Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Blank Decorations...

Awaiting a delivery of some more of the ‘widescreen’ canvases that have proved themselves to be the most appropriate for the current sequence of painterly investigations of yonder woodland (a mere pair having been purchased in the first instance, for the purposes of testing the proposal, and alternatives being unfit for such purpose), it seemed a good idea to fill some of the hiatus by remodelling another batch of pears and then whitewashing them in readiness for the intended further investigation and possible expansion of that particular body of work as was carried out earlier in the year. Here, captured looking in to the conservatory/studio from outside, are the five objects suspended and drip-drying.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Woods Painting #2

‘Woods #2’

oil on canvas/24″ x 48″/December 2016

The current painting brought to some form of resolution (one could keep adding paint indefinitely), as with the previous example concentrating in painterly terms on the horizontals and verticals of the subject matter and achieving an all-over-ness of surface texture.  Again, this ‘tactile space’ acts as a means to suggest the physical experience of being present in the landscape, the richness of the empirical fact(s).



Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Back at the Easel...

Presenting today the early stages of the current work-in-progress, another 4′ x 2′ ‘widescreen’ canvas upon which has been sketched the early stages of a second woodscape composition closely related to its predecessor and of which there is as yet not a great deal else to say.

The work was carried out over the course of Saturday afternoon, this activity to the accompaniment of a selection of the new release from the Moon Wiring Club, celebrating in generously expansive style the 10th anniversary of & comprising, musically, an LP (entitled ‘Exit Pantomime Control’) and triple CD set (‘When a New Trick Comes Out, I Do an Old One’), some of the artwork of which is pictured below (there’s also an A2-sized double-sided poster folded within the CD package, detailing its contents and featuring more of the inimitable illustrations of the sort on show), and a book too (also ‘When a New Trick…’) – a veritable cornucopia of sound and visuals as, indeed, each of the issues from the Blank Workshop and fictional town of Clinkskell are, what have come to be a much-anticipated annual treat after the clocks have gone back and the seasonal gloaming descends and envelops.

As ever, the music is both familiar and strange (more so than usual this time, with remixes and re-imaginings from the substantial archives), accents recur but are subjected to tweaks and new treatments, ghosts rematerialising in fresh guises, moods benign, contemplative and unsettling shift within the continuum – it’s rich fare upon initial encounter that frequent revisiting will reward as we move inexorably from this year into next.

Now – given the seasonal crimp on available painting opportunity (fundamentally, an insistence upon natural light conditions) – when’s the next chance to paint and listen?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The paint is tree and the tree is paint

Following-on from the recent ‘in progress’ report (‘Digesting October…’), today we present the first painting of our local woodland subsequently brought to some form of resolution over the course of Saturday afternoon spent listening to the 2 CDs of ‘The Essential Leonard Cohen’, but a selection in celebration of the work of the songwriter supreme ‘born with the gift of the golden voice’ (at least in the guise of the narrator of the mighty ‘Tower of Song’), whose passing has sadly been announced – many fine words have been written in tribute, not least on the Guardian website on & from Friday, also including Gerry’s on his ‘That’s How The Light Gets In’ blog, another to follow avidly. The recordings left behind, of such exquisitely-crafted & masterfully-performed songs, will resonate down the years, of that there can be no doubt.

‘Woods #1’
oil on canvas/24″ x 48″/October-November 2016
The painting itself, as ‘finished’, probably achieves something of what was intended whilst leaving plenty of scope for development. Formally and, from that, technically it observes the obvious horizontals and verticals of the subject matter and represents a ‘tactile space’, independently as a painting and as analogous to the physical experience of being actively present in the landscape (treading upon the pine needle-covered and mossy ground whilst the tall straight columns of the trees confront as one navigates a path through and tower overhead), treating figure and ground with equal gestural weight in the pursuit of a more integrally ‘overall’ painterly surface where, striving to achieve that balance between facture and image, the means of representation and that represented, ‘the paint is tree and the tree is paint’ to paraphrase either Ivon Hitchens himself or otherwise something that was written about his work (precise memory fails). It must be admitted that, once exposed to (the potential of the influence of), one sees the scene(s) through Hitchens’ compositions, those spatial sequences and intervals across a wider panoramic or ‘cinematic’ format, and this of course inevitably lends itself to a particular aspect of the appearance of the painting, characterised as it is in part by more elongated swiping brushstrokes.






