30 October 2020

Journal 98 Collaboration with François De Asis and Claude Massu (cont)


23 March 1998

Went to see Francois last night. I wanted to read him a piece (en Français) which I had written about myself for the show in Mirmande at the Église St Fôy in September. He kindly helped me to rewrite the last paragraph which brings order to the whole thing. He liked it, and to my surprise, he found it well done, concise and original, loyal to my person, as the French say.

Afterwards, he showed me a book on Picasso’s last paintings. We looked at an erotic scene of two lovers kissing. Such crazy distortion! He wanted to show me this in relation to a Duccio painting ‘The kiss of Judas’ which he had seen in John’s (Gasparach) slideshow at the school with the music of Stabat Mater playing. Indeed the surface unity of both were so similar.

He added (regarding my own work) that the angel-like person flying in one of my paintings was in fact, no more ridiculous than angels flying overhead in the Giotto frescoes which he had seen in the slideshow at the school. I agreed because for me, the angels were just objects in space to help unify the picture plane. He said he had much preferred them in the Giotto fresco than in the seemingly endless blue sky of the Mantegna (crucifixion) also seen in the slideshow.

5 May ?

I went over on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon at noon. In his studio he was working on a serigraph plate for his project with Bonnefoy dressed in his sheepskin jacket, woolen sweater underneath, and his huge wooden clogs, the kind which one slides into completely like a boat with pointed toes.

He was painting the plastic sheet with a whitish tone; each sheet representing a different color for the lithographer. There would be maybe 10 or 12 of them per painting. He gestured to it and said with a smile:

“Voilà Tal Coat!”

“Non”, I responded

“Voilà Giorgio Armani!” which he didn’t understand at first because of the way I had pronounced it, (but also because it seemed so out of left field.) Then foolishly I repeated:

“Armani, Giorgio Armani, le Couturier!”

I tried to explain that the oriental looking patterns on the sheet in pale lavender reminded me of the exotic, and beautiful textiles that Armani uses to make his coats and dresses....but, alas, he was already off onto another tangent.

On the wall were hung a few new paintings from Venice. He said that it had been the coldest, rainiest trip ever....almost every day: rain or drizzle, a bone chilling cold which infected him whenever he was outside on a motif.

There was painting of a ‘new motif’ from the Ca Rezzonico looking toward the Ca Foscari. I recognized it immediately because I often stayed there. I was fooled by the actual place however, thinking he had done it from the 2nd or 3rd floor, and wondering just how he had received permission to work from a balcony window. He had, actually done it from just on the other side of the building in a tiny spot to the right. What fooled me was just how much ‘vertical’ water he had managed to draw into the construction of the painting. It really looked as if done from above, not at the waterline. As cold as it was, he admitted that it was “passionnant”, adding “J’y retournerais toute de suite si je pouvais”. And, I could see that he meant it.

On the left of this was a ‘very abstract’ version, a later one in violets, pale greens, and yellows done very quickly, perhaps even in 20 minutes or so. At the moment (as I write this) I retain an image of it as an X-ray, but in color. It seemed to be a quick expressionistic vision of the bones, ligaments, and shreds of muscle in the motif itself.

On the right, a finished version, in fact, the very first one done after arriving in Venice....in his own words: “very impressionist”.

He had received a letter from Yves Bèrgery who is somewhere in Martinique. Francois had just replied to it and he read me both. Basically, what Yves said was that Nature was too big, (describing the view from where he was staying on a hilltop with a 360 degree view) and that he believed it impossible for anyone to work from it today, or do anything of it which would do justice to its scale. To me, it sounded like a rhetorical question, not knowing Yves very well. Francois agreed because he felt that deep down, Yves believed it was impossible to paint from Nature.

Francois read me his reply. One thing I remember he said was said that ‘anything could be done from Nature if one worked at it enough.’ and he went on.. ‘A solution could always be found in pictorial terms if one stayed with it long enough to tame it.’

