Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pencil sketch of a girl in profile

I was in Florence, Italy, when I did this on the Piazza Della Signora, as I recall I was chatting with another charming lady from ... one of the countries of South America and her son who was studying in Italy and they were travelling around. I can't really remember where she said she was from, might have been Mexico. Nevertheless, I think this sketch took less than 10 minutes, the subject got up to move on through the city.

 I'm not tempted to add colour to this, I think it's fine the way it is. I didn't have a lot of time to do much while she was there, and I added the cross-hatching on the cheek after she had moved away and left it. I liked her very strong profile, her features. She was possibly another tourist.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Graffiti, Marcel Duchamp, and the eternal question

Graffiti has been around for as long as humans have been able to hold a bit of burnt stick and leave a mark on something.

Now while it might not be pretty, or indeed as 'acceptable' in comparison with the likes of the Great Masters, it's still a form of human expression. And as a form of human expression, it's valid. But is it art?

Over the past century, we have been presented with found objects which were given another name, and were told - TOLD!! - this is art because the guy who found it and decided it was art was an artist. The most notorious example of this was Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, which was basically a urinal, or a pot for a man to piss in. He was adopted by the Americans who were mad keen to develop something that future generations would refer to as a culture - sorry, but we are just going to have to take rock music to be the Great American art form of the 20th century, because, well, they jumped on the notion of taking a pot for a man to piss in and calling it art .... hello?

Me, I'm convinced that Duchamp was having a laugh, and, if you'll pardon my use of the expression here, taking the piss in a major way. Because he WAS a highly prolific painter and printmaker, and involved in many other art movements, including Surrealism. But he is most remembered for taking a urinal and calling it art.

And because he has gone down in Art History as having challenged the preconceived notions of what is art, those of us who have gone any way down the academic route of studying art have to take him seriously.


And then there's the other end of the spectrum. There's graffiti. It's living people, using materials to make an image. Some of it is hideous, it has to be said, but there are also beautiful works around. I think that the main objection is because this is on streets and on buildings and therefore considered to be a form of vandalism. That's all very well, if you consider vandalism to be taking a grey and rather boring building and adding colour, life, lines, thoughts - human expression, if you will - to it. And isn't that what art is about, human expression? Colour? Life? Thoughts? Dreams? Making a mark?

Academia tells us we have to accept a urinal renamed a fountain as art - eh, no we don't. Like said, it boils down to taking the piss (and no, as long as people persist in that kind of bullshit, I will persist in flogging that particular dead horse). Yet graffiti, the ultimately urban form of human expression, is not art, but vandalism?

It's a flawed argument. If you take Marcel Duchamp and his Fountain, and how it confronts the accepted notion of What Is Art, then how can you turn around and say 'Oh yeah, and those kids with their spraycans and colour and thoughts and ideas and youth and life and questions and search for answers, what they do is vandalism, defacement of public property, and NOT ART'?

You're barking up the wrong tree. The thing is, calling art 'a form of human expression' is only scratching the surface, there are many, many definitions. One of the functions of art has been to teach, another to confront. Both Duchamp's works and the Graffitists do this. Usually not in that order, however. Think about it.

This leads me to this particular question: Not even artists who have studied for years can definitively say what 'art' is; therefore how and why do officials of municipal councils, who do NOT have any artistic qualification whatsoever, think that THEY are in a position to define what 'art' is, and to state categorically that Graffiti is not art?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Post Rose Fashion Show and Netherlands versus Brazil, 2010

I nearly forgot to come and check my stats here today, simply because I am WRECKED from being down in Tralee last night at the Rose of Tralee Festival Fashion Show. My other half Dolf was the photographer for the Holman-Lee Agency in Limerick, who provided the models for the show. There were some pretty spectacular items on show also, only proof that tough economic times only spur on amazing creativity.

But I still have to do some work on the day job today, no rest for the wicked. But before I do, an image ....

Or indeed, two of them, from the watercolour drawings series I drew in Porto and painted back home in Ireland. I'm not a fan of soccer or football or whatever it's called, but whatever gets people sitting down and focused on something so they don't notice me drawing them is good.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why do people buy art?

What with all this talk about how to invest one's money, especially if one has the kind of money lying around to invest in whatever one chooses, and when there are racehorses, fast cars, jewellery, property, antiques, and all kinds of other must-haves available to the discerning buyer, why would one buy art?

Just to convolute things a bit further, I am lumping older paintings in with antiques - not because I think they are old and dated, but because like a piece of antique furniture, such paintings are art objects of historical value. In this post, the 'art' that I'm talking about people buying is the contemporary stuff.

