30 April 2023

boob jobs


Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 2 March 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

 Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,2 March 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm (restored 15 April 2023)

Here are four images that comprise two earlier pictures and the subsequent restoration of them
both. I say restoration, but I might just say that there were properly finished at a later date because I was never happy with them the first time around. But I write restoration because they were kicking around in the back of my small Toyota for months before I grabbed them one day to 'finish' at the beach after a session. But by then they were pretty scuffed up and in need of an overhaul, more than just a boob job to make them seem more desirable.

This is a shame because I had mostly liked the 'ideas' in each of them, especially the one below which is essentially just four wide bands of colour, three for the sky, and a dark one for the sea below.

I think at the time, which was miles and miles ago, I didn't worry about 'a finish' as much as I do now. This, I feel somehow is usually the reverse of the process in a series of work for a painter. Usually at a painter's start things begin a little tight but then go crazier with later on in life. But Hey!... 

I usually stopped working on a picture when I felt 'it had arrived' at a good place in my imagination. That is to say that it accomplished the purpose of a painting session by having created an image from my imagination while using my eyes, and which I found wholly pleasurable. Whether or not that represented reality for someone else was somewhat secondary. For me the question was; Had I caught something in what I had seen? 

So although I feel the top painting, the one with the purple line of cloud stretching beneath the warm yellow band of sky was certainly finished after the initial session, I had also been unhappy with the sea. Had it been too monotonous or otherwise deficient technically speaking? In any event, I put in the boot of the car where it got bounced about and roughed up for about a year, and by then it needed to see a surgeon.  

The result of this operation changed its form and colour entirely. But I was pleasantly surprised nonetheless, and reasonably happy with it. 

This one directly below, is a shame because I had loved the way the four bands of colour expanded across the picture plane like elastic; the palest Prussian blue, then a rich (but broken) pink, then violet underneath, giving the whole sky a certain kind of weight.

To finish it, I had imagined only a small bit definition work around the horizon line that had needed cleaning up. But alas,... that too, had suffered at the hands of the boot and it too went under the surgeon's brush. I wasn't overwhelmed by the result.

Though I did enjoy this work of cosmetic surgery, I also regretted too, because I think like so many surgeons must feel deep in their hearts and behind their credit cards, that really, the boobs had been perfectly fine the way they were before surgery.  

But there are lessons to be learned all around. One, like boobs, skies, no matter what the configuration, are almost always quite beautiful in their natural state. And two, like an ex. of mine had constantly harangued me, just keep the car clean.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 11 March 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

  Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 11 March 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm (restored 15 April 2023)

23 April 2023

The murder site

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 11 April 2023, oil on can canvas, 
30 x 25 cm

Recently, after looking at these posts, a friend exclaimed that I was "apparently an analytical painter". This surprised me so I thought about it for a while. Then I responded.

"The way I paint is quickly and without thought, like a murder committed out of passion. Maybe I had pre-meditated it beforehand, or not, but it was still an act of speed and 'thoughtlessness'.

"Like a murder," I continued, "it's only afterward when the cops have come in to block everything out, to figure out the Who, the What, and the Why, do I go into Police headquarters and spill the beans."  

This, I explained to my friend, who then looked at me extremely puzzled. 

In Painting, it's rarely what one paints, but how one paints.  

16 April 2023

Morocco, carrots to donkeys and barking dogs

The other day I was looking at some drawings I had made in Morocco during several trips there many years ago. This prompted some interesting thoughts about those drawing trips I undertook during that time, light years away now.

They were an adventure in lots of ways, but also kind of difficult too because I was spending all my time just drawing in the streets, and in Morocco, after a few weeks of this, one can easily be worn down. I rarely did anything but draw on these trips except to visit a few museums and rug sellers of course. And like the 'economical' means with which I drew, so too, were my small hotels and cafes as well. I moved with a quiet simplicity through life there.

I drew in all the big cities, Marrakech, Fez, Rabat, Casablanca and Tangiers. But I liked Essaouiria the best for its easygoing atmosphere on the Atlantic coast, and it's where I would invariably end up each trip. 

There I got to know woman who worked at The Alliance Française which was located in a large and lovely Riad in th middle of town. This French woman had come to Essaouiria from Paris a few years earlier and she was very happy with the move. She was curious about my drawings too so I suggested that she show them to her boss for possibly a small exhibition which I knew they set up regularly. I gave her a small book to show him. A few days later we met at a cafe and she told me that he didn't think a show would work for one reason or another. But I sensed that there was more to the story so I boldly pressed her on what he had thought of the drawings. With a Parisian shrug, she confessed that he hated them. I was briefly stung by the remark but then curious for an explanation so I asked, "Alors?". She went on to say that they were too depressing and too dark, apparently.

"OK", I thought" after pause, so I let it drop.

But it did suddenly give me a shock, and it shook me out of my solipsistic and dreamy notion about myself, one quite removed from the big world outside.  