I didn’t stay long as I wanted to let him get back to his work. Before I left though, he showed me a Saluté also done in no more than 40 minutes.... An exquisite thing!... yellow, violets, and a black Dogana! (the small white building at the the point of the lagoon which used to be the Customs Office, hence Dogana or Douanes in French)

29 October 2020

Keith Jarett, Jackson Pollock and the Burbling Brooks everywhere

Below are some excerpts from an article which came out last week in the New York Times about Keith Jarrett. He has been undergoing some serious health issues and has been unable to play for the past year. Sad news for all us. 

I was mad about him for years and managed to see him a few times in France. 

I love the small anecdotes which are copied and pasted below. I love what he says about Coltrane and how he spawned a generation of imitators. And this makes me think of the parallel situation in the Painting world. There are few really original greats of any era but there are many, many imitators. Think of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Klee, de Kooning, Pollock, and even Donald Judd. But I don't endorse any of these artists as great, or not, or even worthy of praise, or not, I just point out that each of them still live on a cloud street overhead and high above of imitators as far as the sky can see.

I love the second excerpt about his aunt who advised her 3 year old nephew to create something from a burbling brook on the piano. Now, this was a cool and clairvoyant woman!

And lastly, the one wherein Jarrett renounces the 'musical idea' before a recital. Few artists who have tried to paint a picture really battle with this notion as it is a rare preoccupation I believe but I have spoken of it a little before. Most people (myself included, and too often) approach a motif with an 'idea' and this can be a comfortable way to face the terror of an empty canvas. But the really great ones of our time, in any field, simply don't need to think anymore, they proceed with a great trust in their own gifts and with grace.  Their practice has been done, and so has their thinking, they simply open up to the Muses which have assured their confidence. One could say even that they place their trust in something higher than themselves.

 “I feel like I’m the John Coltrane of piano players,” he said, citing the saxophonist who transformed the language and spirit of jazz in the 1960s. “Everybody that played the horn after he did was showing how much they owed to him. But it wasn’t their music. It was just an imitative thing.”

According to family lore, he was 3 when an aunt indicated a nearby stream and told him to turn its burbling into music — his first piano improvisation.

Of course, imitation — even of oneself — is anathema to the pure, blank-slate invention Mr. Jarrett still claims as his method. “I don’t have an idea of what I’m going to play, any time before a concert,” he said. “If I have a musical idea, I say no to it.” (Describing this process, he still favors the present tense.)

26 October 2020

like waves of a thousand afternoons


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

I am not sure if I had already put this up in this space, but here it is, in any case. 

Tonight, the sea and sky looked just like this. But sadly, I painted something different, as hard as I tried to paint this particular sky which already held a place somewhere deep in the vault of my visual memory. 

"Too often, this Painting business is such an elusive adventure!"  I thought to myself.

And yet, the truth in this painting was like a 'yellow stickie', affixed to my forehead throughout the evening in spite of my inability to render it again just as I had in this painting done one month ago. 

Though I couldn't get this right tonight, I certainly painted something else of another value, even if I wished for something different. But what pleases me, and I what I wish to express, is that the sea and sky tonight was just like the painting already done weeks ago. 

And at the risk of being pedantically redundant, this experience is the inverse of that of being in a museum in front of a painting where the picture seems so truthful that one  thinks to oneself: 

"I have seen this it! When I was on such and such a beach last year!"

In this instance, it is the beach which says:

"I have seen such a picture being made by that weird painter last month!"

It is a reassurance for a painter to feel that when there is truth in a work, it will live on (in this case) on the beach like the waves of a thousand afternoons to come. 

25 October 2020

Journal 98, collaboration with François De Asis and Claude Massu (cont)


13 November, 1998

Arrived late, just after the sun had disappeared which left a glowing blue sky. François and Eliane had just arrived back from town.

As it was a little late to go down into the studio (no electric light), we parked ourselves in the living room and looked through some of the green folders on the table full of drawings which he had just matted. Eliane made us a mint tea, and thus we spent the next 2 and 1/2 hours.

