Thursday, January 25, 2018


'Mark E Smith'

graphite and eraser on paper/30 x 21cm/April 2008

In tribute to one of this parish's musical heroes, a repost of a repost of an original (faithfully observing the 3 R's of 'Repetition, repetition, repetition', of course - I'd like to believe the subject would approve) of a drawing, processed almost a decade ago, of Mark E Smith, who sadly passed away yesterday.

His art will endure, as it has already for 40 glorious years.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Returning to the Woods

Following the recent immersion in the photorealist portrait project, the Christmas recess has encouraged a return to thoughts of engaging with the local woodland and representations of the experience of being amidst that was providing the grist to the creative mill at this time last year and indeed continued into the Spring.
These considerations turned to active contemplation, with brushes being taken up and applied to a canvas that had originally been composed and underpainted last June, becoming a painting featuring as its image-content a mossily-floored copse of silver birches, indigenous trees that feature sporadically around the peripheries of the larger areas of commercially-planted pines and larches that still, after extensive culling early last year, form the bulk of the woodland.
On Saturday, some form of resolution of the canvas was arrived-at, an image of the resulting object, on the easel, pictured below.

‘Woodscape #8: Silver Birches’
oil on canvas/50 x 100cm/January 2018 (begun June 2017)
Previous rules apply, with the intention of achieving a painterly surface, a physical record, a ‘tactile space’ analogous to the empirical experience of being present in the woodland with its profusion tending to over-abundance of visual and other sensory information. Whilst keen to emphasise the texture of the support and medium, this was reined-back somewhat from the previous explorations, feeling them perhaps to have had a bit too much paint thrown at them for its own sake, resulting in a certain clagginess, hopefully allowing this canvas to breathe a little more. At the same time, the painting process was freed from the rigid horizontal/vertical brushwork of the previous attempts, led by the strict verticality of the subject matter of the pine trunks, which in retrospect seem a little too obvious. The nature of the silver birch bark lends itself to a more horizontal approach and this in turn helps achieve a more ‘overall’ surface. As ever, whilst trying to plot a path at least some way in to represented spatial depth, the application of the paint is intended to return the spectator to the immediate picture plane at any given moment, as might be appreciated from the details below.




Monday, January 08, 2018

Photorealism #5: Richard E Grant

‘Richard E Grant After a Photograph’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/December 2017
Continuing with the photorealist portrait ‘project’, this painting in fact being completed prior to Christmas, the image subject here is a monochrome representation of a print of a photograph of the actor and perfumier Richard E Grant, whose Instagram feeds are closely followed around these parts in addition to the enjoyment gained from his acting performances.
Again, the technical approach is intended to foreground a painterly surface, keeping things pretty loose, whilst at the same time attempting to capture a certain expression.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Photorealism #4: Mr Cave Again

Continuing with the recent series of photorealist portraits, and having another source image featuring Nick Cave amongst the available model stock, this one with a few more years on the subject’s visage, thus the painting process proceeded to a point of resolution, again soundtracked by the many wonders of the Bad Seeds’ back catalogue.
The source image seemed to offer the possibilities of a more expansive mark-making approach than the previous example, thereby resulting in what I’d consider to be a more satisfying painting experience and result, although, regarding the latter, that underlying dread doubt always nibbles away, of course.

‘Nick Cave After a Photograph #2’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/December 2017
Pictured below is the painting adjacent to the source from which it was produced, the actual working environment…

And also, in an amusing juxtaposition, one of those serendipitous moments, with the first Nick Cave portrait in the background, at its shoulder (it’s just something about the pose and expression of the latter)…

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Photorealism #3: Tove Jansson

Continuing with what seems to have become the project (of sorts) of painting from photographic sources, the latest product on/off the easel features an image of the artist and author Tove Jansson, another of the favoured cultural icons around these parts.
Again, the emphasis is primarily on the process, the materiality of the paint and its mark-making properties, the rendering of tone and tonal transitions, but the image-content, and some form of faithfulness to and resolution of, is of course ever-present.

