Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Painting again - unfinished

After my recent operation painting was at first difficult because sitting down was hard - and with my current lack of studio and thus painting in my bedroom status, it's the only way I can paint. Which I guess accounts for the calmer paintings in some ways. In my studio I would dance around whilst painting (I know - nobody wants to see that). But before the operation I bought some ply wood from Castorama to experiment with. It's cheaper than canvas, and I like the idea after looking at some of Howard Hodgkin's works on wood at the Tate. So here it is - not finished I think.  I prepped the wood before the op, so it has been waiting for me for some time - a blank piece of wood the other side of the room. Now not so blank. I have masked off the outside of the sheet of ply to leave a natural wood frame. Anyway, not finished I think. But this is what I have now:
Over There
Yeah I think it needs some work when I see it here. So no doubt will change. Not sure it fits together properly at the moment - not sure about the blue area on the left, or the bottom black area with symbols. Well at least I am painting, and unusually showing unfinished work. Am less happy with the frame area than I imagined - partly because the grain only goes one way which means it doesn't look right. I think it's exactly the wrong size. Should have been larger or smaller. This is just too noncommittal. We'll see.

Friday, 7 December 2012

It's my birthday - again. Seems to come around a lot.

Today is my birthday. 54 today. Shortly I will be getting drunk so I forget how old I am getting. A couple of weeks ago I had an operation which also made me feel old, and physically made it difficult to paint, so that explains the recent lack of posts. And painting. Also hard to sit on an ordinary chair for long periods. But let's not go there. What I have done is some more iPad pics of digital animals - so here are some of them - enjoy:
Cat on Rollerskates

Hippo on Skateboard

Cats in boxes


Levitating Donkey


Monday, 12 November 2012

Red and Black

My primary colours are red and black. The colours of communism and anarchy. I strive for deep dark blacks, and like to contrast with bright reds. In this painting though I have combined and overlapped different blacks - carbon, ivory, lamp - and different reds - cadmium, vermillion, carmine, crimson. The touches of blue add depth and points of contrast. I paint because I must, but I have such a long way to go.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Turner Prize 2012

"The king is in the altogether, the altogether, the altogether..."

I was in London last week and decided to visit the Tate Britain gallery and take a look at the 2012 Turner Prize show. Often controversial, often interesting, but usually a good way to spend a rainy London afternoon. I took the tube to Pimlico and ignored the signs to the Tate which take you past the extension to Chelsea Art School, preferring to walk along the banks of the Thames. I walked past the old Government Office for London building, and noticed it was being refurbished or knocked down - or perhaps was just Christo's latest piece of art.

While taking the above photo I was accosted by a Big Issue sales person. I bought a copy off him, and we walked together along the banks of the Thames. He was an interesting man - clearly well-educated, about the same age as me, Irish, and friendly, we chatted about life on the streets, and he told me he was writing everything down with the intention of writing a book. I wished him luck, and we parted ways as we reached the Tate. To get into the Tate Britain nowadays, you don't enter via the Thames, because of building work going on. And in fact the side entrance makes the whole layout deeply confusing, with the "free maps" (£1 "donation" and please give your map back for recycling when you leave) completely unhelpful. I found the ticket office, where they tried to sting me for a further "donation" on top of the £10 ticket price.

Not seen the Turner Prize show this year? Take a look at this film from the Guardian website ("found footage") - everything you need to know is here and you'll save yourself £10 - but take everything Adrian Searle says with a large lump of rock salt:

Paul Noble
First there's the "scatological" drawings and sculptures by Paul Noble. Imagine doodling in a notebook with a pair of pencils whilst listening to a tedious lecture. Imagine drawing an imaginary town. Imagine that it looks a bit like lumps of poo so you expand on this theme and make the whole town "poo-based". Yes? Possible to imagine doing that isn't it? Now imagine spreading this doodle across the entire notebook. OK, a bit obsessive, but it's one damn boring lecture. Now imagine spreading that onto  enormous pieces of paper and other pieces of paper joined together so it covers metres of wall space. That lecture must have been unbelievably dull, because that is what Paul Noble's work is like - poo doodles, loads of them. And some poo sculptures. Ho ho. Unfortunately the whole effect is... boring. There is nothing to excite the imagination - the drawings have no great aesthetic appeal, and are not so technically marvellous you are in awe. There is nothing there of interest - just something Paul Noble doodled whilst he couldn't think of anything better to do.