Almost all the drawings were done from the vaporetto, that is to say in no more than 4 or 5 seconds maximum. So exquisite did I find these things that I could only look at them with a rather dumbfounded expression. A few done from San Giorgio started a discussion. One in particular, with strong accents embracing the church cupola gave Eliane some confusion. Francois began to explain the various elements in this particular drawing. Firstly, he said that he only really ‘saw’ the drawing for the first time this very evening, as even when matting them he rarely gives himself the ‘distance’ nor the time to ‘look’ at them. So, it is only with time and distance is he able to properly understand what he has done. I think of one of Leo’s favorite maxims from Thomas Aquinas which said that ‘Art is the measuring stick for Art’.

It seems to me that he only sees the ‘motif’ while working, the drawing is simply the result of what goes on between his hand and his eye.

He pointed out that in fact a round element indicating on what was certainly a square window on San Giorgio was executed that way only in order to preserve the unity of the image as a whole. An “inexplicable phénomène”, an improvisation created by years and years of working from ‘the visible world’ as he always describes it.

I confess that it took me a few minutes to see the drawing in my own mind.

Eliane saw the cupola ‘as the sun’ which of course is easily done. But François quickly pointed out each and every element right down to the white tower to the left explaining each of his marks, or “signes” as he calls them.

Next, we looked at drawings of the Rialto and drawings done just as the vaporetto approaches the Ca Foscari as it turns to the left and up to the Academia. Before the turn on the right sits the Admiral’s Palazzo with the two distinct pillars atop the roof marking it so. For me, one of the very remarkable things about these drawings are the delicate patterns working in concert with one another. The curious rhythm of the strokes is uncanny, and they made me think of Stravinsky.

Also, each drawing is comprised of three parts: the sky (air), the water, and the stone of the buildings. Remarkably, each possesses its own ‘sign language’ particular to its own very nature. (I think of Titian)

I pointed this out to him and he seems surprised but in fact, he is always completely aware of everything regarding his own work.

I also remarked that this phenomenon was so unlike Cezanne’s drawings wherein all the elements are abstractly unified with apparent disregard to the ‘element of nature’ (i.e. water, earth, stone, etc.) François’s drawing takes so much from his affinity with Dufy, and various Cubists, and of course Picasso whereby each element is described as a ‘signe' (en français, I don’t know what the proper translation is in english)... maybe just a mark, a marking, a stroke?

Also, much has been taken from Van Gogh whose drawings have so much in common with the Japanese love of brush work ascribing each series of strokes to one specific element (in Nature).

François’s love for ‘les signes’ is at times very different from Leo’s whose own work in this respect was far more aligned with that of Cézanne.

À propos to Leo, François said that in fact he was the only one of ‘us’ (meaning fellow students of Leo) to have followed Leo. He is adamant that working only from the visible world can one arrive at Form in Nature, (that is to say; to create a unified image from an unruly Nature). And this too, is what Leo believed.

When drawing he described himself as being a ‘receptical’ more than anything else. This goes back to looking at the first drawing of San Giorgio. For me, its as if he approaches the ‘motif’ empty. Only by working it, is he slowly filled up with it. He responds visually to a ‘motif without judgement’, his hand simply follows what the eyes take in, albeit as abstractly as it may seem to be. He often speaks about the dangers of having a concept in one’s mind before beginning work.

As usual, I come away from these visits with more questions than answers. How indeed, can one truly ‘see’ a motif if one is chained to a conception of it before working? And, how does inspiration fit into all this? How does one proceed from an inspiration (an idea) that speaks in one’s soul which says:

“Yes, there is something here for me to do” without falling into a sentimentalisation.

Francois’s response to all this would be just to begin drawing. Begin drawing just as a river begins flowing from its source. Any questions asked are certainly answered by the drawing itself so I imagine.

