Sunday, 16 February 2014

Getting into the groove

Painting can be hard. Not the act of putting paint on canvas or paper or whatever, but the act of creativity to a level that is satisfying, that meets my own particular needs. Since before christmas I have laid down an awful lot of paint on canvas that has been a complete waste of paint. Because I haste no idea what I am doing. Thinking sometimes is a lousy idea and totally destroys creativity. Thinking about other things can be inspiring - or not, as the case may be. I've been doing a lot of walking the dog since the new year and this has given me plenty of time to think. I have thought about painting, writing, football and all kinds of stuff. None of it has really helped me paint. I have looked a lot at other people's paintings that I love - Chagall, Matisse, Derain, Kline - and they just reveal to me the problems with my own work. So I draw a Purple Cat.

Anyway, here's two I have finished this week that (for the first time in weeks) I don't immediately want to paint over.

Mixed Media on Canvas, 55x46cm

Oil on Canvas 65x54cm
But maybe this is better:

Purple Cat paints a "Selfie"
iPad painting

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dogs and Visigoths

It's over a month since I last posted anything, and that wash't the most cheerful post in the world. The death of our beautiful dog Buffy hit us hard. She wasn't even 7 years old but died, in our arms, of the most virulent lymph cancer. Poor doggy. Here's some photos of her.

We miss her still, and always will. We have since adopted a new dog from the animal rescue centre in Carcassonne - a wonderful place where they support and rescue dogs, never putting them down. We went expecting to adopt a small mature dog, but instead fell for a beautiful baby boy whom we have named "Fender". He's only 8 months old, is part German Shepard but is the cutest, cuddliest dog with the sweetest disposition and waggiest tail. He's full of beans and has been described by more than one french person as "fou-fou" - which I guess translates best as silly. He has swiftly become an important part of our family, is getting on ok (mostly) with the cats, and helping me get fit. We are walking miles every day, and I am exploring and discovering new parts of the countryside around Bize.


Yesterday we did our longest walk so far - about two and a half hours or so - walking all over the hills behind Bize and paying a visit to the Tour de Boussecos.

 One of the great things about the south of France is the amount of ancient buildings, ruins and stuff lying around all over the countryside. Sure the UK has a similar amount of stuff, but you have to remember the size of the UK is about a third of the size of France in square kilometres, and the population about the same - therefore there's much more unexploited land, or abandoned land. In Britain, unless something is carefully preserved (and a lot is) it is generally built over. Here in France walking over hills and valleys are all sorts of scattered pieces of history. Some of it is recorded and noted (not a lot, but still noted) like the Tour de Boussecos, whilst other bits of wall, doorways and towers sit unidentified in fields.

The Tour de Boussecos itself, as you can read on the photo of the sign below (presuming both your eyesight and French are both good!) was built by the Visigoths, who occupied this part of the world between about 400 and 700AD. Look at this map and you can see that they occupied the whole Iberian peninsular for much of this time and this included a good amount of the Languedoc in France. Later occupants in the area added to the tower, the last being around the 15th century - when the area was subject to a loot of religious wars, with Simon de Montfort and his chums massacring loads of locals whose christianity they didn't approve of. But there's apparently also evidence of prehistoric occupation - with parts of neolithic pots and tools found.

All this history to look at and look up. I am spending almost as much time researching and reading about the area as I am walking around it. Just check out wikipedia here.

And in the meantime I am doing the odd drawing and failing to produce anything worthwhile on canvas - but as soon as I have a painting worth showing, it will be here first.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


I covered three canvases today with complete and utter bollocks. One was previously a poor oil portrait, another was the start of another dull pomegranate painting and the other was virgin white. They all ended up with one thing in common. A waste of time and paint. On the positive side I bought some spray white gesso recently so it will be relatively easy to get them back to plain-ness.  Then I can start again. I am at kind of a creative zero at the moment. A broken rib, pain in my arm, pain in my knee, my dog dying, misadventures with cars, not enough money to live on, other shit health things. Yeah, that's right I was painting with a lot of black paint feeling like Jonny Nice Painter in the Fast Show:





Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pomegranates - Grenades

After talking with my best friend Jeremy the other day I decided to have a go at oil painting still lifes.  After all I haven't done any for two years when I painted loads of flowers in vases. This time I thought I'd go for fruit. Still the influence of Cézanne - as there should be.  These are two pomegranates which fell off a tree close to where we live. We tried eating a third one - but it wasn't nice. I love the name pomegranate - which comes from "apple seed" in latin. In France they are just called "grenades" - so no apples, just the seeds. And they are not named after hand-grenades - it's the other way around of course. Chucking one of these would make less of a mess. What a difference there would be in the world if all armies did was to throw fruit at each other. I can imagine soldiers running across battle-fields pointing bananas, dodging the pomegranates.

Oil on canvas 60x50cm

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Self Portraits

I am enjoying painting portraits - but there is a problem with subject matter, that I guess all painters have suffered over the years. Unless you find someone to sit still for you (or someone who is able to provide you with a usable photo) you have to resort to painting yourself. There is a fine tradition and history to this, so I guess it's ok.

I've painted myself before, years ago, and have posted this too, below. You will note that the main difference is hair. I used to have some.

Self Portrait 2013

Self Portrait 1984

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Pain in the a....

Arm, actually. I am recovering from an attack of severe arm pain. I have suffered for years from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow). Initially I had lots of pain in my hands, but this dissipated and all I have to put up with generally is permanent tingling in my hands, and occasional not too severe arm pain. But this was something new - Medial Epicondylitis - Golf Elbow (somewhat ironic given my loathing of golf - I'm with Bernard Shaw on this one) which caused incredible pain in my elbow and ignited my other two afflictions  and caused me so much pain I wanted someone to amputate my right arm. After a course of very strong pain killers and anti-inflammatories as well as physiotherapy I am much better than I was - just a bit of pain creeping down my arm from my elbow, and an inability to lift anything or to grip too hard. But the good thing (for me) is that I've been able to paint - gentle oil painting, no big abstract expressionism with this arm. This painting started out as one person but ended up as another.

Man with hat
Oil on Canvas, 55x46cm

Friday, 18 October 2013

Here we go again

Here we go again100x100cm,  Acrylic on canvas
£1,000/1 200€/$1,500
Abstract painting in acrylic - not portrait in oils. I'm still painting more than one thing in more than one style at the same time. I like to mix things up. Maybe I'm mixed up... They are two very different processes - one very calm, one very energetic. Both involve different levels of thought and idea, different mental processes to lead to the final piece of work. It's good to sit calmly and paint - and then to leap about listening to Talking Heads. Stop making sense!