Luke Fowler
Moving round the show (in the order you see it, not the way Adrian Searle presents it) the next thing you see is photographs and film by Luke Fowler. The photos are all two photographs side-by-side - images clashing, complementing each other (I guess is the effect intended). However there's a couple of problems: they aren't very good - not bad exactly, just nothing exceptional - and they are poorly mounted and framed. The connection between the pairs of images is often obscure - and, anyway, the images just aren't interesting enough (not well composed, not interesting subject matter, not well produced). Hmm. It emerges (see the film above)  that there is a theme about mental health in the photos - but it isn't clear, and the photos are not engaging enough to draw you in to examine them at any length. So on the theme of mental health the next thing to see is the 93 minute film about R D Laing. If you haven't got a life to lead. Anyone who sat through the entire 93 minutes of that film deserves an award. The only person I can imagine sitting through it actually, is Paul Noble: who would use the 93 minutes to do some of his poo doodling. It's a shame: R D Laing is an interesting subject - but this isn't an interesting film. The need to be artistic seems to outweigh any need to engage an audience. There really is an issue with artists making films - and I'll come back to it in a moment.

Elizabeth Price
Next along in the exhibition is a display :"about the artists" and about the galleries that represent them (who stand to make a lot of cash for having their artists chosen for the Turner Prize). This isn't very enlightening, and so i naturally moved on to the next artist, Elizabeth Price. Adrian Searle describes her work perfectly: it is a series of three short, related films about a fire in a Woolworths in Manchester in 1979. The film links together archive footage with added captions, diagrams, annoying loud click sounds and other stuff in a technically able way that leaves you with an end product that fails to engage.  I am probably very stupid, but what the hell was this about? A fire that killed 10 people 33 years ago. And? The scandal of how inflammatory furniture was at the time? I haven't got a clue. The desire to produce something overtly "arty" completely overwhelmed any possibility of informing, provoking or entertaining.

And this is the problem with film. We all see film all the time on TV, at the cinema, on our computers, laptops wherever. We are all very film-litertate. A lot of the film work we see is crap (X Factor) but a lot of what we see is of very high quality - whether it be Hollywood, a TV show or even an ad or a pop video. What then does an art film have to offer that is different and interesting? That is, a film outside of the normal context we see film, placed in a gallery setting to do whatever it is art does.  I don't know - and the reason I don't know is that I have never seen an art film that succeeded in doing so. I may have missed something - but the two art films in this exhibition only succeed in proving my point. By trying to be something different, they only succeed in being something that isn't visually or artistically interesting.

Spartacus Chetwynd
Finally we come to Spartacus Chetwynd. Hmmm. I went to art school between 1980 and 1983. At that time little Spartacus was only 7-10 years old. (She was actually called Alalia then - I know, I know, you are SHOCKED that Spartacus isn't her real name). Some people at my art college, Wolverhampton, in those days were doing the type of thing Spartacus does here. Look her up on Wikipedia and you find this quote: 

"Spartacus Chetwynd (born Lali Chetwynd, 1973) is a British artist known for reworkings of  iconic moments from cultural history in deliberately amateurish and improvisatory performances"

Well she succeeds in her "deliberate amateurish-ness", if nothing else. I have no idea what this was all about. It was irritating, pretentious, and poorly executed. I don't understand - nor care about - what this was about. Some people dressed up in some "deliberately amateurish" costumes, mucking around with some "deliberately amateurish": puppets, doing completely obscure indecipherable things, in a poorly built, poorly conceived (deliberately amateurish I guess) "set". I took a photo with my phone of part of the "set" - it looks better in this photo than it did in real life.  But still amateurish.

So in all I found the whole show depressing. In previous years there have been some talented artists nominated for the Tate Prize. None of the artists in this exhibition showed any talent I could admire or enjoy. It reminded me of going to a very bad art-school degree show - one where nobody got anything better than a 2:2. So what does this say about the "art world"? (Apologies for over-use of inverted commas and italics). Take a look at the American TV Show - "The next great artist" or whatever it's called - on Sky Arts. This tells you all you need to know. Because it isn't about the artists - it's about galleries and curators (and critics) who are so much up their own arses they wouldn't know a piece of decent art if they were bashed over the head with it. This is about fashion, not art, about power in the art world, and about, as usual, money. The artists are nominated by the galleries who represent them, and are shortlisted by a committee of judges - all from private galleries, except the director of the Tate.

