31 January 2021
30 January 2021
28 January 2021
27 January 2021
26 January 2021
WPHEvening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 22 January, 2012, oil on canvas board, 25 x 20 cm
A mushy sky greeted me last week, and with a certain hesitation I made several small studies. There was little wind and I had to bring out the bug spray but once I had made the palette of the usual suspects I began to feel more comfortable.
What always amazes me is that in spite of that initial fear and hesitation of how to begin, the hand begins to move with abandon in those first brushstrokes.
I am always in awe of great writing so I read a lot of books about 'how to write'. Of course, they are never titled as such but that is basically what they are. Writers, unlike painters on the whole, love to talk about how they write. Painters seem secretive and jealous, almost psychotically paranoid that some inferior art student will steal their style. Mais enfin!
I have read many books on writing by lots of different authors; Annie Dillard (whom I have actually never read), Jim Salter, (of whom I have read everything), Anne Lamott, Stephen King, who wrote a brilliant book about how to write (ditto for Annie Dillard as I have never read his books either) Stanley Fish, who wrote How to Write a Sentence, etc, etc..
Happily there probably aren't a lot of books written by bad writers, unlike in the Painting World which is full of people who paint badly yet when they do try to teach others how they might paint well, can't.
So I come to Nathalie Goldberg who wrote a few books about how to learn to write, one being Writing down the Bones which I liked very much and read more than once. She is an avid proponent, like many, who meets with writing buddies in cafes and other spots to write for a specific time limit. It's about discipline and camaraderie. I know a few people who do it because it is an integral part of a Creative Writing degree everywhere now. Somehow it seems very modern to me, a program suited to our age of rapid-fire communication; cell phones, twitter, zoom, etc, etc..
(I suddenly imagine Flaubert writing longhand in his small town of Croisset, Normandy, living by the timetable of La Post Française for connection to the outside world)
In her book Writing Down the Bones she describes just how important it is to keep the hand moving, always moving to keep the mind from hesitation. "Don't stop the movement" she implores her student authors. At least this is what I understood from her, and it has helped me in own Painting enormously because when I feel a hesitation in Painting I remember this advice from Nathalie Goldberg. Of course, it helps that I am chasing the last light of the colourful day instead of working feverishly in a cafe.
"...there is no time for dillley-dalleying young man!" as an old Irish governess of mine used to always say.
In the end though I was happy with what came out of this session. A hazy sky is a beautiful sky for me, but it is a tricky sky, and needs a leap of poetic speed.
25 January 2021
23 January 2021
22 January 2021
18 January 2021
17 January 2021
15 January 2021
13 January 2021
I don’t want to make boring paintings which hug a wall, attaching to it like a stuffed elk head in a hunting lodge.
I don't always like to paint anecdotal pictures either but I admit that these two are anecdotal in a weird sort of way though it may seem obscure to many, even myself.
I am not looking for reassurance when I paint, nor do I look for that when viewing pictures either in my home or elsewhere. To seek confirmation, to pursue a verification of my own ideas seems to be a misuse of the moment. And to see Art as a relic, something old, something dead in a glass case in a museum is also a misuse of time. But I can understand why so many people do when looking at Art. Museums are full of things both dead and alive, and too, its visitors are both dead and alive. In the end, it usually comes down to how much imagination we bring to the experience.
A relic of the past is an affirmation that life was, and to some degree is still today somewhat recognisable (even if young people all have tattoos). We want the familiar but to want this familiar is too often to simply want the same, same old. And the same old in Art is boring and dishonest.
After Matisse, why would anyone desire to paint in the manner of Rembrandt? What is the point? But don't get me wrong I love the OLD too, I love Chardin because I like the OLD but well painted and truthful OLD.
Ultimately though, I want the NEW, but I don't want the NEW to be badly painted. Museums are too full of bad paintings. I want the NEW to be a grandsons of Monet, Cezanne, or Morandi even. Is that asking too much?
I want to paint pictures which cling to the walls of my home, creeping around like dragons and serpents with smokey breath. I need to be shaken up. I want paintings to force me to gently tippy-toe around them naked, or in underwear on the way to the kitchen looking for a sweet during the night. I want to risk being bitten otherwise none of it is very interesting. But at the same time I do want to make pictures which will please me to live with in my solitary castle.
