Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas commission challenge....

Now that Christmas is out of that way I can post about the three 'Christmas present' commissions I had this year. What made these interesting was the increasing difficulty and decreasing notice of the three. For the first I had a couple of months notice, nice, straightforward child portrait. No problem at all. A single, lovely reference photo that just about jumped off the screen and plenty of time. The next was a double portrait of two collies in late November, multible reference photos and a bit of compositional jiggling needed....Still no problem, a harder subject but a few weeks was still enough time to get the job done.

In mid December came the real test though, a big landscape commission (I find landscapes to be the toughest subject)...and I only had a matter of days...a very few get it completed. It was a sunset view of a local range of hills called Rincon Ridge, fortunately they are right here in Fox Bay so I dashed out to get some references for the hills and foreground, a quick sort through my sky ref photos for a suitable sunset sky and a bit of photoshopping produced a workable composition so there I was, ready to go but it had to be finished, sent to towm to get framed and be back here before the big day. Really wasn't sure if I could achieve it.

But I did, Jane in the Pink Shop pulled out the stops to get it framed and sent back in time.

So here are my three Christmas commissions in order of increasing difficulty and tightening deadlines:

Ashleigh, soft pastels on 30 X 40cm yellow pastelmat.

Marni & Zia, hard pastels and pastel pencils on 30 X 40cm grey pastelmat. (really enjoyed doing this one)

Rincon Ridge, Soft pastels, hard pastels and pastel pencils on 50 X 70cm grey pastelmat. (This was tough but in the end rewarding, I didn't get stuck and it turned out better than I dared hope).

I learnt a lot from doing this painting, if I'm being honest with myself I was afraid of attempting large landscapes, the few I'd done felt like flukes. In finishing this commission I've managed to lay some of that fear to rest, I'm now quite looking forward to the next one (which BTW is already in the pipeline...and involves painting buildings as well as natural features....ulp!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blasted 2

Another example of what the weather can do to trees in the Falklands, this example is based on a photo taken on Carcass Island. Happily this feeble specimen is not typical for trees on Carcass, that island is a real garden spot in our harsh climate.

There's palm trees there even...

....well....cabbage palms anyway.

For once I recorded the stages of this charcoal drawing, usually I'm in too much of a hurry.

Got another two commissions finished last week too. My lips are sealed though, they're both Christmas presents so can't be shown on here yet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New studio wife and I have agreed that we need the bedroom that I had occupied as a studio to be a bedroom again. Fortunately there's a big ol' room in the attic of the building I work in that was sitting empty. Until recently the terms of the lease meant I was unable to sublet any of the unused rooms but that's recently changed so I thought why not? I'll treat myself to it, after a day hauling a surprisingly large ammount of art related junk up a tiny narrow staircase here it new studio, must be four times the floor space of my old one and with wonderful light, just need to stop the velux window from leaking and it'll be tip top.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Had a call from Sarah today, good news was that another of my paintings has sold, bad news was that the exhibition had to be closed a day early (A cruise ship is due to arrive earlier than expected so the Jetty Centre had to be restored to it's former, painting free, austerity).

So that's that, the paintings are down, my first exhibition is finished. I'm really pleased with how it went, made plenty of sales, had some great feedback and loads of interest in my art. If anyone missed the exhibition you can still have a look at the remaining paintings by calling in at Sealed PR, they'll have them in their office for the next week or so, there's still thirteen left of the twenty three that were for sale....there's still some gems there, don't miss out. ;-)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Opening night

Held the preview of my exhibition on the evening of Friday 14th. The day was a crazy marathon of picture hanging but all went well thanks to the expertise of Sarah and Hay of Sealed PR. Must admit I had a few butterflies but in the end it was really good fun. Loads of people turned up and had a good time, I sold nine paintings and sixteen prints which has more than paind for the cost of the exhibition. Result!

The crowd enjoying a few drinks (and the paintings of course)

The family, Me, Ma & Pa (who're both also excellent artists) and my two brothers Adam & Sam.

Thanks again to everyone who came along (especially to those who bought my paintings!). The exhibition is open for another three days until Saturday 22nd if you what to have a look at what I've been doing with my time for the last couple of years (still quite a few available to buy as well, five of the shearing paintings are as yet unsold).