We talked about the advantages of working quickly from a moving vaporetto. I remember going all over Venice in the very back of those boats, often going all the way to the Lido and back. The perspective is changing at every instant, creating an almost ‘arc-like’ phenomenon. As his friend Yves Bèrgeret says: “It is a moving of the octagonal into the horizontal.”

We talked of Giacometti, and our mutual visits to La Stampa. He told me that Leo had even gone to Paris to meet A.G. which I didn’t know. Apparently, no rapport came out of it, nor any complicity was felt on either side, at least not enough to open a friendship in any event. Strange, a great shame I thought, but then, they were of such different temperaments it seemed. (And I say this knowing Leo only as I did, My understanding of A.G. comes from James Lord and A.G.’s own writing.)

Afterwards, I left. As always, he walked me to my car in the driveway and under the black sky he bid me ‘Good Luck” on my trip to London.

23 October 2020

Flower power and the tired, dead horse

Someone asked me yesterday,  why do I keep painting the same thing over and over? I smiled and sighed, wondering if I could muster up the energy to try and explain what it means to paint from the same motif ‘over and over’ again, as she put it. 

It’s not an easy sell in today’s world of quick changes. And then, ‘over and over’, as if I am working on the same poor old tired canvas. What do they say: ‘Beating a dead horse’? and then the word ‘again’ as if it’s not even the same dead horse but the same sea, the same sky. 

I could have said to her - but I didn’t - that a few rather remarkable painters had done this. I could have dredged up Monet or Morrandi, or gone musical and cited Satie or Scarlatti, both of whom were locked into obsessional melodies while separated by several hundred years. But of course, these were Greats, while I am but just decent at my craft.

So many things come up for me when I log into ideas about Painting, and Art,  but this night I just wanted to get home because I was tired. Et pourtant, there is much to say about all this. In the end, I would just rather hold up a painting, or flower like the Buddha did, when without a word, he silently held up a lotus flower to a curious interlocutor because he wanted to cut to the chase.

22 October 2020

Call me decadent, call me anything, but call me.


When I see photos like these I am reminded why the Art community has moved towards more political content. And it should. These photos are extraordinary and they speak to us immediately, like blades through our hearts.

We as Americans are shocked at the unrest and violence in the streets. Yet it shouldn't be. It is quite natural for America, a culture so inherently flawed and  unequal should implode like so many other warring nations before us. 

The Art which flows out of such a country must be very political because it speaks to socio-economic ills. Somehow the rage always finds its way out into the streets.  It is unstoppable, and it is perfectly reasonable. 

And just as pavers from the streets of Paris were used  in the violent clashes of May 1968,  the smart phone, in hand, has now replaced them. It is the universal tool de rigeur of this brave new media-obsessed world.

Change will come, as it always does, can we handle it? 

Meanwhile, here on a beach in Australia, I find meaning for myself most nights. It is an art form of another kind.
Call me decadent, call me anything, but call me.

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

20 October 2020

Journal 98, collaboration with François De Asis and Claude Massu


This was published 4 years ago. It came about because I sent François entries from my diary wherein I had noted my visits with him in his studio in St Marc Jaumegarde just outside of Aix-en-Provence. They were taken from the years 1998 - 1999.  

Why those dates? I am not sure except that I came across them while re-reading some of my diaries and I thought that he might like to use them for a series of exhibits he was planning for the summer of 2015 in the  Aix. Of course there are so many more visits noted over the years but they are scattered like leaves throughout the diary. And my diary has been ongoing since January, 1986.

A short while later, after that summer, he wrote to me with the proposition of making a book out of them along with reproductions of work to which I referred in the diary entries.  Of course, I agreed immediately. Claude Massu, whom I did not know was engaged to translate the entries. He is a professor of English and Art History but also a colleague of François and his wife Éliane. I was sent the translation which I found quite good.

The book moves through the texts and the images of  paintings in an easy manner. François has made many books over the years and possesses an adept graphic sense. But like his other books, it is a collector's item which means that it was a very limited edition of perhaps 30 copies in total. Alas, they are not inexpensive. Once a few years back I was walking along St Germain when I saw them displayed in the window of a beautiful bookshop which only deals in very high end  books of contemporary Art.