'Tove Jansson After a Photograph'
oil on canvas/20" x 16"/November 2017

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

More Photorealism

Following on from the recent photorealist ‘portrait’ of Samuel Beckett, the latest painting on and now, resolved, off the easel has been along similar lines, employing similar means, albeit on a reduced scale (having exhausted the existing stock of larger canvases: had one been available, it would have been utilised).  This latter aspect proved itself to be less satisfying than the preceding endeavour – more cramped, less painterly, offering less scope for the brush strokes to just ‘be’, to be representative of the process of the ‘work’ of art, with, rather, virtually every mark having to be more descriptive in nature.
The portrait subject is Nick Cave, with the pose offering the bonus of describing the hands in addition to the head/face, the immediate object of reference being an A3 monochrome print of a colour photograph.

‘Nick Cave After a Photograph’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/October – November 2017
Ever since hearing The Birthday Party on the John Peel show, and catching the band live in 1981 (bottom of a bill supporting headliners Bauhaus with Vic Godard and Subway Sect between, at the Liverpool Royal Court), Nick Cave has loomed large on the personal cultural landscape, being a firm musical favourite as his career and repertoire has evolved, and it’s been a profoundly rewarding pleasure to listen, chronologically, to a good deal of Nick and the Bad Seeds’ back catalogue as an accompaniment to the painting process (providing the perfect excuse to indulge), if a bit strange to be looking so intently at an image of the artist as he performs.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

'Big Sam': A Conclusion

The luxury of four painting sessions over an extended weekend allowed the Samuel Beckett photorealist ‘portrait’, after a print of Jane Bown‘s original photograph, to arrive at some form of resolution, presented here below upon the easel in a state of repose and in various details.
Although I’d previously spent a couple of years, individually, on drawing-from-photographic-source projects (please refer to the 2008 and 2014 (actually March ’14 – February ’15) archives of TOoT), developing technique between, I’d not worked in oil on canvas and on such a scale in such a manner (although the recentish series of ‘woodscapes’ referred to compositional photos in support of other empirical sources) – obviously there are many different stylistic precedents that one is aware of (even, to take such as Gerhard Richter or Chuck Close for example, within the work of a particular artist) and it became very much a matter of working towards interpreting the source image in a way that had integrity as ‘painterly material’ (and technique) for want of a better phrase, achieving that balance between painted mark as painted mark and a certain fidelity to the source as image, the former as ‘actively contemplated’ response to the latter, of course.

‘Samuel Beckett After Jane Bown Photograph’
oil on canvas/40″ x 30″/October 2017





Finally, here’s the painting in position as it was ‘processed’, alongside the source image.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Remembering John Peel

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the passing of the mighty cultural ‘uncle’ that was (and remains) John Peel, whose influence lives on undimmed, indeed probably burning ever brighter in such times. In celebration, of the life, we’re listening to Captain Beefheart‘s ‘Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), just one of the many artistes and fine records to whom and which Peel provided an introduction – walking in to the day job this morning accompanied by the groove of ‘Tropical Hot Dog Night’ certainly helped make me feel more kindly disposed than is habitually the case.
Another The Fall ‘Imaginary Compilation Album’ (#3) been also posted on the essential The (new) Vinyl Villain – get on over and get listening, you know it makes sense and it’s what Peel would have wanted.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

An Update

The Samuel Beckett portrait (see previous entry) in its current state after a long session’s painting on Saturday afternoon and another hour on Tuesday morning: a long way still to go before any form of resolution is reached, and the scope/need for many a revision along that way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Slow Painting A-Coming...

‘Samuel Beckett’ oil on canvas/40″ x 30″ (in progress)

Currently, I’m attempting something in paint that I’ve not done previously, in transposing a photograph – and an iconic one, at that – in oils on a large scale, in response to what we shall term a domestic commission. The challenge, to begin, has proved itself to be exactly how one might go about such an endeavour, with a few false starts thrown in, before things have started to make some sort of visual sense and progress is being made, albeit in stately fashion.

The starting point, the subject, is of course a print (A3 and squared-up to be drawn on to the canvas) of Jane Bown’s famous and rather wonderful portrait of Samuel Beckett, taken in 1976 when Beckett would have been seventy years of age, delightfully craggily expressive of features. The good thing about such an enlarging is that it allows a freedom with the application of the paint, to make of a mechanical photographic print something hand-made and painterly – whether the result in any way does justice to the original and subject will be another matter.

In an act of what might be termed ‘method painting’, I’m currently reading Beckett’s novel ‘Molloy’ and will soon be taking up ‘Malone Dies’ in order to in some way ‘inhabit’ the author/subject and the world he creates – that this experience is a pleasurable one only enhances to the experience, the creative process.