Now I recently heard that an acquaintance of mine Conor Harrington is starting to do really well, and I have to say Fair Play Conor, because I had heard that the tutors in the art college in Limerick did NOT like his work and were highly critical of it. At the time it was not too far away from Street Art, which of course is now extremely popular, thanks to the likes of Banksy. Goes to show, really, doesn't it?

But while Conor Harrington's work could rightly be considered an 'investment', and given that he is still reasonably young and his oeuvre is still in a state of flux, a shrewd observer of contemporary art movements with the cash to do so might well buy up some pieces. But there's the other side to why people buy art - because they like it.

Of course, it may well also be because they like the artist - I recall Conor Harrington to be friendly and likeable type of person. But when you buy a painting for your house, you have to live with it. You have to be sure you like it. It will become part of your living space. In three generations time it might well be an antique. People might even ask 'was that a contemporary of Banksy?'

In the current tense economic times, it's only the really wealthy that can spend a lot of money on art. The rest of us are a little more preoccupied with paying day-to-day bills, but that's life. When I show works, I don't sell very much, but people take some time to walk around the pieces, think about them, and sometimes go back to one or two of them and look again and think some more. This I like to see. If they feel like chatting about the work, I'll chat with them. I've been told that many art lovers with less money to spend at the moment are NOT going into see new work in galleries, because they feel they would be tempted to spend money they need for other things - I can relate to that. Times are tight, and you want your kids to be educated and prepared for all eventualities.

But when things are better economically, I know that I will hear from some people again, because I could see how they connected with something in my work. Does my work have any art historical value? I honestly don't care either way. People LIKE it. I don't promote it aggressively through galleries, but I do get the odd inquiry. They like it. And when they have the money to spend on it, they will come.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I really like I've had an account there for the past few years, and it's great for seeing other people's work and sharing your own.

But you have to put time into it. You have to upload your images, caption them, and find groups you can put them into. Some groups have a lot of traffic, some don't. Some take on members by invitation only, others you can just join. And there are also 'safety' issues also, concerning nudity, each group has rules about that. But all groups have interesting images, and if you are like me and geographically isolated, it's a great way of seeing what other people are doing, and entering into a dialogue with them.

Obviously, with the Internet you have to be careful. Pretty much every comment I have ever seen has been something along the lines of 'good composition' or 'great colours' or 'great energy in this image' - I cannot remember seeing any comments along the lines of 'you should take up sport because you can't paint for shite' or perhaps the more moderate and constructive 'I like this but I think you could do better'. Obviously if you don't know the artist and their work personally, you can't really say this online. The Internet only allows you to see the potential of something, and let's face it, when looking at someone else's work every artist DOES think something along the lines of 'if I was making that painting I'd do it this way, with this colour, and not that one', for example - even though very few of us will ever actually admit to this. But because you don't know the person, you don't know how they take constructive criticism - and some people are very sensitive, and also very young, and the Internet is really the only showcase they might have for their work. So you really do need to think before you say anything.

I tend to say things along the line of 'Great use of the medium' - because they have used the paint, pigment, camera, whatever in a creative manner. Sometimes I might add a suggestion: 'Have you considered seeing how you'd get on with oils/watercolours/inks?' I'm very mindful of the fact that when it comes to art, most of the teaching that is done is actually the teaching of the self, the exploration each artist does with the media he or she works with. It's very important and very empowering. I'm also aware that artists need to make themselves problems in order to find a solution or breakthrough. Also important and empowering. And I am also totally cognisant of the fact that there are jealous, petty little bitches out there who would use the anonymity of the Internet to try and tear at a sensitive artist's already shaky self-esteem. (I will just interject here with a mini rant: people who do that are cowardly, gutless FAILURES before they themselves ever take up a paintbrush, pencil or camera. That's my take on those. Done.)

Given the fact that there are MILLIONS  of images uploaded to every day, and the page design pushes the edges of one image right up against the edges of another, it's very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what we as artists produce. And it's also very difficult to pick ones you like to comment on them - me, I simply react to the first one that catches my eye. (And then I look at the ones around it, and I usually comment on several in a group. Like I said, there's a lot of super work out there. And it's very easy to miss.) There just isn't time to nitpick the ones you don't like, and most of us are not of that mindset anyway.

But it's important to comment. If you comment on someone's work, you make their day. You NOTICED it, for a start. And they will often react by going and looking at your works you've uploaded, and commenting on one or two of those, and possibly making you a contact, and maybe even inviting you to join a particular group. And there may be some dialogue between you - I've been invited to visit an artist in their studio in Tuscany, which is just lovely. (Haven't done it yet. But might.)

There may come a time when I am so taken with an image that I will ask for a print of it, or if it's a photo, I might ask if I could use it as part of a painting. I'd always ask, though. Copyright issues, see. Most people have no problem, but businesses are different.

