Opus 10) this morning as I moved around my house on a small project, all the while I was glancing at the walls at a few pictures which I had framed and recently hung. 

"That's it!"
It suddenly occurred to me that there was a poignant relationship between what I was looking at, and the Chopin Études. It's strange because from the very beginning of this series at the beach three years ago, I imagined these pictures as 'etudes' in fact, even though they are hardly more than twilight's faint whispers. But I don't wish to reduce Chopin's Études to that description. 

This is my own understanding for things that I've made quickly to capture an ephemeral aspect of Nature. But saying that, there is also a lightness in many of these 'Études' which Frederic Chopin wrote when he was only 23 years old. There is a quirky and sometimes frenetic side to them with which I identify in my own small studies done at dusk. Each one has its own emotional logic embedded in its brushstrokes, and there is a repetitive motif which cycles through the colour wheel  in the same way that Chopin cycles through all the different keys, one Étude at a time.

In fact, each picture has 'its own idea' just like the Études by Chopin. And because they are small studies without a whole host of different relationships which might be housed in a larger and more complicated painting, there can only be room for one idea at a time.

When one listens to these small Études by Chopin I think one can understand that they too, possess but a simple melodic idea. It is in his Concertos where Chopin  develops a grand spiderweb of melodic harmonies. And a musical sketch is not too dissimilar to that of a painter's.

Each of my small pictures are distinct in the same way as each of Chopin's Études. And, although I also think that each picture is original, they are as different to one another as one sibling is to the next. Yet in them all, there is always a family resemblance somewhere, however obscure. And this ressemblance isn't just physical; not just the eyes, the ears, the smile, the feet! It relates also to the voice, the laughter, sense of humour, and the weird personal twitches shared in common between siblings but hardly discernable to outsiders. These are for me, in painting, the indescribable little quirks of a picture, the inexplicable brushstrokes or erasures, the marks of mistake rendering a work of art so distinctive and original, so human. 

And one only has to hear the first measures of a piece of music before one recognises the hand and soul of Frederic Chopin. And so it also is with a painter whose originality is visible for all to see at first glance. It's in the signature of the hand. It cannot be faked.

This is for me the remarkable way in which Art runs parallel to Nature in that Nature's logic is as original as it is repetitive in our visual world.



11 June 2020

trees wearing red rubies likes medals


 Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 6 June, 2020, oil on canvas board

I began a diary on 26 January, 1986. I was on a boat from Ancona to Piraeus, two nights and a full day of travel. The boat left late on the evening of the 25th and I had drunk much wine in a cafe in the Port before embarking. The next day in the early afternoon with a slight hangover I sat on the reclining chairs and started this diary in earnest. We sailed South and in the sky an army of small white clouds seemed to run past us in great haste back towards Italy. Surprisingly, I have pretty much written everyday ever since. It became a habit as I was hoping it would, finally. 

So, I include excerpts here in these pages as a supplement to my visual life. I began to transcribe them into my laptop 2 years ago. Little by little, word by word, needless to say, it has been a very, very slow process. I am only up to BOOK 4,... that's how slow it is. And yet what a pleasure it is to relive old memories, old trips, so many failed paintings, but so many great sunsets! So many museums in Europe in which I loved to be lost. There are two weird truths which come out of going through these old diaries.

One: I see that I was so much more grateful and full of joy than I remember during all those years. I had always, erroneously imagined that I was eternally depressed, but the diary tells me otherwise despite my sadness and sense of solitude often expressed in these pages.

Two: I realise just how golden it is to have youth on one's side, to have one's health. This is a precarious life for most of us, and to have good health is to have a great advantage. Health and Youth! 

And I come away from this by seeing that if Then was golden, then surely today is just as golden too. In twenty years time when I shall indeed be an old man, will I look back and marvel at,... no,... will I be Grateful for just how wonderful my life is TODAY?


1 November, 1989 (Châteaunoir)
Blood red sunsets these days. Small red lights sit on the trees as if they have been pasted upon them. It reminds me of the women in India who paste their cow dung onto the trees for drying, then use them for cooking. I remember so many trees covered with pale polka dots lining the dusty roads as far as I could see. And these trees too, at the Châteaunoir are also a tactile experience as well as a visual one. These Oak and Pine trees wearing red rubies likes medals pinned to their chests as far as I could see this evening.