Thursday, November 10, 2016

Passions Overflowing

Featuring today a recent, glorious & irresistible find (& subsequent purchase, thanks to the wonderful A, who came to the rescue & took the decision for me when I couldn’t quite bring myself to ‘invest’ the £20 asking price – which, of course, has proved to be an absolute bargain), from amongst the treasure trove of the second hand bookshelves at Dagfields, that, coincidentally, links nicely to the most recent entry on the Groundhog’s excellent, must-read football ground-visiting blog, a result of the author’s travels having taken him to Berlin.

The object of desire in question is the German-language publication Fussballtempel & is a veritable cornucopia of delights, lavishly illustrated as it is with panoramic photographs of a selection of mostly German football stadia, supplemented with a few Austrian & Swiss examples.

Primarily concerned with the homes of top-level &/or historically noteworthy clubs, a number of the images are naturally of recent developments in stadium design & construction, which to my tastes don’t hold a great deal of aesthetic interest, seeming pretty much similar in their shiny new blandness, lacking that particular visual ‘atmosphere’ that defines the most attractive of the genre, most of which, therefore, are of a certain vintage (we are, of course, incorrigibly nostalgically-prone here at TOoT).

Fortunately, ‘Fussballtempel’ features many such gems, either in the form of the inclusion also of some of the predecessors of the new stadia (unfavourable comparisons between new & old, in favour of the latter, are inevitable, as the reader might imagine) or otherwise the still-current but longer-established grounds of other clubs, not least from the east which, back in the day of the separate entities of East & West Germany, was/were always much our favourite/s, in the shape of the likes of the Dynamos Berlin & Dresden, Lokomotive Leipzig, Carl Zeiss Jena, Hansa Rostock, Sachsenring Zwickau & 1FC Magdeburg to name a selection (all of whom we have collected lapel badges of the crests of, as featured on TOoT over 2013-14, should anyone wish to repair to the archives in order to admire at their leisure).

One particularly notable feature of a number these older German grounds is the striking and individual form of the floodlight pylons, stunning pieces of architectural design & obviously a real signifier within the context of the towns/cities in which the stadia reside. Delight also in the examples of grandstand roof design and the environmental details beyond the immediate confines of the grounds, the examples of civic architecture, the wooded hillsides, the sense of space & of them existing within a space, the landscape, none of which, alas, are visible from inside the new stadia, enclosed as they all are. Enjoyable also is the fact that each of the grounds is pictured whilst a match is actually in progress, bringing them to proper life &, related to this, other details such as those of the crowds of spectators, the very sparseness of some within stadia of obviously significant capacity.

All in all, it’s a fabulous book, to be pored over at leisure & treasured as a part of the ever-burgeoning library.

Here’s a selection of favourite images…

N.B. The tile-topped coffee table, an item of furniture long desired for the household, upon which the book has been photographed was another of our Dagfields finds & essential purchases that day.

Monday, October 31, 2016

October Digested

It’s been a funny old month, October, with the painting progress having slowed still further (not least due to the abandonment of the ‘double black lines’ & flattened cans project, with the next in the series having been scraped-off after a couple of weeks’ work), but not entirely unproductive, with the evidence of a work-in-progress pictured above (with apologies for the blurry-in-places photograph, courtesy of the fading light of the first afternoon following the turning-back of the clocks, which caught us somewhat unawares: it was, after all, only 10 past 4 – disastrous time of year for those of us who paint under natural light conditions).

