The light is fading, in so many ways. Constant disturbances, mainly self-induced, have slowed the progress of whatever it is it I think I’m doing. I need time and quiet which are two rare commodities in 21st century Britain. The college course is in full swing with the inevitable panic on the part of some of the participants. They should trust my judgement in selecting them. I know exactly what I’m doing when it comes to teaching. Pity the same cannot be said of my own artwork. However, the teaching of any creative practice invariably challenges the individuals concerned to the extent that they question not only their reason for putting themselves through such rigorous training but their own validity as artists and individuals. This is not helped by the examining body insistence for students to produce endless projects that skim the surface of subjects while not allowing them the time to investigate issues or concepts in any depth. Tra la la, it’s the same the world over. Mutter, mutter.
I’m having problems with the face again. Oh, quelle surprise! Sam’s comment, “she looks like a cross between Hermione Granger and a troll”. I must stop asking his opinion. I’m tempted to cut a hole in the canvas and allowing passing women to stick their head through it and photograph the one that fits. May solve a problem.
I was having the same issue with the hands until I convinced Sam to model and then had the job of getting a 22 year old rugby player’s hands to look like a woman’s. No point in doing mine, the age spots alone would “frighten the horses”. I showed them to Claire, (intern at college) and said they were Sam’s hands and her response was, “yep, they look like a blokes”.
Needless to say I have really enjoyed doing the patterns. Oh I can twirl a double zero brush around a floral design. It’s like taking co-codamol with wine, just more productive.
She’s going darker, it’s inevitable and I’m resigned to it now. Any attempt on my part to lighten my palette is futile. I no longer see the light without the dark following swiftly on its heels. I live in the northern hemisphere under moody grey skies near a stony beach washed by silted brown water. What do i expect?
Ok, so I have repainted the face endlessly and within an inch of its life, but she’s still alive. What I’ve discovered is this, I don’t like pretty. The dreaded word “twee” keeps coming into my head. I like smirking, sarcastic, knowing, enigmatic, anonymous, delightful and even beautiful, but not twee. I think it’s an issue with the great gender divide in the art world. Women artists paint with colour, concern themselves with the domestic, often work from home and prefer the decorative over the dynamic or the political as they are disenfranchised from the major decisions in society. Hmm, tell that to a few women artists I know and they would rip your head off whilst pointing you in the direction of their own work, (possibly with a gun in your back). Like all stereotypical aspersions there is an element of truth in it.
A trip to the Guggenheim gallery in Venice told me more about Peggy’s personal aesthetics than it did about the work. Peggy liked men and wanted to be liked back by them. Possibly not as much as she liked her dogs but women were a long way down her list of “who I would go for a pint with”. Way too domestic and decorative for her.
Still, she did me a favour. I literally dragged my travelling companions to the gallery as at the time I was totally obsessed with abstraction and especially the New York School. The gallery was at the top of my list of “things to visit in Venice”. They came out saying “ that was interesting”, whereas I ran out in a massive sulk having to rethink everything I had been hanging onto for years. What I couldn’t get over was the fact that she lived in Venice, (which has to be in the top most beautiful cities in the world), and yet collected work that was the antithesis of her surroundings, sterile, masculine, emotionally cold, limited and trite. Maybe that was the point, but frankly I couldn’t care less. I won’t be going back.
“Well that was bollocks”, Sam’s comment as we left.
she was done and then she wasn't.
sam, (son and acid tongued critic) gave her the once over and declared there was nothing special about the face.
"i can sort that", i crowed, too full of myself to hear the wind blowing.
i won't be posting the images of what i did next as public humiliation is a bit much.
i ended up re painting the whole face as many times as i did when i first started this series. to the point of flattening the tooth on the canvas so that i had a shiny surface which no longer held paint..... or hope, redemption or even a future for me as an artist.
last weekend i admitted defeat and unpinned her from her pedestal from which she had so obviously fallen. i whited out the face one last time and rolled her up. i will eventually burn the witch but i can't bring myself to do it at the moment.
she mocks me from her position on the studio table. she whispers about my inadequecies, smirks on the subject of limited abilities and the audacity of the futile. she is content to let it be a lesson to me. that pride always comes before a fall and the aspiring are just that and nothing more.
its no bloody wonder i don't socialise. i don't need entertainment, human interaction, betrayal, laughter. i have it all here in the confines of my 12ftx16ft studio and on the back wall in the form of a painting who fought back. why do i need people to bleed me dry, lean on me, undermine me and generally belittle the talent i have, when i can do it all myself with a few pots of paint.
i have started something else. i,m scared to say "someone" as it may not go that way. it/she is smaller. when the ego takes a bashing the work decreases in scale, gets tighter in control and generally gets worse, but not always. or so i hope.
whats really pissing me off this morning is the arthritis in my hands. its raining. it hasn't rained for a while so i forgot that my hands normally hurt. its not a nice thing being reminded that you are human and fragile and on a limited time allocation. all those years of being invincible nearly convinced me it was true.
like i said, Pride and All that!