10 June 2020

Forsake the rose, and blush thyself!



Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 5 June, 2020, oil on canvas board, 40 X 35 cm

My teacher was Léo Marchutz whom I met in Aix in 1972, and because of this encounter, my life was completely altered thereafter. I feel so very lucky to have met him as a young university student. I was a lost young man with untapped resources locked inside me but he showed me a way out of my small self and into the bigger, unlimited world of Art. It is solely because of him that I understand what I do today even if my ideas have sprouted different wings than those which carried him during his lifetime.


And yet I have been thinking lately about how it is that when innovators arrive in history, ‘schools of’ sprout up, and immediately followers make rules and dictums which the subsequent adherents must follow.


Throughout the history of Painting it has been thus. We have all been influenced by master, teachers, great works which have touched us. The trick, it seems to me, has been to take what we need, and leave the rest. Easy enough if one knows what we need. But we rarely do know what we need when we need it, except retroactively when much later do we understand, or maybe not, our choices made at the time. Life can be so tricky. 

And to find ourselves far away from our teachers, our mentors, our influences; to be out alone in the solitary studio of our own personal creativity is to transcend our teachers. It is a good thing too, even if we  are not without with questions, because otherwise we'd find ourselves in a prison full of someone else's ideas.  

In the end, to be a painter is a worthwhile activity even if we fall on our face. 

When we die, what will we have left to the world? Watch the sunset! I tell myself when I take it all too seriously. Or as Shakespeare said:

"Forsake the rose! and blush thyself!"



08 June 2020

Robert E. Lee and their badass ways




I have always thought it a shame that people of every civilisation rip up their past at various points in their life by destroying  works of art which symbolise everything which they hate. 

I can certainly understand it though. I wish I could rip up bits of my own past but that is not possible. Though I live with all my ugly hateful bits from my past I am not ruled by them. They are just part of my past history, my whole life.

As a creative man, (white) I deeply regret that so many equestrian statues will be sawed off and sent to bronze foundries to be recycled into the next set of heroes who might get their own 15 minutes of fame.

I am irrelevant in these debates. The mob will rule as it always has throughout history. Wonderful things are ransacked and destroyed in the name of moral justice. The French revolution performed with surgical precision the decapitation of so many chateaux and churches which we collectively mourn, still today. And the Louvre is full of loathsome scoundrels. 

Wasn't it in San Francisco where they recently wanted to destroy a mural because it depicted George Washington and native Americans? Wasn’t it because it hurt people’s feeling causing emotional distress? In the end that saga was resolved by a compromise of sorts because the grown-ups finally showed up.

But to the point, in this case the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee is the next target. I would only ask that it not be removed but left in its place with a placard at its base which explains the historical truth behind this man who sits atop this fine looking horse of bronze. I would hope that it be used to placate this generation, and perhaps to educate future generations in order that we can all understand the context behind which this statue remains. Maybe we can become a little wiser to our histories as a whole, in all their big bad-ass ways. 

America has changed but not enough, because it has never looked at itself, warts and all. Until we do we are condemned to a mindset of stupidity and shortsightedness. As they say 'the fish rots from the top’.


07 June 2020

colour shaded only in the Divine

As I dive deeper into musical harmony by making my way through the RealBook I see more clearly the essential relationships between Painting and Music. I also begin to familiarise myself with flatted 9ths, 5ths, suspended 4ths, etc, etc. I marvel out how chords meld into one another in the same way which colours do in a painting. They always push towards an eventual resolution. 

I have listened to so many different kinds of  music in my life, and it has formed my sensibility over time just as the sheer volume of painting I have looked at, has given me a visual foundation.

Over the years my interest with the painting surface has grown. How colours interact with one another on a unified surface is one of those essential elements. Simply put, this is basically how colours are placed next to one another on a unified picture plane. How do colours clash, or give compliment in a Painting? Isn't it what helps to give a picture its vitality? A poor connection between colours means a poor connection between planes, and thus resulting in a weak painting. And so it is, too, with almost all musical harmony. It seems to me that it should appear effortless even if a life has been shed for it.

