Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Today the opposite of tomato is the films of Mike Leigh

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm
original source: 'The Guardian Film & Music' 18/04/08

Again this drawing was transcribed from an original source exhibiting a particular photographic trait - the capturing of a fleeting human facial expression, a frozen moment in time. Additionally, the expressive potential of the hands is also present(ed) in this image.

Even in an age when photography is readily available as source material to visual artists, figures seen smiling or laughing, for example, seem relatively seldom to be used as subject matter in drawing or painting. Prior to photography, such examples were even more rare, this painting by Vermeer featuring a smiling woman being one of very few: Rembrandt produced a fascinating series of self portrait engravings featuring a range of facial expressions.

Vermeer 'Officer & Laughing Girl'
oil on canvas 1658


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Best of'
Lambchop 'Aw, C'mon', 'No, You C'mon' & 'Damaged'
Belle & Sebastian 'Fold Your Hands Child...'

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Still(ed) Life

This diptych was transcribed from a pair of related photographs gracing the front page of a local evening newspaper, with the ‘car crash – disaster’ works of Andy Warhol as the obvious art-historical referent (although these were invariably populated with & thus humanized by their victims, unlike the empty boxes presented here).

Two versions are presented: the first being what might be considered to be a still life, or a pair of stilled mechanical objects it may be assumed have recently been in motion; the second including the lurid tabloid headlines accompanying the images in their original presentation on the cover of the newspaper, adding an obvious narrative element, with its attendant sense of drama, to the overall composition & giving it now a distinctly Pop Art dimension, recalling Warhol specifically & his faithful transcriptions of newspaper stories of ‘disastrous’ events such as air crashes, for example.

graphite & putty eraser/57x20cm
original source: 'Flintshire Evening Leader' 15/04/08

graphite, putty eraser & photocopy (digital image)/57x20cm

Although the component sketches are identical, the mood of each drawing seems markedly different, the first being still, quiet & elegiac, the second more direct, dramatic & visceral through the human emotion conveyed by the added text, although the drawing process – of just another newspaper source image treated in exactly the same manner as all the previously transcribed photographs, regardless of ostensible ‘subject matter’ – might serve to lend both an equally dispassionate quality, being a means to an end, as indeed might be said to be their purpose in the context of their presence in the newspaper, advertising it, there to attract attention & sell the product.

Andy Warhol 'Pink Car Crash'

Andy Warhol '129 Die in Jet (Plane Crash)' 1962

During the course of the drawings’ transcription, there occurred another of those serendipitous coincidences with the television broadcast of David Cronenberg’s film ‘Crash’, adapted from JG Ballard’s novel, one I’ve always found fascinating upon viewing – the first occasion at the cinema, in Cheltenham, where a number of people got up & left during the course of the screening, their expectations obviously not met (!) – & rewarding of subsequent ones: cool, stylish, stylized, darkly erotic & an intriguing study of the relationship between humans & machines, & the sometimes specific complexities of this subject.

All sorts of aesthetic links occur, not least between Ballard & the music of Joy Division, specifically through the title ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ but also with the film ‘Crash’, through the sense of disquiet & cold-steely, mechanized, urban alienation that pervades the album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in particular. Also amongst the soundtrack accompanying this drawing is to be found the song ‘Belle & Sebastian’ by the eponymous band, wherein “Sebastian went too far again & crashed his car in the rain”…


Bjork 'Homogenic'
Belle & Sebastian 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress' & 'Push Barman...'
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Best of'
Rachel Unthank & the Winterset 'The Bairns'
Scritti Politti 'White Bread Black Beer'

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Falling Again

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2, 14/04/08

Following on from the previous entry, the original source of this transcribed drawing again features Mark E Smith, pictured at a live Fall gig, probably the better part of 25 years earlier than the portrait image.
The diamond patterned sweater of course makes numerous art historical references, from the tiled floors that often feature in Vermeer's paintings to our old friend the Modernist grid, particularly in this instance Mondrian's diamond, diagonal format canvases.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Nation's Saving Grace...

Today the opposite of tomato is the enduring ramshackle glory of the music of The Fall

Aside from its wonderful photographic quality in terms of the dialogue between various aspects of the image being in & out of focus (similar to the earlier transcription of Chuck Close's daguerreotype of Philip Glass here), the lure of this particular source image - illustrating a G2 feature publishing extracts from Mark E Smith's autobiography 'Renegade: The Lives & Tales of...' - proved irresistible, being a magnificent portrait of a singular character, a great British institution if ever there was. 'He is not appreciated...' (nearly enough).

graphite & putty eraser/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2, 14/04/08


The Fall, obviously, although, curiously, the delights of '50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong' proved nigh-on impossible to draw along to: despite the repetitive rhythms of the songs, from 'Repetition' itself to the mighty 'Crop Dust', the sheer insistent quality of their music & Mark E Smith's fantastic, uniquely engaging lyrics (however impenetrable) & delivery made concentration on anything other than themselves difficult-to-impossible, evidence again of the singular characteristics of their sonic aesthetic!