A special thanks to Sarah & Hay at Sealed PR, you did a brilliant job organinsing everything.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Penguin News has done me proud

Article in our local paper Penguin News about my coming  art exhibition, I've got a local public relations company Sealed PR to orgainse it all for me so they've been doing that PR thing and getting me interviewed by the paper, radio station even the local TV company.

The Tryworks

Way back in April I did a commission for a client of a sheepdog against a backdrop of mountains, Here it is, Bruce the Huntaway. I mentioned then the possibility of another, bigger commission of a historical scene of the old industry of harvesting penguins for their oil, a grisly and largely unknown practice that had been overshadowed by the larger and more emotive whaling and sealing industries.

I have now completed the painting, This is by a long way the largest, most complicated and most difficult piece I've attempted so far in my fledgeling art career. No photographs of this activity exist (that I know of) just accounts and some rather fanciful illustrations so the entire scene is a creation of my imagination based on what is known about the process. It boils down to this (if you'll pardon the pun):

Penguins were driven into a rough corral on a beach using dogs to keep them together in a flock. There was a large trypot that had a spout running into a smaller pot for refinging the oil. The penguins were clubbed inside the corral then passed out to be bled and gutted (to remove as much water and bulk as possible), the carcases were then thrown in the trypot which was heated initially with wood or coal but as the rendering proceeded with the oil soaked remains of the penguins that were fished from the pot with a long handled scoop. the refined oil was casked and shipped away.

Here's how the painting progressed:

This is the initial concept sketch I knocked out to get the elements together in a way I felt worked. On the right is a full size study that helped me to finalise the composition.

This is the initial sketch on 70 X 100cm anthracite pastelmat and the first roughing in of colours and light/shade.  

 All the detail coming together, at this stage I didn't know about the refining pot, fortunately there was room to fit it in where it was needed.

The finished painting. I was trying to get a dirty, hellish feeling to it to reflect the grisly nature of the activity while not portraying the protagonists as wicked people in any way, just men at work with a dirty job to do. I'm pretty pleased with it.


Well....I've got all the work for my October exhibition finished, mounted and framed...actually there's five paintings that still need to be put in their frames but they're mounted and I've got the frames for them so I'm counting them as ready too. That's a grand total of 46 works to be on display...phew!

Here's my Shearing collection of seven paintings which I intend to be the centrepiece(s) of the exhibition, should get a bit of interest I reckon. All are on 30 X 40cm pastelmat.




Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Bonebreaker

Giant petrel (AKA Stinker or Bonebreaker) feeding. I wanted to convey the menace and strength of this huge scavenger, it's bloody head down, wings spread ready to attack to defend it's meal. Yet still I wanted there to be a feeling of trepidation, the desperation of the hungry opportunist that's made afind that it may well lose to another.

This is my biggest wildlife painting to date, it was a challenge but very satisfying. Absolutely unsaleable of course but sometimes you just have to do paintings like that.

Soft pastels on 70 X 50 grey pastelmat.

Friday, September 9, 2011


What are the things that can be motivate us to paint? What gets us to the easel to work with the object of producing a work of art? Financial rewards, ambition, experimentation, even possibly the therapeutic value of painting.

Let’s look at financial rewards, in there are two ways this can be our motivation to paint: either we’re working to commission or on a piece with the only object in mind being to sell it. To my mind this is the hardest way to paint if that really is all there is to it. A commission can be satisfying and pleasurable or it can be unbelievably hard, sometimes its brute force all the way, a rigid application of skill to force the painting out in an acceptable manner. In the latter case, to choose to paint a subject that does not excite you in any way just with the object of selling it, well...I wouldn’t bother, to do that makes art no different from any other nine to five job, what would be the point?

Ambition could certainly be a motivational force, without ambition how would we progress as artists? There would be nothing to get us over the rocky patches. Ambition is what keeps us being artists, I’ve never really believed in the modesty that some painters display about their work, if a painting’s on display then the artist has the ambition and self confidence to put it there. I must add that that’s not to say that I’m ever 100% satisfied with my work, if that ever happens then I know I’ll be in trouble. Experimentation can motivate us in much the same way as ambition can; they are linked in that without being ambitious we wouldn’t have the stones to experiment. 

