Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two Still Lifes

I hadn't done any still life work in ages, and then thought, why not? Lucky for me I always have stuff around I can draw, the perks of being a clutterbug. These are two I just finished this week.

Still Life of Onions, oil on canvas, 30x30cm 

Still Life of Quince Branch, oil on canvas, 30x30cm

Tiny pieces, for me. I like to paint big, but I don't have the facilities for that. Well, I don't have them at the moment. But these are cute. 

I had a great day on Monday, got several paintings worked on, and a few finished. Need to do a tiny bit of tweaking on one more, and then it's time to go through my various collections. These consist of:

1) Paintings I think are finished - or I thought they were finished last time I worked on them. The test is in the 'fresh eye surprise'. 

2) Paintings I started but I am sure are not finished, for whatever reason. 

3) Bits of visual references, photos, sketches, ideas, etc. for paintings that have not yet been started. 

4) Drawings that are finished in their own right, but which I want to use to make something else. 

5) Paintings to be framed. I know these are finished. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Looking West to the Sleeping Giant

In my last blog I had a bit of a rant about commercial galleries and what, in my own experience, they tell artists what artists must do. A commercial gallery based in Dublin reacted, saying that it was untrue and full of clichés. 

Sorry, but I've heard "you need to stick to the same subject matter" so many times, that it kind of IS a cliché. 

I'm glad that that gallery reacted, however. I haven't every visited that particular gallery, but I did send them a disc of my work, and they sent me a friendly letter which said Thank you, but your work doesn't really fit in with our vision of the gallery'. I thought, pity, because I liked what I was seeing on their website, but c'est la vie. I'm not going to argue about their vision of their own gallery and business, because I know where they are coming from, and I totally respect it. 

I would also like to reiterate that galleries I have been to have told me that in order to sell, you need to keep to the same subject matter. The gallery that reacted, I have never been there, ever. But now I want to go visit it. Not to get into an argument with the owner - on the contrary. I want to go see what their vision of their gallery is, and ask them why they pick the work they do. I think it would be interesting, and educational - I don't mind picking up new and useful information. Or gaining new insights. By reacting to my - okay, it kind of was a rant - that particular gallery has piqued my interest. 

On a completely different note, I found an old landscape I did YEARS ago, and did a little remedial work on it, and took a photo of it. 

It's acrylic on paper, done out of doors and just out of the wind about a mile outside of Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula. The island is known locally as The Sleeping Giant, it really does look like a man lying on his back. I was looking at this thing for YEARS and wondering what was it that was off-kilter about the painting .... and it wasn't until I had put it away for a couple of years and took it out again that I saw what the problem was, and fixed it. (Slightly angled horizon.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013


In recent years I haven't gelled well with many commercial galleries. Okay, if I'm going to be honest, I don't exactly kill myself getting out to them, and showing them work, simply because many of them want a sellable name. I'm not famous, I don't set myself up as a brand, and I certainly don't want to be a 'celebrity artist'. But the fact is that galleries are in the business of setting up and marketing a sellable brand. And in order to have a 'brand', you need to produce something that is distinctively recognisable as created by 'you'.

This is where many artists start reproducing their own work over and over again, with slight variations. They get stuck in their own formula. The gallery will take this and work on it, and use it for marketing purposes, which is fine because that is their business - but it doesn't really hide the fact that the artist is churning out the same old shite over and over again, like some kind of production line. The actual creativity is redundant.

I should qualify that I am talking about drawing and painting, specifically. And doing the same drawing and painting over and over again, with tweaking. The same face. Or faces. Gestures. Landscape. Still life. Whatever.

I suppose that most galleries have to be able to 'sell' something that's obviously by the same artist, and subject matter is the sneaky trick. Is it that much easier to convince a potential art buyer that, because this new painting by this artist is so similar to the one by the same artist that the art buyer bought last month, the buyer is getting a great deal? Surely art buyers are not that dense?

I was told that in order to be commercially successful, I would have to paint the same damn thing every time. What? was my reaction. No way. Why would I do that? Tedious, to say the least. I LIKE chopping and changing my subject matter. If I feel like doing a landscape, I'll do a landscape. If I feel like working up a nude painting from a drawing, that's what I'll do. When I want to do a crowd scene, I'll do one. And don't tell me I can't do a still life. If I feel like drawing or painting inanimate objects, I'm bloody well going to do it. And if I'm going to be inspired by a photo, or a poem, or a piece of writing, or play with wax and crayons, well, that's it.

As someone who has spent many years working on my observation and drawing skills, it's actually kind of insulting to say I have to stick to the same subject matter. There's a reason why I sit down and look and draw and paint - it's to learn and do and make. And to do and make WELL. Why shouldn't I bring a gallery a range of the work I've produced? I can do it. I have the skills.

So I'll just continue making work that pleases ME. I'm not funded by any organisation, or any gallery (the very thought! :-D) or any patron, I have nobody to answer to. I may be broke, but I'm still independent.

Sketchbook project, number 28, from 2011. Watercolour sketch.