Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hitting a wall, Anglo-Saxon style

I wonder if I'm the only artist I know who goes out to my oil painting I'm currently working on, and am pleased with, and looks at it and thinks 'no, not today.'

Very frustrating, especially as I want to get ON with my Street Party series. I have had two sessions with this particular piece, both have been great, and then I go to do a third one and hit the brakes. Something in my head says 'uh uh' with downward intonation.

It is as annoying as that Anglo-Saxon expletive one doesn't use in polite company.

But slightly less annoying than those times when I swallowed that feeling, overrode the brakes and picked up the brush/knife again to work on a piece .... only to repeatedly utter the Anglo-Saxon expletive at a loud volume because, well, I messed up what had been turning into a good piece. Which I suppose has to count as some sort of consolation.

Anyway, instead of working on the painting, I went back to my computer and sat down and worked more on the story that seems to be turning into a mad ... story. I read over what I had written and  wrote another 500 words.

And what do you do when you have messed up something that had been promising? I'm working with oils and liquin, so I can pick up a rag and wipe it away, and then I just clean my brushes and walk away because the frame of mind is not quite what is required, and go do something else and try not to think of the time I have wasted. See, I have learned from those experiences.

As you do.

No images today. Sorry. But next time. I promise. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Travel, drawing and taking pictures

I know you can take a photo when you travel, and capture the memories that way, but I do like drawing. Plus it does get me talking with people I meet there who are curious about what I'm doing and that's kind of nice. 

This one is a sketch at a cafĂ© in Venice, from 2008. I look at the arm on the figure on the left and think ugh - it looks more like spaghetti than a man's arm, especially in contrast to the figures in the drawing below. 


Pretty sure this is from Lisbon, near the Belem tower. I was delighted that the guy in profile did not notice me until after I had caught his foreshortened arm. 

It was brought to my attention recently that digitising everything means there is a very real risk that much information will be lost in years to come. Social networking sites are of this generation, but the question arises of what happens to someone's personal profile after they die, and what happens to their photographs. Most people don't bother making prints of photographs anymore, all images are posted online, it's much faster to share them that way. So once you die, what happens to your Facebook profile? Is it deleted? And if so, does this mean that all photographs and records relating to you are gone? 

What does this mean for historians? Archivists? Biographers? In a way I'm glad I have the physical drawings of my paintings, they are likely to survive if anything were to happen to me. Okay, so they aren't a record of a place or people in it, more my memory of the experience there, but even so. They are proof at least that I was there. In case anyone asks. 

But if the Internet were to crash tomorrow, a lot of information would be lost. Not that it's likely to be totally destroyed, it's far too useful to too many people and institutions, but even so, it would be really inconvenient. But without information, you don't exist. 

Time to do another back-up, I think. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I think I need to filter ....

Yesterday I blogged about how difficult it is to find something text-wise, something coherent and not preachy, to work into a slide show of my paintings.

I just get caught up on reading articles online, and on various topics. Today, of course, it's all about the report on the Magdalen Laundries - a very shameful part of the history of Ireland - and a bit about cyberbullying. (The temptation now is to digress and go into how my other half was accused of cyberbullying when the accuser was the bully, as the e-mails will show. But I won't.) And about women looking for men they had met but whose names they never got. And memes. Some memes are just brilliant. But it's all cotton wool as far as finding what I need is concerned.

I think I'm going to have to go back to books I've read, with quotes I can use. I must look into how long copyright lasts with writers, I know I can use Jane Austen's works, but I'd like to use other writers too.

Part of the problem is that I am a) aware that other people, potential viewers, have different experiences to me, and therefore different knowledge and memories, and this does add an edge to the thing, because b) they might not 'see' what I want them to see; c) I'm not even sure myself what I 'want' them to see; d) I want to take the 'want' out of the equation completely.

And then I am reminded that my work is not considered 'commercial'.

Well, it isn't commercial, in the sense that it isn't the average chocolate-box cover type of art. Nor do I go for pretty, saccharine pictures of children - I actually find that kind of thing creepy and disturbing, unless they are one's own children and the paintings also commemorate a particular family event.

Nor do I really like doing paintings of things like musicians, at a particular point I realised that this is a saturated market. The last painting of musicians I ever made is in a former convent in the town I grew up in.

I occasionally do a landscape study, it's a nice exercise. I'd like to do more still lifes, they are always fun too. I've seen some wonderful still life pieces on various art websites.

Oops. I didn't mean to get into a self-indulgent rant. I was only actually taking a break from painting, to let the acrylic paint dry. No, with regard to my slide-show projects, I think I'll go back to literature. For now.

And speaking of still life studies, here are some from my 2001 sketchbook. I was very big into ultramarine at the time ... and salads, as it happens.

Tomato section, gouache

Pumpkin, gouache

Pumpkin, pencils

Tomatoes and a blue plate, gouache

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New media, new approach, new challenge

I had this idea to put together a slide show that would incorporate my paintings with a verbalised train of thought going through it, sort of like a monologue in a play. Only it's driving me nuts.

I can't stand what I come up with. It just sounds like a rehash of the artist's statement .... or else preachy and frankly all boring and snooze-inducing.

Now I'm thinking, well, could I incorporate something else into there, like a story?

The problem is I'm so inundated with thoughts at the minute, that I'm finding it hard to sort them all out into something that would work. The irony is that this is what my body of work of painting is actually about - each painting is a snapshot of a moment that's NOT posed, but observed, and cutting out everything around it. Putting them back together is like repopulating a stage full of players - oh hello Mr Shakespeare, I thought you'd make an appearance.

I'm not sure that this will work. But I'd like to try it because it might be a way of getting works shown in art galleries in other countries without actually having to go to the expense of sending works there - I don't want to spend money I don't have.

But I suppose all I can do is keep making notes and sifting through the thoughts and seeing if something coherent yet interesting that people can relate to comes up.

In the meantime I'll just keep on working on paintings and writing that novel.

And here's a watercolour drawing I did in Paris on our last day there. Good times. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Randomness ... photos, drawings and legendary rain


This is Charlie. He is a ginger tomcat and aged about a year and a half. He's hilarious. This is a really lucky one-of-a-kind shot I got of him playing with a pink cat boa in a cardboard box. See, I'm starting to get the hang of this camera ....



This is from the Sketchbook project I did a couple of years ago. I'm kind of interested in restoration. This watercolour piece is a detail of a building very near my house. Which kind of leads me to this one:


This is a pencil sketch I did in about 2001 or 2002, or Curraghchase House, in County Limerick. It's a beautiful ruined manor set in parkland, and is currently owned by the Irish state. I personally find it very sad that such a lovely building would be allowed to rot, but there you go. Like many of the great Irish houses, there are literary associations. Read the link to find out more.

Yes, this is a random kind of posting. But it's the first day of spring, and there's even - gasp - sunshine. For those of you in very warm countries, please bear with me - where I live, in Ireland, we get more rain than sunshine. We get a lot of rain all year round. The weather is a constant topic of conversation. And then when we go to other parts of the world, where rain is unusual, and sunshine prevalent, we get funny looks when we say 'isn't it a lovely day?' When the thermometer hits 20 degrees Celsius, people in Ireland tend to go on about how 'hot' it is.

I'm really pleased that my first spring flowers are coming out of the ground, my little crocuses. Always nice to see. It also means that I need to get moving on other things in my garden, so I have some work to do outside this afternoon - hopefully the legendary rain will hold off.