And therapeutic value? Well we wouldn’t paint if we didn’t enjoy it would we? I find that to just sit down and draw or paint, no pressure, just a subject that gives us pleasure to portray is a great way to relax and unwind. This doesn’t really fit the bill as motivational though, laudable though it is as an activity this is painting as a means rather than an ends. One can achieve good results through this but that’s not really the point, just a bonus.

There is of course something else that can motivate us, that element that means we can stand to our easel and the painting just flows out almost without effort? I’m talking, of course, about inspiration. We know inspiration when it occurs, whether it’s a scene, a photograph, another painter’s work, a piece of music, whatever it is it draws us in and motivates us. The joy of inspiration is that it can be tied in with other motivational forces, a commission isn’t always a dry exercise of skill, we can be inspired by the subject even if it isn’t one we have chosen. We can paint subjects that inspire us with the motivation of making money; again the combination is greater than the sum of its parts. Ambition & experimentation? How could these have any real worth as motivational forces without inspiration to be the catalyst? When inspiration is paired with any of these motivational elements our art is at its zenith, it’ll be the best of what our skill and talent can achieve at that time.

Falklands Conservation Charity Ball advert

This is a screenshot of our local paper the Penguin News, the advert is for the annual Falklands Conservation Charity Ball which I've donated a couple of paintings to....and like last year they've used one of my paintings in the Ad, reckon they must like it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walk on the wierd side.

Every now an then I have a go at painting or drawing something wierd, a nut doctor would probably love these...

Charcoal on A4 cartridge paper:

Pastels on brown card, 35 X 50 cm.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interpreting and composing, why & how?

What makes a painting 'right'? what combination of elements does an artist bring together to produce a composition that works? I found myself pondering this after seeing a painting presented in an Artists group on Facebook. It was by Grizelda Cockwell (before anyone asks she is a relation of mine, my mother actually), a simple, exquisitely executed oil painting portraying a window in the wall of an old, corrugated iron shed, to the left is the edge of another shed, an iron clad nissan hut. Everything is very weathered, paint peeling, iron rusted, broken pane in the window....anyway why am I trying to describe it? look for yourself, here's a link to it. To my eye the only thing that didn't work was that composition was slightly off, the focus of the painting (the window) is pretty much central and this didn't quite do it for me, perhaps this wasn't the place for critique but I did comment as much, Griz then asked me how I would have composed it and I replied that I would have shifted the point of view and altered the contrast of some elements. A friend of Griz's (David McEwen, a very skillful professional artist) who had seen the painting in the flesh then put me in my place with the comment "I've seen it, it's right as it is.". That comment is what got me thinking about what's right or wrong in composition.
Can a composition can be fundamentally 'right' or fundamentally 'wrong'? Things can be wrong with a composition for sure, incoherent jumble of elements, objects distorted to fit the canvas, poor distribution and so on. But what about being right? can a composition be so 'right' that anything else is lesser? Taking an example of working from a good, well composed photo or static reference: If I alter the appearance of some elements or move elements around to make it work how I want it to would then the result then be a 'wrong' composition? and why? Would it be wrong because I had taken a good reference and messed around with the elements or wrong just in that the composition was bad in some way? If the latter was the case then fair enough but the former? I don't buy that at all, I've on several occasions taken a perfectly good, accurate reference photo or set of photos and composed the elements in a way that I felt worked as a painting, unless I've been suffering from some horrible compositional blindness this has always worked for me. 

Where this is taking me is to thinking about that fine old platitude: "draw what you see, not what you think you see", this is fine up to a point as advice to help aspiring artists get over the hump of seeing what's there rather than a montage of preconceived ideas of what objects are...the sky is blue, grass is green, a human nose is a triangle with two holes in it and so on. Where it breaks down is when you've got that nailed, your eyes are open and you can draw what's there, now comes the problem where you need to paint or draw something that is known in the eyes of the viewer and yet cannot be accurately portrayed in two dimensions as a facsimile of what's there (as a photograph does). I'm talking, of course, about interpretation. As artists we can interpret what we see or what references we use in any way we like, some like to enhance colour, movement, feeling, some push or pull perspective, some allow themselves to be guided by the process of painting, by responding to how their paint reacts as they progress (as with watercolours of course). What restricts interpretation is only such discipline as to which we adhere, the discipline that is most restrictive to interpretation is photo-realism, at the other end of the scale is the crazy world of abstract expressionism, in this the artist has interpreted so freely that it can be the case that the subject or meaning of the painting is lost to the viewer. As to how much we as individuals interpret what we see...that's up to us, do we interpret and compose our paintings to please ourselves, to get across our feeling or our message, for the satisfaction of achievement, to please people who'll view our paintings, to make a money? When I paint I would hope to be able to achieve at least some of those goals. 

