Glad to get that commissioned landscape out of the way last week, now I'm working on....a commissioned landscape....and it's almost fecking identical, 50 X 70 cm (again), foreground, sea, background, sky (again), settlement on West Falkland.....OK, it's a different settlement, Hill Cove this time.
For a long time there's been a couple of unfinished works occupying two of my drawing boards....for the best part of six months as a matter of fact. Christ knows what's been holding me back with these, both are fine ideas and there's no reason not to finish them.
One is a simple painting of a nesting goose in the long white grass, illuminated by the low sun. The other is a larger landscape, a sunrise over Stanley looking east from the battle monument, the lights of Ross Road reflecting in the water of the harbour.
Both of these have been lurking in my studio, continually catching my attention almost in reproach at their unfinished state. Well, no longer. Over the last two days I've completed both of these malingering works and both have been incredibly rewarding to finish. Maybe there's some advantage to leaving paintings on hold. I've completed both of these without my usual fiddling with pencils and conte sticks, for the first time I've really found soft pastels working for me. Most satisfying.
Stanley Sunrise, 50 x 70 cm grey pastelmat.
Goose inthe white grass, 35 x 50 cm white pastelmat
Been doing a bit of work in charcoal recently. I find charcoal is a very rewarding medium, you can't mess about with it, got to keep very much in control but I love working with it, much more interesting than bloody graphite. I use stick charoal and charcoal pencils for any fine detail.
Feeling better about this now, think it's going to be pretty cool once it's done. Odd that I ended up doing it in colour, as the reference is an old photo I'd intended it to be almost black and white, just a hint of colour. Funny how sometimes a painting just goes it's own way, I've learnt now that when that happens one has to go with it, to try to force it to go the way you originally intended will ruin it.
Just finished this one too, commissioned portrait of two labradors. 30 X 40 cm grey pastelmat.
A tough nut this one. Painting of Fox Bay West Settlement forty odd years ago, having trawled many old photos looking for references I narrowed it down to two, showing the view of the settlement from across the bay at Fox Bay East. There is often a problem with panoramic vistas here in the Falklands and that is getting enough going on outside of the narrow horizontal strip that is the middle distance to the horizon (which is where most of what's recognisable will be), I find there's only so much one can do with sky and featureless foreground but by combining these two photos there was a composition that answered.
That was the easy bit, now just need to do a 50 by 70 cm painting of it. Progress so far:
During my recent Antarctic trip I kept a journal which I've gradually been transcribing. Yesterday I came across a passage that I wrote after a rather fine encounter we had with a Fin whale, we managed to sneak up right alongside him which is unusual with these shy giants. Not sure what I'd been drinking that day but it seemed to have put me in a rather whimsical mood. Philosophy?....perhaps, could be complete bollocks though.
The whale is ambivalent to us, sometimes curious but really we are just another thing in the ocean to him. Considering the exploitation of them that we’ve indulged in in the past, and to some extent still do so, why is this the case? We can only surmise that the whale has no means to communicate memories or information as we understand it, the threat we pose is simply unknown to the individual cetacean, he has no measure of the danger that our steel vessel could represent to him. Can he be aware that we personally in our boat are no threat? I doubt it.
We are unique in our ability to communicate, through our creations, information, stories, history and knowledge. This is our talent, whether through spoken or written language or through art and pictorial records. This is not exclusive to artists and authors, we all use these mechanisms all the time, This communication is what has allowed us to gain a measure of control over our environment and to allow our species to flourish and spread....yet we are not powerful, our environment is artificial, a construct of our collective genius, individually, stripped of the apparatus of our technology, we are at best almost helpless. We can personally hold only a tiny portion of the knowledge and skill that gives our species this power, a portion that alone is almost meaningless. The belief in our control is a subconscious fiction that we have to conceal from ourselves the truth that our lives have no purpose greater than that of any other animal, no matter how humble.
We are paradoxical creatures, we have this belief in our control, this collective blindness because of our vision and awareness rather than in spite of it. We are aware that we will die, we cannot avoid this fate in spite of all our power so we want there to be meaning to our existence that will subvert this ‘dead’ end. Again communication is the key, through our ideas, art, writing we can gain a degree of immortality as we see it. The whale is not concerned with such constructs, with the future, the past, with existential conceit, he merely lives his life. He is, perhaps, wiser than we are.