By way of brief explanation, what is in progress, then, is one of the recently-acquired more widescreen canvases (4′ x 2′), which seemed, after consideration, to be the most appropriate format/scale to explore the potential of the subject matter of the conveniently-situated woods beyond the back garden fence of the grounds of TOoT Towers (ironically a bungalow!). Primarily planted with pine & Japanese larch (an abandoned commercial venture of some years ago), with silver birch interspersed, the woods provide a suitable combination of the vertical & horizontal, & textural & tonal, with which to begin a painterly investigation of various ‘snapshots’ of what is a large site. A few drawings were made of the environment over three summers ago now (so, again, it’s another idea & developmental intention that’s been percolating for a while), & can be viewed on the July & August 2013 archive pages.

Monday, September 26, 2016

(Oil) On the Road

‘Double Black Lines/Double Black Cans’
oil on canvas/40″ x 30″/September 2016

At last, after the intention having percolated for the better part of eight years, a larger scale oil painting (that I’d always felt would be more fitting of the subject matter) of the ‘double black lines’ corrected road markings, with a most appropriately liveried pair of flattened aluminium cans, found gifts indeed, in situ. The ground, representing a tarmacked road surface, and the lines, various stages of Payne’s Grey upon Cadmium Yellows, being thickly textured to suggest the physicality, for all its relatively low relief, of such, whilst the cans are also sketchily painted in order to convey something of the fleeting and fugitive passage of light over their two distinct reflective surface finishes.
However, for all the wait, and the work of art, there’s felt something not quite right about either the whole process or, eventually, the result – not a waste of time, as these things never are, but not perhaps a direction to pursue.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Digression

‘Yellow Submarine’
oil on canvas/16″ x 12″/August 2016
Scratching a little aesthetic itch over the last couple of days, producing an oil painting of an image processed in watercolour back towards the end of 2011 (please see here), a still life of the household’s ‘yellow submarine’ silicon leaf tea infusing device.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tarry, Tarry Night...

‘Roadscape With Can (Study) #2’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/August 2016
Presenting a couple of images of the second study of a found flattened aluminium can (observed from life) upon/embedded within a thickly painted ‘roadscape’ based generally upon photographic evidence of the legendary ‘double black lines’ corrective road markings formerly to be seen gracing the streets of Flint. With acknowledgement of such a compositional device and source (the archive of photographs of being considered to be ‘found paintings’ of a modernist idiom) but liberties then taken, the materiality of the oil paint itself and its application becomes the subject. In this instance, what was the original ‘flecking’ of paint relating to the appearance and substance of tarmac (the lighter grey tonal areas) came to be considered as being perhaps a little too decorative or ‘Impressionist’, thus the brush was dragged over these marks in a series of horizontal and vertical movements to create more of a (very) loose grid structure, resulting in something grungier, possibly more befitting the subject matter and the source material.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Back to the Future (?)

‘Roadscape With Can #1’
oil on canvas/12″ x 16″/August 2016
Presenting today a first tentative exploration in oils of what might have the potential to become an evolving body of work, drawing on subject and object matter that’s long held a fascination and has, on occasions and considerable stretches of time over the past, provided substantial grist to the creative mill, with evidence having been photographically documented extensively and many objects collected to subsequently serve as the source material for a large number of drawings, which, along with the photos, populate the archives of TOoT.
Beginning with a wealth of images of what at the time (they’ve since been physically removed, scored-out) were the legendary ‘double black lines’ corrective road markings that were a feature upon numerous of the streets of Flint, North Wales (taken and blogged during February and March of 2006), and then developing into a series of drawings based on the found flattened ‘roadkill’ cans (over the period from March 2009 to September 2010), with also much more photographic evidence of such objects as discovered and observed in situ, these idiosyncratic road surfaces, ‘roadscapes’, and specific items of the discarded matter littered upon them have continued to percolate on the old mental back-burner until this point, when the recent finding and collection of a couple of suitable objects (discovered in close proximity to Wrexham FC‘s Racecourse Ground, thus incorporating a little football link-up to proceedings too) to serve as physical subject matter enabled this most recent oil painting to come into existence. The thickly painted ground is based generally on the appearance of the double black lined tarmac-surfaced roads, with flashes of the originally painted yellow lines beneath the corrective over-painting showing through in places, the can from observed reality, the whole being but a small study into the possibility of pursuing such a line of aesthetic enquiry.