Speaking of money, there's £10 I'll never see again. I wish I'd given it to the guy who sold me the big issue, rather than encourage the poverty of creation I'd seen here.

So to cheer myself up, I went upstairs at the Tate Modern and looked at the Howard Hodgkin retrospective. Unfortunately a very small exhibition - but some damn nice paintings. And free to view.

Howard Hodgkin

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


When I was young we had a cat called Tuesday. He was called Tuesday because that was the day he arrived. Originally my dad wanted to call him Jimmy Greaves, but my mum over-ruled him. Tuesday was a big tabby tom cat. My love of cats generally stems from him. Tuesday died when i was about 10, run over in the street. I remember writing about him in a story or essay in class, and describing him as "purple and yellow". I know what I meant - he was a reddy brown and cream tabby cat. Purple and yellow in my head seemed about right - and in some ways it still does. But I was laughed at by my teacher who thought it was very amusing to have a purple and yellow cat. Silly cow. There's a line in an Elvis Costello song - "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" that always reminds me of him:

You're spell-bound baby, there's no doubting that 
Did you ever see a stare like a Persian cat?

Obviously, though, I have always heard "purple cat". Anyway, here's some drawings I've done of Tuesday.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Rain, Paintings, Don Bessant and Brushes

The rain is coming down hard. Today is particularly bad, but it has rained a lot recently. Although that's not entirely true - two days ago I was driving around with the roof down on my car, the sun was shining and the temperature recorded outside the pharmacy was 30°c. But summer is well and truly over. When I take the dog out at 7am I have to take a torch, and am disturbed to find the ground where we play frisbee has been dug up by wild boar. This morning though we couldn't even get to the field - the river Derridière was running and no hope of crossing it for me. The dog didn't mind - we played in the river instead.

This means that I am not out drawing, and actually am finding it hard to motivate myself out of my nice warm bed. It usually takes a ginger cat miaowing in my ear to get me up.

I have found some time to do some painting, and some iPad pics, some of which I will share with you here.

Black Flag

Red Flag

Red Flag and Black Flag - communism and anarchism. But in many ways these are paintings about painting. I have reverted to using entirely acrylic paints. It's much easier in the small space I am painting ion now. I like the textures I have made by using different palette knives. Scraping paint off gives different effects, and using masking tape to create geometrical-type shapes gives an impression of layers I like. Lots of things inspired me whilst painting. I spent some time looking at other painters' work, including Hodgkin and Hoyland, and Jim Dine. Which made me think of one of my old printmaking tutors at college, Don Bessant, who died young in the 1990s - as did two other of my printmaking tutors, Geoff Smith and Jim Chappin - very sad, and reminds me that painting with water soluble stuff is good health and safety practice - and reminds me of how sensible I was to give up smoking 8 years ago. So I googled Don and found galleries selling his prints - which is nice, and found that Wolverhampton had opened a gallery in his name, which is also nice. And found loads of pictures of him as a young man with Julie Christie - whom he dated in the 60s. Down the pub, fag in the corner of his mouth, Don would reminisce about those days over a pint. Now I'm reminiscing about him.

So after such serious research it's nice to pick up the iPad and do some more silly drawings. I usually use "Brushes" for these, and  recently was pleased to learn that a new version - Brushes 3 (what happened to Brushes 2 is a mystery) - is out. Unfortunately it has mutated into something that doesn't interest me. An iPad app aimed at people who want to produce iPad paintings that look like they have been done on paper or canvas - in other words that don't look like they were done on an iPad. I love the simplicity of the original Brushes, and don't really see the point of the new app - there are already similar apps out there - the best of which (if you're interested) is "Procreate". To show you what I mean, here are two recent Brushes pictures:

Long-horned sheep

And here's one I made with Procreate:


 Nothing wrong with it - it looks like an ink drawing of a horse. But you know what? I think I prefer to do ink drawings of horses on paper - with a pen and ink, like this:


It's somehow more alive.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Music while you work/Expression/Self Indulgence/A new car

I like having music on while I paint. I choose different playlists depending on my mood. I'm sure this has in influence on what I paint. It certainly influences the titles I choose for the paintings created whilst listening. So here are four new paintings. They have been painted simultaneously, all with acrylics only - oils are too difficult in my current space, and I can't use spray paints. Actually not entirely true - one of them has some oil stick on it.