 "Draw what you see, not what you think you see" tells us to open our eyes and see clearly without interpreting, without automatically superimposing our knowledge of what we're looking at, This has to be achieved before we can take the next step which is to see clearly then to interpret what we're seeing, one could say: "Don't draw what's there, draw what you need to be there".

Monday, August 29, 2011

You've been framed!

Don't let the title give you the horrors, thankfully this is nothing to do with Jeremy Beadle. I've just finished framing twenty three paintings & drawings for my exhibition, that breaks the back of it and just as well, framing's an expensive business. Now I've GOT to sell some of these paintings to pay for all the wood & glass I've just forked out for.

A big heap of paintings:

This is the venue, the Jetty Centre in Stanley, nice isn't it?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What sort of 'Artists' are we?

Lying abed this morning I got to thinking about what the definition of ‘artist’, it being a Saturday morning you could assume I was pondering about piss-artists but actually I was (of course) thinking about visual art. Not so much the literal definition of ‘artist’ but how Artists define themselves.  

There’s this bloke I’ve known for a while, a highly acclaimed professional portrait artist. He paints not just portraits but a wide range of subjects mainly in oils in a down to earth, accurate fashion, not ostentatious photo-realism but straight and very skilful portrayal none the less. What’s interesting is that he does not call himself an ‘artist’, he called himself a painter. I’ve never discussed this with him at any length but the impression I get is that he has a deal of scorn for the ephemeral, high-brow art scene (you know the kind of thing I mean). 

This outlook is understandable, there’s me (hypothetically I might add), applying all my talent, my years of experience and practice to produce with much toil a beautiful painting....and there’s some snot nosed kid out of art school piling up some bean tins or splattering some emulsion paint on the floor and having the art world falling over themselves to heap acclaim on him/her for this rubbish. The pompous guff that’s spoken about such ‘art’, its great meaning, importance and so on. 

I find it interesting that the even the term ‘artist’ can become tainted in the minds of some artists, painters, whatever one wants to call oneself. I find myself in two minds about this, On the one hand I, like many artists, despair over the insanity of the art world where ‘artists’ with no apparent skill, vision or talent can present banal, meaningless daubs and installations and with the right arty bullshit thrown in these works are somehow meaningful or even acclaimed as masterpieces. Who wants to associate themselves with these charlatans ‘artists’ in any way? 

On the other hand I curl my lip at slavish reproductions of photographs in paint, no matter how skilful or how exquisitely executed, at any work that is portrayal of an artist’s skill rather than of the subject (look what I can do sort of thing), these pretty pictures without soul, without passion or meaning...pah! Art is more than this.

So what are we as artists?  How do we see ourselves in this world? Visionary, conservative, revolutionary, traditional....? Clearly I can only speak for myself on this issue. For me the subject of a painting has to get something more across to me than its appearance, something that I can then attempt to portray in the painting. I can paint a subject without this element but it is much harder and the results (in my opinion) are lesser because of it. This is what makes painting work for me, in that I suspect I’m an artist.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Jetty Centre exhibition update

Got the dates for my up and coming Jety Centre Exhibition. It'll be open between 15th and 22nd October....there! committed myself, no getting out of it now. I'm flying off to Stanley today with the first (and largest I might add) batch of paintings to drop off for framing at the Pink Shop (Jane won't know what's hit her!)

Collection so far (there's a few in here that I'm still not sure about mind):

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pearls of....?

I've got into the habit in the last few months of writing down ideas for paintings, ideas on technique, things to do, notes about materials, thoughts about art etc etc in a big notebook that I keep with me whenever possible. On several occasions I've recalled that I've had a great idea for a painting....and that's it...just that I had an idea but cannot recall the idea itself, very frustrating. Writing these sparks of inspiration down as soon as they occur at least means that you've got a record of them, no matter how bizarre or untenable they are.