As I was not part of the publication I had nominal input as regards to decisions for the book. I was simply invited as the author. Ideally, I would have very much liked to see a more "commercial" edition which could have been readily available in English worldwide perhaps through museum bookshops. Alas, that was not my call to make. But in any event, it was a wonderful experience for me to collaborate with my old friend François De Asis whom I met during those early years in France when I visited Léo Marchutz in his studio each day. 

So, as I don't imagine that Journal 98 will ever see the proverbial light of day, I have decided to reprint it for fun in these pages in the original English. I think there are only about 15 different dates so once a week a few will appear in order by date.

Bonne lecture!

(no date, 1998?)

Francois had been on the terrace when I arrived retouching a recent picture from Stephane's property. He had several pieces of paper in varying colors and tones which he was attaching to different areas of the painting.

One, (about 4 centimeters square) had been placed over part of the tower. It was reddish and slightly darker than what it was consigned to replace. He asked me what I thought of it with, or without it. I remember feeling a little like I was at the optometrist when asked to clarify which lens was clearer for me, this or that? So back and forth with the small colored piece of red, on, and then off again. What intrigued me was just how subtle were the changes, and how Francois understood the delicate transformations to the neighboring colors and forms. In fact, the entire surface was changed by just shifting these colored patches around. To me though, it seemed endless these combinations.

3 October 1998

I arrived at 18h, he came to meet me as I got out of the car. We went down to the new round fountain (which his son Stephane had just made for them). Eliane was there reading. We talked about their 8 day stay near Forcalquier. François had been working on a view of the ruin not far from the property. Afterwards, we went into the studio to look at them. But first, he put up his latest version of the Barrage Zola which he claimed was his finest. It was done in just one session.

He then put up another version done over perhaps 4 or 5 sessions which we then looked at for a while. The second one seemed gentler and rounder as if the extra sessions had somehow softened the punch of the initial drawing. They hadn’t removed it, but certainly had embellished it such that it seemed as though fur had suddenly sprouted onto the bones of the first one.

We had often spoken about the different qualities inherent in those things done in one session compared with those done in 20 or 30 sessions. He has always admitted that to arrive at the ‘Forms’ he was looking for he absolutely had to pass through the latter paintings. There is no other way of getting an understanding of the motif except by pushing paintings back and forth until he is satisfied.

He thinks of the pictures done in one session as akin to the late piano sonatas of Beethoven while those really developed paintings, more like symphonies.

He said once again that the paintings done over time are infinitely richer in that they take longer to see and appreciate. While those done in one session are almost always more striking at first glance, they might lose their appeal more quickly. (I am not so sure)

Francois brought out a few of the pictures of the ruin done in Forcalquier. Amazing images! In one of them, the motif is hardly discernible as if I have not yet been given a map to find my way around in it. A fresh image; the kind of which I think de Kooning would have longed to make earlier in his career.

He then brought out a large one (40 figure?) which he had worked on each day. He admitted that it would be shortly destroyed but had wanted to show it to me. He said that he had had high hopes for it at the beginning but had lost his way. He was unable to retain his first impression, losing the whole of it to a multitude of parts as if it had been worked on by several different painters. He goes on to explain that despite the intense anguish which it puts him through, (and his family) he knows that he can never understand the complexities of a motif unless he abandons himself into a painting of many sessions done always at the same time of the day. (Monet, I think to myself).

He had come to the (my) studio a week before and had seen some things of mine from the summer, He liked some things but had harsh criticisms for some others. He wanted to talk about them. In effect, he criticized many of them for being “uneven” as my objects (cups and bowls) were treated very differently than the background or space of the painting.(!) I had to agree that he was right, and admitted that I had been seduced by the delicacy of trying to make a painting ‘look beautiful’.