They are all "15F" 54x65cm - which feels like a good size to be working on in the space I'm in. I could probably go a bit larger. When I've finished with this job-lot of canvases I bought at this size I may have a go at something bigger. I'll have to see what's on offer. Am getting low on red paint, which could be disastrous.

 This group of abstracts have been influenced by a number of things (apart from the music). I'm still very interested in the golden ratio/Phi, as well as the physical environment outside my window, which mainly consists of amazing medieval stone buildings.

I'm still fascinated by expressing concepts of identity within paintings too. I find it interesting that when painting you are expressing yourself: but each painting isn't the same, because you are never the same. And it's not entirely caused by a change of track from Public Image Limited to Prince Buster.

The act of painting is interesting in itself too. It is easy to get dragged in by different marks. I like the textures caused by using different brushes, paints and palette knives (and fingers too). But I am controlling things a bit more simply because of the lack of space.

And yet all of this seems quite self-indulgent - which I guess it is - I suppose all painting is to some extent self-indulgent and this is kind of necessary to the process.

Meanwhile my lovely Barchetta appears to be dead - or at least badly injured;. And it seems sensible to be looking for a new car, which I am doing. Am contemplating driving a Right Hand car in france simply because the cost is so much lower. Dammit I need to sell some of these paintings to pay for a new car!!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Painting sedately

Without having a studio I am limited in my space to paint - a corner of my bedroom, effectively. This limits the size of what I can paint, and means I can't go as nuts with brush, spray, palette knife etc - no dripping or splashing: a calmer more sedate way of painting. Probably not a bad thing to experiment with: limits sometimes force you to do things differently, and that sometimes works. Here's my latest work (no titles I am happy with yet):

Friday, 14 September 2012

Some new stuff and nonsense

I haven't posted up much work recently. No particular reason, just not done it. I posted the flower painting the other day for my mum, but it isn't all I have done recently. I also completed the painting below, in oils. I guess it's a a kind of reversion to a style of work i was doing a year or two ago - less "abstract expressionist" and more "abstract landscape" if I've got to categorise it, inspired by the view from my window of my bedroom - where I am forced to work for the moment. Working in  a small space whilst trying to limit the mess I make restricts my normal style . Normally I dance around splashing things. In my bedroom i am sitting more sedately. Although I still have music playing and "jig" along. Also I wanted to give oils a go - I thought this might force me to be more careful on the spilling front.
Stone and clay (oil on canvas 65x54cm)

Also some other stuff on paper (below) that I did as a trial of some new paper called "laser" for the SAA. Interesting paper, only 80gsm, and feels like it is nothing special, but absolutely amazing how it works especially with oils. It absorbs and dries the paint very quickly. Don't ask me how. Probably magic of some sort.

Musician and muse  (ink on paper 21x30cm)

Vase of flowers ( (oil on paper 21x30cm)

Lac du Salagou  (watercolour on paper 21x30cm)

3 Cats  (ink on paper 21x30cm)

And last but not least some (a selection of) iPad pics. I am doing so many of these at the moment that there are too many to upload. Also not all of them are quite the same level of brilliance (my wife says). I am also working on a little "painting on your iPad" book. News of that when I've done some more work on it.
Moving Colours

3 Crocs

Tom tom

Howling at the moon

Designer cat

Cat on red stool
The last one is actually an iPhone pic.Drawing on an iPhone causes you to produce simpler images, less accurately! Also I guess it's supposed to be Earnie, the cutest cat in the world. (He spent many successful years at Cute School graduating with a starred first).

Sooner or later I'll upload these pics to my main website I guess. Maybe even today. Maybe not.  In the meantime  I should say - feedback always welcome: Although comments such as "this is crap you talentless worthless asshole" won't be published. Sorry about that. And I am likely to respond quite rudely. It's in my nature, see, can't help it. Sorry.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

September 11th

For most people today's date has a significance of some sort. Mostly it's 9/11 or occasionally the anniversary of the assassination of the democratically elected socialist Chilean leader Salvador Allende  during a CIA sponsored coup (Unless of course if you want to believe the CIA version that he committed suicide - with a gun in his back from 20 yards away).