It was left, therefore, to Belle & Sebastian's 'Push Barman to Open Old Wounds' & 'Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant', a band as individual & enjoyable in their own way, to provide 'workable' musical accompaniment.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Pasted Paper (r)Evolution

Today the opposite of tomato is ‘American Splendor

graphite & pasted paper photocopy/20x30cm
original source: 'The Guardian' G2 09/04/08

Ralph Goings 'Breakfast Menu'

Having previously cited the photorealist paintings of Ralph Goings, when contextualizing an earlier drawing, the original photographic source of this latest drawing in The Project - illustrating an advertisement (again) for a forthcoming Guardian ‘good breakfasts’ guide publication, & featuring a diner table top still life of condiment containers the like of which Goings has regularly used as prosaic subject matter - presented itself as an obvious & welcome candidate for transcription.

Furthermore, the source image enabled a re-engagement with the still life genre which has occupied my creative endeavour for many years - indeed up until this last new year & the birth of the current Project transcribing print media images - but with an interesting twist: having always previously worked directly from three-dimensional objects themselves, existing & arranged in real space, doing so on this occasion from a pre-existing image & flat, 2-D, ‘model’ presented a new challenge.
The background of the photographic image also provided a particular point of interest, with the horizontal-vertical pattern of the textured, ‘Anaglypta’-type wallpaper suggesting a variation on the old faithful Modernist grid, relating particularly at this point to the recent drawing of crosses & its contextual relationship to examples of Mondrian’s intermediate paintings & drawings (see this post).
At some point, rather than represent this wholly by drawing, it occurred that it might be of interest to so by other means in conjunction with drawing &, having previously & frequently used actual textured wallpaper as the physical grounds, or sections of, for still life paintings (back in the day…), the notion of pasted paper sections suggested itself as appropriate in this particular instance, especially considering the original precedent of such in the development of Cubism by Braque & Picasso (a ‘Revolution’ as termed by the critic Clement Greenberg, their presence on the picture plane declaring its flatness & fatally disrupting the project of pictorial illusionism), also of course within the realm of the still life & oft featuring café table top settings, thus returning the drawing neatly to its original photographic source & establishing a link between these artists & Goings of a later generation of (Post)Modernists: it is wonderful & a privilege indeed to have the opportunity to engage with the abundant history of visual art in such a manner, to indulge in such playfulness-with-a-purpose.

Georges Braque 'Fruit Dish & Glass'
charcoal & pasted paper/1912

Pablo Picasso 'Violin'
charcoal & pasted newspaper/1912

Of course, in this instance, the textured wallpaper of the source image was in fact as flat in nature as the depicted objects (rather like Glenn Brown’s meticulously painted, insistently two-dimensional representations, like reproductions in a book & as though referenced from such a source, of Frank Auerbach paintings, the originals of course thickly textured to the point of sculptural objecthood). Rather than compromise the integrity of the source image by cutting out sections to use in the transcribed drawing, I decided to take photocopies & use these as the pasted paper elements within the composition, linked by drawing, thus adding a further level of reproduction & representation to the whole…
Of course, the addition of the pasted papers to the drawing - itself, of course, transcribed from a two-dimensional source - actually create a building-up of the surface of the page, & thus a three-dimensional object, albeit of a subtle nature & almost imperceptibly so, which returns us to the (original) subject (matter) of still life..!

I should also mention at this point, whilst very much on the subject, the fascinating artist's blog Papiers Collés, regularly updated with examples of handmade collages & well worth a visit.

Coincidental to relate, but, upon completing the drawing, I subsequently watched the film American Splendor’ which features all manner of play of various levels of representation collaged together into a whole. Essentially, the narrative is that of aspects of the life of the anti-hero Harvey Pekar, the mundanities of which were aestheticized in the form of comic strips &, subsequently, books, & is composed of numerous means including: cinematic, dramatized recreations-representations played by actors; appearances by Harvey Pekar himself, his wife, workmates, etc, in both linking, contextualizing interviews-to-camera & recreations of events such as his retirement party featuring this real cast of characters; footage of televised appearances by the real Pekar on the real David Letterman show - & acted dramatizations of such - & also those of a workmate who achieved cult, self-declared ‘nerd’ status on MTV; & graphic, comic strip elements appropriate to the subject matter of the narrative. It’s all quite a combination, unusual & inventive, again playful with the conventions of representation & its various means, & a most enjoyable experience as a film, one with a profoundly human quality at its heart, glad to have been seen, certainly, & especially on such an occasion.