Been reading back through the pages of ramblings that I've filled so far and thought I'd share a few of my, in my opinion, more worthy pearls of wisdom regarding the intangible lunacy that is art.

"Lines only exist in your mind, there is really just light and shadow. Once you see that you've crossed a line."

"In art the perfect mindset is in balance, doubt and confidence are equal so they cancel out, it's just you and your art, nothing else."

"A photograph can freeze a moment in time in a way that nothing else can, an artist can thaw that moment and bring it back to life."

"Paint fast, draw fast, don't hang around, someone somewhere's catching up."

"Inspiration has no respect for your convenience, always keep a notebook to hand."

"One doesn't have to be an insane absinthe drinking recluse living in poverty in some poxy garrat to be an artist. ...I prefer malt whisky"

"The night is never truly dark, there is always light and shadows, True darkness only exists in the mind....and on the bottom of my kettle."

"Seeing clearly isn't a just matter of opening your eyes, you need to open your mind and heart as well."

"I love really crazy dreams, they make the world appear to be sane"

"Close your eyes to convention, embrace the possibility of what exists inside you rather than what you believe the world expects you to be. Step into the void, your art will catch you. If it does not then no matter what you tell yourself you didn't yet take that step over the precipice."

"Talent is a flame, solitude pours petrol on it."

"Eyes're imprortant in portraits, with dog portraits...essential, if you don't get the expression in a dogs eyes you just have a load of fur."

"If you believe that to produce great art you need to suffer then stick a pencil in your leg."

"Art, it's a three letter word. When it's a necessity to tack another word in front of it we know that we're no longer talking about art."

"Conceptual art has it's uses, it provides art critics with some purpose in their lives. Rather like rotten meat does for flies."

"To think you can choose what your art is to be is to think you have control over what you are, if you believe that you're kidding youself."

"Colour tone is nothing, you can get away with anything with tone. Colour value is everything, get it wrong and you've got nothing."

"Inspiration is a spark in your mind, the mind of an artist is a powderkeg. The art that results is as inevitable as an explosion."

"Should I be worried? I still have both my ears at the moment."

There you have it, the 'Ben's words of wisdom to date' compilation. :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Choices, choices...

A crossroads...what a nice, simple concept. You’re on a journey along a road and get to a place where you need to choose whether you this way or that way, black or white, yes or no. It’s such a convenient analogy and at times to be sure it’s appropriate. Art is a journey and sometimes you do reach a crossroads that is a clear choice, so often though we are not travelling as on a road but are adrift on the open sea, we have a course but are influenced by forces beyond our control and can end up drifting off in an unexpected and unwelcome direction.

It’s so easy to drift into bad habits, I’ve recently caught myself taking my art for granted, I’ve been pushing myself hard to produce work for my coming exhibition and have found I’ve developed a ‘that’ll do, next!’ attitude to my paintings. Where the hell did that come from?...and how will ‘that do’ exactly? Will it do because it’s saleable? because it’s up to a certain standard that I’ve come to expect my art to adhere to? Sounds a lot like a feeling of complacency to me, something an artist has no business experiencing.

Just this morning I read a post on t’internet from a gallery owner about being spammed by aspiring artists who tell him that their art will be just the thing for his gallery, he went on to say, quite rightly of course, that a gallery cannot simply display anything that any artist thinks is worthy , the business doesn’t work like that and on the whole aspiring artists need a bit of business acumen. There is of course a large element of truth in that, if you want a gallery to display your work then you’ll need to conform to the gallery’s standards, they know their market after all. If you want your art to sell then you need to produce work that appeals enough to buyers that they buy it. I can’t help though to feel a bit uncomfortable about this though, of course we have to compromise ourselves to some extent. If we accept a commission we are probably working with a subject that is not one we would have chosen, sometimes it’s necessary to ‘brute force’ such work to get it done. 