Enfin, I want to be eternally surprised. I need for paintings to ask me questions instead of always throwing answers at me with a clunky heavy certitude.
Why can't artists learn to ask questions to which most answers seem reasonably incomprehensible?
10 January 2021
This is a study from sometime last year which I wisely stopped myself from finishing. It's most rare that I show this restraint because normally, if I like the start on a painting I will often just grab a quick shot of it whilst still on the easel as proof that miracles still can happen. Then I continue working on it, transforming it into something which it never would have imagined becoming. This one spoke to me and told me to put it aside.
But, one cannot hold onto all great beginnings, after all. If we did, we might never get beyond the first kiss, the first few delicious dates... and then, we would certainly never move onward to marriage and children would we?
No, like a painting, we must jump in further, making mistakes along the way with a secret hope that they are repairable, until they aren't. And then comes divorce, and tears, and recriminations from all sides.... but I digress.... I am really trying to just discuss a painting, after all. But you see how things are related? What can start out so beautifully, can equally turn ugly, full of messiness and regrets, the end then, depends on whose point of view. This is a story of Loving and Painting all bound together.
The start of this painting, though not great, had a germ of pictorial genius in it which I had wanted to keep.
There was something of it which reminded me of Japan, and this Nippon fascination, once bitten and smitten, becomes a life-long infection.
But in it too, there is something truly American, as in the heyday of large minimalist Painting back in the 1960's when life seemed simpler, more expansive, more happy and optimistic (but only if you were white though).
And come to think of it, this image reveals that voraciously oversized American appetite, the one which can never be satiated, the one which screams for MORE Park sausages mom!
Finally, this small start of a study, is reminding me of an oversized billboard out on a deserted stretch near a beach somewhere. It brightly advertises the sale of the whole darn, big blue sky!
09 January 2021
A rather gloomy-looking sky engulfed me last week as I set up for a session. I was not looking forward to it. It has been raining so much these past weeks that I have not been able to find any convenient skies to enjoy working from. This study was on its way to being a real wreck which would have made me a wreck for the evening.
Then, remarkably, when I was just about to smear and smudge it over with an angry paintbrush I found my way back in to it with a hint of hope. I had nothing to lose, after all, but in those moments one forgets this fact too easily. And I knew that it would put me in a bad mood for the entire drive home in the car. But once there, I would make a cup of tea, sit at the piano, and within no time at all I would again become my usual optimistic self once again. ! Ha Ha... but it's true, mostly.
In any event, I managed to re-arrange the whole graphic drawing for this small study, then thought to myself: well, not great, not even good, but at least I didn't destroy it and leave the beach with a resentment. I put it in the back of the car and went home. It rained for several days afterward and I forgot to remove it which I normally do on the following mornings. Anyway, when I did finally retrieve it days later I was pleasantly surprised with it. I put in a frame and thought,,,, hmm...
And that is a small sketch of the angry paintbrush and the hint of hope which almost got away.
06 January 2021
04 January 2021
02 January 2021
For anyone unfamiliar with Ian Fairweather's work, he was born in Britain in 1891, and after many peregrinations throughout Asia he ended up in Brisbane Australia. It's a stone's throw from where I am currently settled. I will not say too much about him, but Google will inform anyone interested in this extraordinary painter.
For an 'abstract' painter, I find him infinitely more interesting than the infamous Jackson Pollack who is still considered the reference for 'Abstraction Expressionist Painting', at least in America. Fairweather's outline follows a similar path to Pollack's. They both worked from Nature early on in their careers but eventually subject matter became personalised, increasingly.
I like these two paintings so very much. That is to say, they speak to me in a familiar yet foreign language, one which I do speak but might not completely understand due to a regional dialect which is a little confounding..
It is a shame that Fairweather is not better know outside of Australia. That is a problem with being so far from the Art capitals in America and Europe. At least it certainly was in the 50's when Australia was indeed a cultural backwater. Perhaps that may have changed enough today so that someone of Fairweather's stature might achieve a greater recognition, at least beyond the beaches. Not sure about that, myself, Australia is still very parochial in many ways.
But Fairweather would not have become the painter he became if he had not lived his last years in the isolated Queensland of the 50's and 60's, when Australia was a very different country than today.
Shalimar, 1962, polymer oil-based house paint, (approx) 250 X 150 cm