And when I make a comment, I add a link to this blog. Why not? Who says geographic isolation is a reason not to share my work with the world? :-)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paddy's Day, Limerick city

Paddy's Day Parade, Limerick City, 41x41 cm, oil on canvas.

I love the movement of crowds, the dynamic between people, and all the colour and conversations you overhear. I haven't looked at this painting in a while, not since I did more work on it a few months ago. Nice contrasts!

This was St Patrick's Day, or Paddy's Day, in Limerick city. It was one of those rare sunny days, everyone was delighted, there were even a few brave people in summer clothes - mad! I remember this particular parade had lots of floats advertising local businesses, and was disappointed that there weren't any wild and colourful costumes and cool stuff like that. Sponsorship .... or lack thereof, I suppose. The building in the background in the Arthur's Quay shopping centre.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And we're back!

Well, the push-through was good. I have since done another landscape piece on paper like that one, and also had the brainwave to do TWO sheets at the same time with a second bit of carbon paper, so I have a drawing I can work on with watercolour paint. :-)

And today I went out to the shed with a canvas and new brushes and worked on a little painting I started a few months back and FINISHED IT - yay! Had good light today so I could see it much better. And I started two new ones, haha! So I will be posting some more images over the next few days.

Lately I've come across the painter Marc Chagall a lot, I liked his works in college, so I might do some more investigation into this artist and his work. Apparently he was a Russian Jew from a tradition in which painting the human figure was frowned upon, they didn't like the whole figurative representation, something to do with God being the only one who should get a shot at making versions of humans. Or something weird like that.

Now off to my garden to do some digging and weeding. Apparently we are in for a few days of summer in Ireland, so I won't be spending much time behind the computer for the rest of the week. Hopefully.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Part of the push through: doing something outside of your comfort zone.

So yesterday I made a start on the push through, just to experiment with something. I wanted to see how I would do with carbon paper.

So got me some paper clips, the image I wanted to transfer and the paper I wanted to transfer it on to ....

And I got a biro and got to work, and the first check was exciting ...

... and as those were fiddly lines, I should at this juncture point out that a) this is the leaving of the comfort zone for this one that likes doing big oil paints with loose brush strokes and b) it took fecking forever .... but here was what I ended up with:

I was very pleased as I've wanted to work with this particular image for ages, it's a photo of the hedgerow on the road where I live, taken in autumn when the ash is regrowing.

And then I got a very fine brush and some Indian ink and spent another twitchy hour being fiddly, but the result is very dramatic:

Bit smudged in places, and the ink needs to dry in this photo, but I will scan it properly after I clean off the smudges and add it to the collection. Want to do more like this. Might put them together in a handmade book ...  hmm.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Close Encounters at the Milk Market - was asked to share this.

Aliens set to land at Milkmarket this weekend

Steven Spielberg’s science fiction masterpiece ‘Close Encounters of the Third’ is the second screening at the ‘Movies At The Market’ slot this Saturday August 4th at Limerick ’s Milkmarket.

The film from 1977 details the strange occurrences that beset a number of ordinary people who are drawn to a mountain in Wyoming and faced with the most profound experience of their lives. Richard Dreyfus is blue collar worker Roy Neary, troubled by a range of strange UFO phenomena and then seemingly compelled to travel hundreds of miles to the mountain.  Despite a government cover-up on a massive scale, he is urged onwards to his goal.

The movie ‘Close Encounter’s…’ itself will begin strictly a 10 p.m. on Saturday night and is presented on widescreen. Gates are open at 9 p.m. and patrons are advised to come early for this special event and sample the atmosphere with some of market units open to sell food and drink. Those attending are reminded that the Milkmarket is essentially an open area and are advised to dress warmly, with regard to the Irish summer.

Ticket Information:
Tickets are available on the evening for each screening and priced at €7 for individuals and €20 for a group of four. Tickets are also available in advance at the ‘Movies’ stall at the market during Milkmarket opening hours.
Online booking is

Cross-legged and mesmerised, and 11,000 plus unique visitors.

Well, I'm pleased to say I have had just over 11,000 unique new visitors to my blog, and lots of people have also come back for more, and so I'm looking through my jpg files for a nice image to post up. 

So I've found a biro drawing I did a few years ago, which got nicely crumpled in some drawer or other, haha. It's another one of those ones with the subject engrossed in something and completely unaware of being observed. This was someone watching a film, I think.

I love fast drawing, and biro is fun, because you can't erase it, all lines must contribute to the drawing ... not that I bother erasing lines anymore anyway.

As for the big push-through mentioned in yesterday's blog, it's on :-).