I use my own pictures as examples, they are to be judged after all. (Money where your mouth is, so they say) They are mostly from this past year except for the last two which were done at the very beginning of the series  three years ago. I approached the project after a long while of working in the studio which is apparent because there is more of 'me' in them, and less Motif than the newer ones.

These are all of the sea and sky. But mostly they are about the sky which is essentially about painting air in fact. There is no material, no handles onto which to grab; no branches, no bricks, no ears, nor noses! 

It's colour shaded only in the Divine; it's a luminous hue embalmed in the scent of the palest perfume of light. 

And yet, these elements of the picture plane must be joined and reconciled to make up the whole image. The flat 5ths and flat 9ths which transition from one colour to the next should resolve any dissonance in the viewer's mind at the end. 
  

















































04 June 2020

"Man, you hadda be there!"



Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 1 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm


There are days when I paint as if I had taken some mushrooms but had somehow forgotten that I had. The polished sky is so clean, and yet this colourful kitsch manifests without any artifice. It is real and freely offered to us all, and it can be painted with one's own personal wand. For a painter, it is the empirical horizon line between Art and Nature.

But like the surfers say, "Man, you hadda be there!"

I like most skies though, muted ones with marbled soft greys, effervescent ones, and skies which make you really happy that you are a painter of skies. But they don't always come easily. 

There are solutions to be found. Where does the foreground begin? Where is the upper limit of the sky? Where is the horizon line today? But, weirdly, one just jumps in and hopes for the best just like the surfer. There is an art to almost everything concerning the sea after all.   

    


03 June 2020

Naples Yellow, from Vesuvius to Sennelier





Naples Yellow comes from the Vesuvius region around the bay of Naples and was no doubt used extensively for frescoes 2000 years ago.

I do not use it for a few reasons, one of which is basically that it is a milky colour, too milky indeed! It contains a lot of titanium white premixed by any number of paint companies which sells the colour in tube. As a painter I would not accept someone else’s calculation of a paint's hue or its value. If I need to make a Naples Yellow I use Citron Yellow, cadmium yellow, and various reds to create a warm yellow tone, or hue. But it is me who creates the amount of both hue and value, because it is me who adds the titanium myself. Naples Yellow suffers like so many other colours which have been premixed to create lighter pigments. Why would I let a paint company dictate the value parameters of a painting? It is the motif which dictates the kind of colour and its hue. It cannot be the other way around!


Cézanne, apparently used only about 5 or 6 colours to make his most sumptuous works notably the version of the Jas de Bouffan in Aix.

And below, an example using a yellow made on the spot (with cadmium yellow, citron yellow,  rose madder and titanium white) to fit the appropriate needs for the hue and value of this painting. It resembles a Naples Yellow right from Sennelier! 

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 Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 8 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 40 X 35 cm


02 June 2020

Be gracious everywhere, is my prayer


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

While America seems to swim in turmoil at this moment I find myself in Australia and living a quiet life centred around Art, far from the chaos of this presidency. Many years ago all of this would have certainly raised my anxiety levels enough to paralyse me. I have  changed though, but aged is a better description, old enough to realise that there is little I can do to make our society any better than to simply be a person respectful of others, and kinder, without consideration of race or religious denomination. Be gracious everywhere, is my prayer

Still, it is hard to watch the American carnage which Trump has wrought upon us. Thankfully, the youth of today, made up of all courageous colours, they are out in the streets doing the work for the rest of us. It's gone on too long all this racism in America, everywhere, in fact. As a white man I have looked through the lens of racism in my own upbringing and watched with horror at all its subtle and pernicious shades of grey. I am not a snowflake nor am I as white as snow. 

This painting came quickly the other night, the second of two made in the session. I was about to pack up but I saw just enough to decide to make make another. The 'glow' or 'blossom' had mostly gone from the sky but something remained in my memory which allowed me to make this. 

In Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats said 

'Truth is Beauty, and Beauty Truth, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know' 

There are so many reasons why I return, again and again, to this motif at the beach. It is limitless, and also I see innocence, and a purity of heart in this twilight sky. The pink glow at dusk; a young woman's blush, honest and true, hence full of beauty, full of all those things in Nature unblemished by the cruelty of Humankind.