His point being, that once a painting has been started one must follow those very first few strokes to the end regardless of their direction. Afterward, he showed me some drawings from Monterosso done last year and also drawings done from the vaporetto in Venice. All of the drawings were so reminiscent of Leo in their brevity and respect for space, and what light!

At one of these drawings (a Venice; rounding the turn at the Academia) I exclaimed

“My, how Japanese” to which he replied

“yes, absolutely!... it was like I was saying hello,,, a small hello to the Japanese!”


His face suddenly lit up with childlike wonder at the drawing as if seeing it for the first time himself (like a child being surprised at his own drawings).

18 October 2020

T'is Grace, who offers up eye candy each afternoon



Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 11 October, 2020, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Two pictures from this past week, both with very different colour harmonies. Below, done before dusk while the other one painted just after sunset with a sky full of colours spread over it like a birthday cake.

They are different in another respect because the one above is closer to where I seem to be moving in this series. The one below is decidedly a work more related to where I have already been. But I love the light in it so I am not at all dissatisfied, and yet, I do see that it relates to the past.

Happily, none of this matters on a daily basis because I am always happy to keep working from a motif which changes appearance each day if not by the hour.

I have learned to accept that everything which Grace  offers up to me is a gift. My favourite painting which I tell people wanting to know, is the one I will make tomorrow. 

Though the work is done today, a painter's life is always filled with tomorrows.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 12 October, 2020, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

16 October 2020

Spinelessly effete at foot in The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Delay of Philip Guston Retrospective Divides the Art World

“Philip Guston Now” has become Philip Guston in 2024, after four museums postponed an artist’s show that includes Klan imagery.

Poor Philip would roll in his grave if he saw this headline 40 years now after his death. I have always loved his devotion to Art through his own original vision crafted out of the Classics.

I first saw his work as a child in New York and his brushwork spoke to me. I am indebted to him for this very early feeling for the sensuous use of paint and the delicious insouciance of his oeuvre though at the time I was too young to understand his motifs. 

That he left his earlier adherence to the Abstraction Expressionist movement was courageous, but his intuition which led to the very far-out cartoonish paintings of his later life was clairvoyant. They led his return to the visual world of people, places, and things, after a whole detour through Abstract Expressionism. 

He wanted his images to speak out about social issues going on around him during that dark  American chapter. He found a voice through painterly means and he exploited it fully to illustrate the deadly racism so prevalent in his country. 

Here was a painter who adored both Piero della Francesca and Massacio, who managed  to channel their visual acuity, and to make something so irrelevant, and outrageously American in spirit on the one hand, yet so weirdly 14th century on the other.

And so he would be bereft at learning that his iconic paintings which make fun of the KKK will not be shown in the near future out of fear that they might upset the feelings of people whose lives, and "feelings", have already been ruined by the racism caused by the the KKK for decades in America.

The article appeared in The York Times about two weeks ago. 

11 October 2020

Cochlear crimes and charcoal bliss



One of the few drawings I still have from my second year in Aix-en Provence back in 1974.  I worked a lot in charcoal for some reason. As a drawing, I am not sure what to think of it but like a persistent memory which  still lives, I value it like a relic as it was an old flame whose name was Christie.

Below are drawings from a few months ago. It's curious to see what is similar but also what is different. Generally, I don't work with charcoal any more. The truth is I can't even say that I even draw with much steady discipline these days, but when I do, it has been with pen and ink. 

My work has become more graphic, for sure, over the years. Possibly, it's  from taking so many photographs in the last twenty years and doing some graphic work. But even the large paintings done in the studio these past years have developed a graphic surface. Below is an example from around 2012. And further below from 2019, done here in Australia at the beach at dusk.

They say that there are some parts of our body which are unique to each individual and which can be seen readily in a head shot. A face can become unrecognisable over time but the ear has a personal design structure which never alters of a life time. Detectives can identify someone 50 or 60 years later just from this seemingly strange detail. 