Lambchop ‘How I Quit Smoking’
Belle & Sebastian ‘Tigermilk’
The Delgados ‘The Great Eastern’

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Art of Advertising (Continued)

graphite & coloured pencil/20x30cm
original source: 'The Times' 08/04/08

Another transcription today of an image taken from a newspaper advertisement, re/de-contextualized by the removal of any accompanying text, logos, branding, etc, & stranger yet for that. I particularly liked, from an aesthetic perspective, the turquoise chair in the original image & decided to transcribe this as faithfully as possible, thus introducing an element of colour into the thus-far purely monochrome Project (some of the original photographs previously used as source material have been reproduced in the relevant newspaper in colour but represented as monochrome graphite drawings, this being The Project's habitual mode & one of its defining aesthetic characteristics &, indeed, criteria).

The original image has, of course, been subject to manipulation, thus already lending it the air of a piece of art with an element of invention &/or fantasy about it, infusing it with a dreamlike quality that advertising so often attempts to achieve & communicate in its effort to sell product & lifestyle, so it's quite interesting to reclaim something of this, the 'taking out of life' into a perceived higher realm, for art.


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 'Abattoir Blues' & 'The Lyre of Orpheus'

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


For the first time, The Project yesterday achieved what it originally intended to do, or at least attempt: choose a photograph from that day's print media &, on the same day, transcribe a drawing (finished) of that image. Didn't manage to blog it on the same day, but still...

original source: 'The Times' 2, 07/04/08

The image - not strictly an original photograph, I suppose, but, rather, a reproduction of a film still of a bikini-clad Ursula Andress emerging from the sea during the course of the Bond movie 'Dr No' - was chosen for its iconic status, being used as such on the cover of the 'Times 2' supplement to illustrate a feature inside on the Bond girls & the author Ian Fleming.


A Belle & Sebastian extravaganza, featuring
'Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant'
'If You're Feeling Sinister'
& 'The Boy With the Arab Strap'

Friday, April 04, 2008


Today the opposite of tomato is ‘Sideways’

Perhaps it’s because of currently reading ‘Vermeer’s Camera’, as previously mentioned, and consequently considering a number of the artist’s paintings, but the narrative appeal of this sequence of original newspaper images, illustrating a fashion feature on the new season‘s ‘statement shoes’, suggested it/they might make a suitable subject for transcription. This composite drawing - and indeed its individual parts as processed - therefore remains faithful to the sequence of images as printed in the hardcopy of the newspaper, which served as my model, and also the online version.

original source: 'The Daily Telegraph' 12/03/08

The accompanying feature as written-edited, however, presents the narrative of the shoes as worn, tested, in another sequence, as, indeed, does a short film of the same.

Furthermore, to add to the fluidity, the ‘shufflability’ of the narrative, & thus the story they might tell, they are sequentially arranged in my sketchbook - inadvertently skipping a page between the first & second drawings, which blank space subsequently became filled with the third - in the following order, different again, as dated: 01/04/08, 03/04/08, 02/04/08. How we read a sequence of images, especially in the print or visual broadcast media, subject to editing and presentation, is perhaps often taken for granted, even when the story they tell might not be that as it happened, in real time. What stories may be told, using the same basic raw materials: the possibilities are open to numerous interpretations, agendas, etc…

I must admit that, if the sequence of photographs was originally composed & published thus - not strictly depicting the story as written-told, but illustrating it all the same - for aesthetic reasons, then this is the only ‘truth’ in which I’m really interested & with which I’m concerned. Didn’t someone once release an album of music entitled ‘This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours’..?


Spiritualized ‘Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space’
Tricky ‘Maxinquaye’
Charlotte Gainsbourg ‘5:55’
Belle & Sebastian ‘Push Barman to Open Old Wounds’
Lambchop ‘Aw, C’mon’ & ‘No, You C’mon’
Sigur Ros ‘Takk’
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ‘Best of’

Been enjoying more of a musical catch-up, this time including the brooding, unsettling magnificence of Tricky’s masterpiece ‘Maxinquaye’ & the grand guinol of much of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ earlier work, the oft-murky depths of the breadth of which are a pleasure to submerge oneself in, surrender to: many an intriguing narrative too. The power of both of these albums (& some of the originals from which the Cave selection is culled) remains undiminished through or by time.

Watched ‘Sideways’ last night, for the third time, & enjoyed it more than ever: a quietly wonderful & beautiful film, with a perfectly-realised narrative, fuelled by wine & the pleasures of its drinking but encompassing much human nature within its journey. All that Californian space & sunshine appeared most attractive too…