For me it has always meant something else - the birthday of my mother, Joan Abse. My mother would have been 86 today, if not for the terrible car accident that took her life, over 7 years ago now. Anyway, here's some flowers for my mum. I hope she would have liked them.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Competitions and opens

I get regular updates from various organisations telling me about various artist opportunities.  These range from open exhibitions, residencies, competitions, publications to all sorts of interesting ideas. Some of these are from direct emails, others from a couple of useful websites: Transartists and the weirdly named (but incredibly useful) I send you this. Some of these are interesting and I enter: these include, for example, things I have mentioned earlier in this blog, such as the electric open which are currently showing some of my iPad works in Congleton, the art brownie project, or the Ganges 1900 festival. All these have something in common - they look like fun, and don't cost anything, or don't cost very much. I also received emails about various competitions or opens (often from idiots who don't know how to use their "bcc" box on their email programme) .Too many of these "opportunities" however seem to be just a way of getting money out of artists. For example I received an email today inviting me to submit my work to an open exhibition/competition. Works chosen get exhibited in a gallery in Florida, and the "winning" painting gets the artist a prize of 1,000€. The catch is the entry cost: 40€. Oh yes, and any works sold by the gallery attract a 30% commission. This isn't a huge amount, but if you enter a lot of competitions like this it can soon add up. I calculate that it would be quite easy to build up entry fees of well over 1,000€ a year. And given you're chances of winning a prize are pretty slim, that's money you are unlikely to see again - even if you're work is selected and exhibited. This particular exhibition/competition is being organised by a freelance curator in partnership with a gallery. I guess the fees go to him - he makes a few grand, and the gallery gets the commission. I presume in this case the prize money comes from the entries. You might argue that in this case, everyone wins. But the reality is that I would guess he's expecting 100+ entries, raising 4,000€ - a profit for him of some 3,000€. One artist gets 1,000€ and some others get their work shown in a small gallery in Florida. It's all pretty harmless I guess - but it does feel like the whole enterprise is being subsidised by artists - especially the losers - and to me this seems wrong. I don't mind competition/open organisers charging a small administration charge (£10-20 is common) which I guess helps to cover costs, but any more seems a short step from galleries charging artists to show their work.

Anyway, here's my picture I did in Ganges 1900: which was not only free, they also gave me lunch, an aperot and as much coffee as I wanted. Three cheers for Ganges!
Ganges 1900
Not my normal sort of thing. All in oils. I was supposed to go back on Sunday and do a second painting, but I wasn't very well, so that put paid to that unfortunately. However it's made me determined to paint this week, and I have started work today on stuff.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Some more iPad stuff, Ganges 1900

More iPad work. I will have to remember how to paint when I go to the Ganges 1900 event on Saturday - see details here . It's a fun festival where everyone in the town dresses up like it's 1900. All sorts of stuff going on, including artists painting in the street. One of those will be me, painting something appropriate, and dressed appropriately in smock and beret. This should be fun one way or another. There's free food and drink involved and prizes and stuff, and the festival is good fun whatever.

In the meantime here's some iPad stuff - all very relevant to the year 1900. Or maybe not:

Self portrait with beret and dinosaur shirt

Happy T Rex

Purple cat watching orange dogs

Thursday, 23 August 2012

I am a complete idiot

I often submit my work for competitions and opens and things. Paintings, drawings and stuff. I don't think I have the systems for it though. Maybe I ought to be more organised. Perhaps I should update my database or something. As I may have mentioned in an old post, earlier this year I got a painting accepted for an exhibition in London related to the Olympics. Stupidly, though, the painting I had submitted was enormous (180x120cm) and was going to cost me over 200€ to send. So I gave it a miss. Why I sent that one in I have no idea. I guess i assumed it wouldn't be selected. Now I have had four pictures accepted for an exhibition in Cheshire. Yay! Except ... er...which ones exactly? I haven't got a clue. I am hoping that my brain was vaguely in gear  (optimist) and I submitted teeny-tiny ones, or ones on paper or something intelligent like that - but since I didn't bloody write down which ones anywhere and the whole thing was done on an on-line form.... I'm kind of screwed. I have had to email them and admit my stupidity and say "Thank you. But which pics exactly?" To be slightly fairer to me (but only slightly, I really am an idiot) I get rejected so often I guess it doesn't feel worth writing them down (aaaaah), and considering I submitted four pictures the last thing I expected was for all of them to be accepted. In my most optimistic mood I would have imagined them writing back to me and saying
"we have accepted picture "a" and picture "b" but not....." So let me re-iterate. 

Meanwhile here are some more iPad pics I have done in the last couple of days. Actually I am hoping it's a set of iPad pics that I submitted. Easy to transport.



Justin Beaver
And the lovely people at the Electric Picture House have emailed me and I can see the good news: All iPad pics!! Yay!!