And one thing is for sure; it's that one's work can change over a lifetime but the brushwork will always reveal the painter.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 4 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

08 October 2020

an engagement with quibble

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 6 October 2020, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

While preparing some paintings this morning it came to me that I may have been working from a concept instead of a vision. This is an interesting discussion.

I generally don't talk about Vision very much, somehow it seems too lofty an idea. At least it isn't in me to speak about myself using that noun. I would be more comfortable using the word concept when it comes to painting. And yet my hope would be that at least some of my pictures were created out of a vision personal to myself. 

Somehow the idea of concept feels to me a little more mechanical, cerebral even, as in conceptual, whereas vision somehow implies a sense of the mysterious, almost mystical perhaps.

I approached my work the other night with an idea in my head. I wanted to just make very, very quick studies one after the other. In fact, I made 5, one right after the other. I was willing to leave them in a fresh state, unfinished-looking, as if made by a 6 year old. 

I was happy working with this idea in my mind because I  was aware of coming to the session with a concept which I accepted. They were not visionary, but the ensuing work which comes out of it might be in the future. For me, a vision comes through the work but also the intuition which it subsequently engenders over the long haul. In other words, a vision arrives over time from having worked on a motif at length. It arrives because of all the small failures and little adjustments one makes over time.

The two presented here closely resemble one another. Indeed they were probably done in sequence. Maybe the top one was painted just before the one below judging from the deepening yellow sky.

I am continually drawn to this citron yellow in the late afternoon and just before dusk even considers its arrival. There is this collision between the palest Prussian Blue and the discreet yellow forming under it just over the horizon line. The sea has Prussian blue in it but also Ultramarine too on most sun-kissed afternoons. When I put too much Prussian blue in the sea, I look up again to see the sea suddenly begging me for more Ultramarine and a touch more of Magenta. It needs this for its harmony, for it to be true. So this is the most delicious part of working in front of a changing Nature. And this dialogue with the sky is a visual one and it has engaged me in conversation. That is why I paint from the Natural world. It is an escape from my thinking self.

It is inexplicable to me that people would work from a photograph in order to render Nature. They are missing out on something quite magical. But that is another quibble for another time.

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 6 October 2020, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

06 October 2020

Monet forever, the octopus diary, and Dr Frankenstein's malaise.

On my travels I have seen a lot of Abstract Painting in my day. But now it mostly comes to me online which is practical.

And yet, I rarely see much Light in it, even more rarely do I see much form or graphic unity in it. I know I am entering into the awful world of generalisations but as they say these days, it is what it is. 

I recently came across these photos I took from my last trip to the Musee Marmottan in Paris. They are selected 'crops' which I wanted to isolate in order to reveal this abstract unity which is ever present in so much of Monet's painting. 

In real life for a painter it can be very difficult to crop off bits from a picture in the studio while thinking that it can be preserved (kept alive). Too often, one can tell that they are simply 'crops' or 'cut outs' Lots of artists have done it in the 20th century, very successful ones and otherwise. I have done it too when I couldn't bear to trash a picture nor had I courage repair it. So I would cut them up. But then, I was never left satisfied because I realised that I was just left with the amputated bits. None of the bits looked as good as I had imagined they would when separated from the mother ship, so to speak. Cutting off the Octopus legs only kills them. But in these images of Monet's, they live on! Like the Octopus that regenerates new appendages these cut-outs are all still living images.

Such is the magnificence of this magnificent creature and Monet too! It's kind of like what Dr Frankenstein attempts do but in reverse, it seems.

This brings me to Claude Monet whose talents indeed came from the gods. And by that good fortune he had the gift of creating whole parts out of whole paintings. Go figure! There are few mighty painters but Claude Monet was certainly one of them.

For me, each of these selections or 'cut outs' are 'finished', 'complete in themselves', still very much alive off into the world on their own. It seems to me that the search for unity in a square or rectangular painting is for me, (and many 'Abstract' painters), the Holy Grail of Painting. If one can understand this, using both light via drawing, one could become at least a decent painter, maybe more.