This is one of those areas where there is no definite choice but a subtle shift in direction. We don’t decide to never paint what we want and how we want to but to cynically turn out work that conforms to a sensible model that is appropriate, saleable, complements the galleries wall decor etc, where we decide that inspiration, wonder, experimentation all get thrown out in favour of grinding out pretty pictures. What happens is that it’s easy to get lazy, to slowly slide into a way of painting that ‘ticks the boxes’ without even realising it’s happening until one day you look at the work you’re doing and say ‘what the hell’s all this stuff?’.

What’s to be done though to prevent this slide into conformity, even into mediocrity? You have to pay your way. How far are we prepared to let ourselves slip, to slowly compromise our work to gain a modicum of critical & financial success as an artist? Once we’ve developed enough skill to consistently turn out crowd pleasing work then it’s very tempting to do so at the expense of what you could become if you stuck to your guns, didn’t give an inch and painted what and how you were inspired to paint. 

At some level we all know that that’s how you become great, not by knowing which arses to kiss and pickling cows and such but by being absolutely honest and 100% dedicated to our vision, our ideas in art.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wildlife paintings.

Been busy working on stuff to out in my exhibition in October, just recently focusing on wildlife. These two are my contributions for the annual Falklands Conservation Ball which is in late September so probably won't be in the exhibition. Both are soft pastels on pale grey pastelmat, the former 24 X 30cm, the latter 30 X 40cm.

Dark-faced Ground Tyrant:

Elephant seal pup:

As at last years ball these along with other donated paintings will be auctioned off to raise money for the organisation. Hope they sell for plenty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The voices in my head

As an artist your voice is your style of painting, many aspiring artists are still experimenting to find their own particular voice, for some it takes years of practice, for it comes almost immediately. I recently read an article about finding one’s artistic voice. How to Find Your Own Artistic Voice. The gist of it was that if you want to achieve greatness and fame as an artist then you need to strive to find your own, original voice that'll make your work so distinctive that you'll blow away the derivative competition.

On the surface this made sense, of course you shouldn't slavishly emulate a particular artist's style, how could it be your voice if your work was indistinguishable from the artist you're inspired by? As it went on though I began to have my doubts, ideas such as policing ones work for any hint of being influenced to other artists for instance. Again this seemed to make sense but as I thought more about it I realised what a frustrating course that could be. As far as I can see the question is whether we have control over defining what our voice is, can we force ourselves to adopt or reject particular styles or elements of our art? Also is achieving a completely original style at any cost the only way to raise ourselves from the derivative morass that is the majority of contemporary art?

I believe that to the former the answer is no, you are what you are as an artist, if you forces yourself to work in a way that is deliberately unlike anything that anyone else does or has done then you're not finding your voice, you're denying it. Your voice is inherent to you and practice will hone that voice into the best it can be.

...and to the latter? Well...that could well be true but then is it worth it? This is about finding YOUR voice remember, an awful lot of art has come before you so how likely is it that you can find this original style without ending up doing things like pickling cows, piling up soup tins or dragging your bed into the gallery. You may achieve the success and fame you desire but is that your voice? I doubt it.

To deliberately and mechanically copy a style is clearly dishonest and it'll show, but also to turn your back on your instinctive inclination, to be original at any price is also dishonest. Keep practicing, allow your creativity free rein, be true to yourself and your art become what it has to be. We cannot all be great and famous artists but we can be honest with our art.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Ugh, pretty birds...still, customer's always right. Actually I enjoyed doing these two black browed albatross paintings. As ever soft pastels on 30 X 40 pastelmat.

Mollymawk 1. Looking beautiful on the nest, I liked the shapes that came out of this.

Mollymawk 2. This was a tougher proposition, an albatross doing something other than sitting on its nest looking noble. In flight wasn't really an option, I can't stand the appearance of albatross in gliding flight, they're just a bloody great black and white cross floating around in the painting, In my opinion they look a lot more interesting in the transition between flying and landing/taking off. So I assembled this montage of several references and a good dollop of imagination:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Van who?

On showing people my work I often get the response "very Van Gogh" or "you can see the Van Gogh influence", I find this is interesting because I have never attempted to paint in a particular style or studied the work of other artists with a view to finding my 'voice'. To be fair if I look at my work objectively it is in a similar style to the way Van Gogh used to paint but as far as I can tell this is a coincidence.

