Thursday, January 24, 2013

Portrait studies of two musician friends

I love going through old portfolios, it's one of the dangers of tidying rooms out :-). I was going through an old one I'd forgotten about and I came across these two portrait studies from 2002.

Ger playing the guitar, pencil drawing, 2002

Mike playing the fiddle, pencil drawing, 2002

These gentlemen are in fact musicians and play in sessions in a small town in County Limerick every Friday night. They liked the trad music, but I think were old R'n'B at heart ... Good times.

I will probably bring these drawings to the place where they would like to play, and see if the owner would like them.

I did a lot of sketches of musicians in pencil and biro in sketchbooks, which was fun for a while, and challenging.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The creative process

I was very tempted to write that as The Creative Process, give it a grand title, but I'm not sure that the process is so special that it deserves a grand title. Creativity is an everyday thing in human beings, from finding a novel solution using basic items like a hammer and nail to throwing together a couple of ingredients and coming up with a tasty and healthy meal.

I'm writing a novel. It's a story that was inspired by another book I worked on for another writer, which I partly translated from Dutch into English, and partly proofread/edited. It's also somewhat influenced by my one trip to Sicily, various other books I've read and films I've seen, and my own experiences in research, journalism and art. And of course all the wonderful creative people I know. But I can't do what many writers seem to be able to do - and maybe this is because I am new to writing something so long and so complicated - but I can't just sit and write it all out. I hit a wall last week, and couldn't figure out how to get past it for a few days. So I had to let it sit on the backburner, as it were.

The same has happened to me in painting - I could see that something wasn't right with a composition or whatever, but what? It would drive me NUTS ... so I would have to just go away from it for a few minutes, and then walk back to it. Often I'd see it then, but there were times when I didn't see it for ages. I'm talking weeks, even months, here. If you have an issue with a technical aspect of a piece, you can often go online and find several solutions through Google. But sometimes I can't see where the issue is ... and it might be a matter of a line in the wrong place. And then it's when you step right back, and get a new perspective, then you see it.

It helps me to go off and do something different for a while. Another artist I know, when confronted with a wall or a composition that won't sit right, she gets up and does some housework, sweeping and tidying and sorting things out, and focuses on that, while her subconscious mulls over the image she's making. Me, I tidy too, or walk, or go out and weed my garden. I've heard it said that intense physical activity that makes you work up a sweat cures all kinds of mental and emotional issues - and I can recommend an hour of chopping wood with an axe for any angst-ridden teenager, although many would question the wisdom of leaving a young person alone with an axe, but however - including mild depression. All I know is, in my experience, the physical activity can release a blockage, and then there's the double satisfaction of achieving something practical in the process, like clearing weeds away from the vegetable patch, sweeping up dead leaves, digging compost and manure into a raised bed. Triple score: unblock the mind, get a particular job done, and get a rush of endorphins in the process.

Purple ink drawings: Various studies of a female nude. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

3 seated female nudes very popular on

I suppose it's all about finding the right group on, but when I posted the image above in one particular group on, I was suddenly invited to submit it to several different groups, which is nice.

It was a long pose done in a life-drawing group in Groningen, the Netherlands, and because it was so long, I decided to relocate a few times as I was doing it, and change the medium. Interesting result, I think.

I've found some really good artists on, people who would not get a look-in in a conventional art gallery environment. I have already blogged about Braccio, who is based in London, and there are a few others whose work I've admired and who I will be blogging about at some stage. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why do I paint?

I suppose I picked up a brush when I was a child, as you do. But people liked what they saw, and my mother encouraged it. And somebody entered one of my paintings into the Texaco Art Competition back in the early 1970s, and it won a prize. I got a big box of poster paints, and I don't really remember this, but apparently it was a biggish deal among the cousins, so much so that one of them was jealous enough to steal the paints and hide them. But we laugh about that now. Kids, eh?

I kept it up because it was my thing. I liked it, like the privacy element of it, the fact that people could interpret it if they wished. However, I didn't like that I was constantly challenged to explain myself. Why get into painting when there were so many other 'artistic' endeavours I could get into? Many relatives are musicians and singers, my own father was a wonderful singer and had enjoyed some success as an actor. He loved language, could quote many different poets and writers, simply because he loved the pictures their words created. But he was also self-taught, and I was too, as a painter for many years. And as a writer to some degree.

I had wanted to study art, but in my naivety I thought I'd be a shoe-in into the art college. Of course I got nowhere near the place, except as a visitor. But I liked languages, found them easy to learn. The actual university course was tough, however. You had to sit down, put your fingers in your ears, and concentrate. History, literature, contemporary trends. What made it interesting was the fact that the Iron Curtain was slowly crumbling, and cracks appearing in the political regime of the USSR. We had studied works by writers who had grown up in the shadow of the Wall, so we could easily imagine we felt their joy at the end of that era. And then later, when I was studying art and the critical context in which late 20th century art was created, I had the edge over my fellow students. I was familiar with the historical and social context. I had lived in Germany when this enormous change was taking place.

Nevertheless, enormous change is always taking place. In 1991 I underwent a personal change and went back to painting, ended a few friendships which had turned out to be shallow and one-sided, and made new friendships which have lasted. And I went and bought my first set of oil pastels, and tentatively started using them. My first piece I still have, I will never sell it, it's called This Rhythm. I was very proud to have finished a piece after 4 years of doing nothing but absent-minded doodles on the corners of papers I was supposed to be writing. I started an evening course in drawing and painting, and realised I wanted to concentrate on the human figure. So when I moved to the Netherlands a few years later, I found a place where I could do live-drawing with models of all shapes and sizes and it was great. I also did some portraiture, but that never really took with me. The body reveals more of the subject than the face, I feel.

I had an impressive body of work built up when I applied to study at art college as a mature student, so I went straight into the Painting Department. Bob Baker, the head of the Fine Art Department in Limerick Art College at the time, told me that I was two weeks late for the deadline to apply for Painting, but they gave me an interview anyway. I got in, and had to adjust to the fact that I was among people who were really, really good - hard, when you're used to being the one person in the room who is very good at drawing. It knocked any narcissistic tendencies I might have been developing on the head. I had to really focus and it was very difficult, but incredibly rewarding. I loved it and would do it again if I could.

So why do I paint? Because I can. And I love the challenge of it. And I still do the human figure. And other subjects too - no point in staying in your comfort zone.

Painting of a Skull Mask I made, acrylic on paper, from 2002.