Time seems to be flying past and the new term starts soon so i really need to get my act together and get this finished. its great doing all the planning stages and drafting out the image . just playing with the colour combinations and getting the "stare" right is always a challenge. after that its all down hill. constant re appraisals of " what the hell is wrong with this?" are tiring and trying.
then there's the nightmare of over working the whole thing until all life has been drained out of it. i'm really good at that.
she's going dark like all the others and i was really making an effort to keep her bright. i think my general personna is not too bright these days and i'm drawn to dark colours/tones. i've lost all that "dress like disney" of my youth. i see the world as a much darker place but it may be the slow loss of decent eyesight. no matter how many lights i put in the studio i still can't see a thing.
i'm not fussed whether anyone can work out where the figure ends and the pattern begins. thats sort of the point. i think individuals bleed into their surroundings. the walls of certain buildings contain the essence of the characters who inhabited them. sometimes thats a good thing and sometimes its horrid. when some women touch things they leave a sort of mark or memory. its true of men too, its just i notice it more from women.
i should get the hands and the border done in the next few days if i'm really lucky. i already have another one lurking in the gloomy mists of my head and started on the composition today but life and daily tasks seem to take up soooo much time. i also have heaps of college work to do which i should of done weeks ago but Queenie here kept calling.
this will be the 7th of the new figurative paintings. hopefully its obvious what/who she is. i like obvious. having the attention span of a gnat i really don,t get art work that doesn't offer up its intrigue, general cleverness, aesthetic appeal or narrative, pretty damm quick. i don,t mind applying my intellect to "understanding" a work of art but just not for too long. things to do etc etc.
on a brief holiday somewhere in spain, glass of chilled Rose in one hand, blindin rummy run in the other, i realised i was never going to win a hand cos everyone knew what i was collecting.
"well i knew Rachael would have the Queen of Hearts cos she always does.."
so,.. predictable, short attention span, obsession with red.
years ago i planned to get over myself. obviously i failed due to lack of interest.
This is the first of the new figurative work in its formative stage.
Frankly it was an experiment at the time. i don't like portraits, in fact i don't like landscapes much, i just like colour and pattern and translucency and transparency and all the stuff that goes with it. i like shot velvet and silk and hard stone and darkening skies and all the mythical romanticism of historical referencing. but i didn't like those things until recently. but i am old now so i like old things. so there.
Back to "flossy" here, (she became "Winter" much later). the M.A work lead me towards textile design and digital print but i lost sight of painting and almost forgot how to hold a brush.
The experiment was to see if i could combine the quality of the layered digital prints with the repeat nature of pattern, throw in my obsession with colour and tie it together with a brush. canvas primed, 20 hours spent mixing up all the shades and tonal values pertinent to my subject and onward!
.... and that's when the sweat started trickling down my spine. i can't do this. i can't paint faces or hands and i never paint "up to the lines". i never define anything.
i like texture and gestural mark making and scratching through layers of paint. i put wax over washes and scrape it off and scrub the paint back in again.
to say it went wrong is a massive understatement.
Define your Practice....
it would appear i don't have a practice and i can't define anything. the huge paint brushes got thrown out and size 1 brushes appeared. the result was awful. it looked like a talented "A Level" student had copied something badly.
Everything got painted over endlessly.
"Flossy" probably got sick of me talking to her. i told her she looked like a sock puppet and her bird resembled a stuffed chicken, her hands lacked definition or even bones. i learnt to hate acrylics, nasty muddy colours, but thankfully a short drying time considering the endless re paints.
She"s got to glow. she should not be defined by the surrounding pattern, she and it are the same thing, nothing must be tangible. she does not exist. she looms not lurks. oh snore!
obviously these two images are in the wrong order but i'm not changing it now. this is the first "blog" i have ever written and if its not at least semi spontaneous then i won't bother at all.
Someone, ...i think it was Einstein, said that beauty was a matter of millimetres. is that ever true? a brush hair shaved off the side of the face made a huge difference. the tiniest amount of paint added to the fingers and nails appeared. i didn't know that, on the grounds that i'd never done it before. like i said, i don't paint people, just concepts.
god knows how many hours it took in total. i lost count and there's no point worrying about it.
not sure i would ever sell her now. she started something and she made me realise that i have so much to learn, even at my age with my so called experience.
my tutor said, "you know no one buys portrait work don't you, its total out of fashion, and no one will buy such a large figurative piece, they don't have big enough wall space in the UK.......so long as you got something from it........move on." "oh yeah,.... painting is dead!"
and i said .... ...