And yes, I could understood that maybe they appeared dark and depressing to others, though I couldn't be sure, because for me, they simply revealed the hard truth of what we call, The Third World. To me, they are real, "juste", as the French might say.

Of course, many tourists and visitors do not see this side because they are chauffeured around in luxury mini-vans going from one luxury Riad to the next Palace, then onward to chic restaurants all over Morocco just because they can. The exchange rates are most advantageous in the Third World. 

So I had to suddenly reckon with the fact that these drawings of mine are not happy postcards of Morocco, nor are they for everyone.

But "Hey!"... I am drawn to sorrow like a donkey to a carrot, too late to change! 

But aside from this entire previous dialogue, there was this realisation that I was sensing, I was ruminating, really, as I looked at the drawings the other day. 

What it was, was the notion that I could somehow 'see' their faces as if they were imprinted in my mind even before I had started drawing from them.... And yet these drawing were made so quickly that this seems almost impossible to imagine.

But it created the impression that I could see the specific feeling behind the face of each person whom I was about to draw, as if I had already grabbed their expression in my imagination nano-seconds before commencing, and this seemed crucial to allowing me to draw them in the first place. Whew...Wow...

Curiously though, I never really spent much time thinking about this part of the process. I just went out into the streets and worked quickly, without thinking, as I was taught by Léo, my teacher many years earlier. 

No thought, so Zen,... and yet, something in this way of working moved me enough to keep going, day after day, week after week.

So yes, they rarely look happy because Moroccans are always working like dogs, and just like donkeys, they rarely look happy. It is a hard life and I am always attracted to these forlorn lives, forever, for I am not after vanity but humanity.

09 April 2023

Easter and the Muses


I have loved this one holy moment of the Christian year all throughout my life. Brought up Catholic, though quite casually, I only knew the inside of a church like a tourist.

Much later, when I discovered the Churches of Europe I was opened up to Art through this idea of redemption and rebirth, two Christian ideas that I hold dear today as a painter.

Redemption, because I was allowed to forgive my worst enemy: Myself. And Rebirth, because I now understand in these later chapters of my life that each new day is a joy to live because of Painting, but also so much else. I am also grateful because previously this enemy wouldn't have allowed for this.

It was during my time living in France that I came to appreciate France Musique, a station that offered up a feast of Bach and Handel during this week after Palm Sunday. One can be irreligious yet still be in thrall to great spiritual mysteries that one finds in all things Artistic, notably, Chartres Cathedral but also Claude Monet in the Orangeries in Paris.

So, despite this awful cliché, I've found that flexible space between the Spiritual and the Artistic. On the one hand, I had to pass through the Spirit to become a painter, but on the other, I needed Painting to bring me to the Spirit. 

So with thankfulness, I offer up my favourite spot in the whole world over these past six years, a small dune by the sea where I come to drink from the golden chalice of the Muses. It's a good life and I am grateful. 


02 April 2023

April 1st, Trump and Obama


I cannot remember where I picked this up but it has had a place on my desktop for a while now. And what better time than to post it than on April Fool's day.

Whoever painted it has a strangely cool sense of originality, as well as a great graphic sense for drawing (and likeness). It reminds me of those fantastic paintings that adorn Barber shops all over Africa (and even in parts of inner city America brought by migrants). 

A picture like this always reminds me that for me, originality is everything. It is because it means that something is real, flawed perhaps, but real. And as originality can reveal creator's defects, it will also reveal the unforeseen assets as yet discovered deep inside a creator.

Years ago, I remember reading about the actor and painter Martin Mull whose paintings are wonderful, quirky, and yes, very original. He had gone to Rhode Island School of Design back in the late 1960's. He recounts in his book that there was a fellow student who was obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh, who wanted nothing more than to paint just like him. He showed up in class even dressed a bit like the great artist wearing baggy soiled clothes and wooden clogs on his feet, (which were becoming the rage in France when I was there in  the 1970's). According to Mull, his paintings were wild and unstructured and left the class amused and befuddled. He seemed desperate to find his own style by channeling Vincent Van Gogh. Exasperated, one day, the teacher took him aside and asked him to paint a self-portrait while patiently explaining to this student that any 'flaws' or 'mistakes' that were revealed in it were in fact going to be his 'style'.   

I don't remember the end of the story but Martin Mull certainly took this lesson to heart because he wrote about it many years later on. 

This story impresses me even now so many years later for it speaks to the truth of living an 'inside' life, not an 'outward' one. This is essential for a creative person, especially painters. And though some painters find sartorial bliss by showing themselves off in wild clothes and pyjamas, Being a 'M'as tu vu?' is dangerous for an artist. 

So in this spirit I share this curious and crazy portrait of two American ex-presidents. One, who possessed class (and style), the other one, so obviously desperate for both. One happily smiling, the other just trying to.... Go figure.