So what is it that defines the way we paint? the most straightforward possibility is that we do consciously mould our painting style into something we admire and wish to emulate, that we choose the direction our art develops. In my first few months of painting I believed this to be I know, in my case at least, that it is bollocks, I aspired to photorealistic landscape and architecture painting and I've ended up going in a totally different direction. I now believe that if we are honest with ourselves we have no choice at all when it comes to the style we paint in, one can force ourselves to a certain discipline but for as long as one does that the results will never reflect ones own voice.

Another possibility is that we are subconsciously influenced by the work of other artists, something fundamental appeals about their work or the artist themselves and we unconsciously emulate their style. Of course there's no way of knowing if this is the case, although I've never made a particular study of the post-impressionists I can't say I'm unfamiliar with their work or the ideas behind it so there is the possibility that such an influence is there.

So what do we do about this? do we strive to bend our creativity into something that, as far as we know, is entirely original, sternly denying any impulse to do something in a way that has been 'done' before? I don't believe this is healthy, ones artistic voice is what it is, if it's similar to the way one of the great artists what? at least it's honest, it's not like we're copying the work is it?

I won't deny that my work does look like it's painted in the style of Van Gogh but I would argue that this is merely a coincidence, it's just that we happen to paint the same way. I would like to think that if I had demonstrably never heard of or seen any of the work of ol' mad Vincent I would still paint exactly as I do, of course there is no way of knowing....

The spare bedroom is dead...long live the studio!

Actually our spare bedroom is not dead, I've settled quite comfortably into it, one of the beds is stowed under the other (which in turn is used for storing large format card and pastelmat well as being a dumping ground for drawing pads, rolls of paper, jumpers, finsished paintings, empty beer bottles etc). Most of the space this creates is taken up by an enormous worksurface (cut out of a sheet of plywood and stood on a pair of trestles) and an easel made out of a modular stepladder.

All this stuff is easily dismantled and the room can be returned to being a nice twin bedroom in the blink of an eye, 4 or 5 hours of lumping things around, untangling cables and scrubbing pastel dust out of the floorboards and it's as if I've never been there. Seriously though, it's great having my own studio space, I'm so pleased with it I treated myself to a nice chair.

My worktop:

My easel:

 My view:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finished experiment.

It was interesting doing this. I think it's finished...anyway it was just an experiment. Lessons learnt?...possibly not to do everything with directional strokes, some of the fine detail was hard to achieve, particularly with the hair...maybe I should shave my head...

Definitely going to explore this idea further, possibly using more complex shapes that compliment the primary image more...or contrast it more, could be very interesting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Experimental self portrait.

Self portrait on 30 X 40 yellow pastelmat. Decided to try out an idea I've been toying with to use the direction of pastel strokes to suggest other shapes than depicted by colour tone and value, as this is the first time I've kept it simple, just concentric circles centred on my right eye.

I ususlly use the pastel strokes as quite a strong element in painting so it's interesting to have that elememt shifed to another dimension...and difficult. We'll see where this goes. Still a lot to do on this.


Sketch and start of detail in face:

 Colour filled in:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Exhibition time

I've finally plucked up the courage to have an exhibition, I've got a venue, I've got our rather good local company Sealed PR on the case to do all the hard work...and I've got 10 weeks to get my act together (and my art together) for it....ulp.

Actually I am really looking forward to this, nervous of course but not too bad. Also gives me the chance to do that element of my gainful employment that I love doing...messing around in Draw designing posters, catalogue, cards, invites etc. Got a business cards done and the first draft of a catalogue:

I'm planning to exhibit about 50 paintings of which perhaps half will be for sale, should be happening at the start of October....quite a lot to do before then  as nearly half of the paintings I'd like to exhibit aren't even painted yet, still just ideas, I'd better knuckle down.

Double Portrait

Finished my double portrait today. As is so often the case these didn't come out as I expected, I'm reasonably pleased with them though. ( A couple more paintings to show in my exhibition that's coming up in 10 weeks....gulp).

Stormy sky & sand dunes.

The North Arm of Fox Bay, Mt Sulivan in the background, this is a photo that I've been meaning to use as a painting reference for ages. Finally got round to it, soft pastels on 14" by 19" grey pastelmat, took two half days to paint and sold it the day after it was finished.


Day 1, roughed in.

 Day 2, finished.