Monday, August 08, 2016

And Again...


‘White Pears With Barry Stedman Vessel #4’
oil on canvas/16″ x 20″/August 2016
Continuing with the painterly exploration of the increasingly-familiar Barry Stedman vessel juxtaposed with a selection of the even more familiar whitewashed (re)model(led) pears, with, on this occasion, the vessel being observed with the plane first featured in version 1 of the sequence to the fore, its glazes of colour showing slight variations to those on the reverse, and also a variation in the configuration of pears to the right, with one immediately behind the pair to the front of the shallow recessive space, crowding them together in vaguely Morandi-esque fashion. As with the previous example, the underpainting was a thin sap green wash, the pale grey over it allowing a certain amount of tint and, hopefully, luminosity to glow through.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Finished Product


‘White Pears With Barry Stedman Vessel #3’
oil on canvas/16″ x 20″/July 2016
The ‘Next..’ painting completed, again featuring a selection of the whitewashed remodelled model pears juxtaposed with our Barry Stedman vessel as subject/object matter with, as intended, a certain amount of the green underpainting preserved beneath the overlaid white on the upper level and thus slightly more  luminosity apparent, even if almost imperceptibly perhaps…

Thursday, July 21, 2016


A new painting in progress, continuing the inclusion of the Barry Stedman vessel into the composition, in relation to the familiar whitewashed pears, with its splashes of colour amongst the predominant whites and greys. This occasion and example sees a return to the single canvas, given the uncertainty over the recent pair of diptych format paintings, and the portrait orientation featuring the upper and lower shelf formal device upon which the various depicted objects sit. In a departure from the habitual, this time the underpainting is not a sienna wash but rather a pale green that relates to the cast of the natural light present in the conservatory studio, tinted thus by virtue of the proximity of the garden and dense woods beyond: the particular challenge now is retain some this green underpainting and its luminosity as the painting progresses…

Monday, July 18, 2016

On Returning...


‘White Pears With Barry Stedman Vessel #2’
oil on canvas/12″ x 16″ and 20″ x 16″ (diptych)/July 2016
After the tardiest spell of recent times – with areas of productivity having relocated to the site of the garden and the act of looking largely having transferred to the televised coverage of the European football Championships (particularly enjoying Wales’s amazing progress through the tournament, as well as that of Iceland and Hungary) for the duration – a more concerted return to studio practice over the last week or so has resulted in the processing of a second diptych depicting our object-of-desire Barry Stedman vessel in the company of the familiar whitewashed pears. On this occasion, the reverse plain of the vessel is featured to that previously, similar to its opposite in design but exhibiting certain particularities. Again, doubts exist and persist as to whether the diptych format is entirely successful – it does obviously have a different object-quality to a single canvas, which creates slightly more of a dialogue with the subject-matter, but the composition would probably be better served being viewed within a single frame.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pears and a Vessel

‘White Pears with Barry Stedman Vessel’
oil and graphite on canvas/(diptych) 12″ x 16″ and 20″ x 16″/May 2016
At last a new painting, this one a diptych, featuring a selection of the familiar white pears composed and observed in relation to one of the precious objects of the household, aBarry Stedman ‘slab vessel’ acquired after being seen and fallen in love with during an exhibition at the Ruthin Craft Centre last year, the thing itself pictured below (actually displaying the reverse plane of similar design).

Barry Stedman ‘slab vessel’

Obviously, the representation of the vessel and the drawn/painted image upon its planar surface is a painterly response to the thing seen rather than a direct transcription whilst attempting to be faithful to the design.
Being preceded by the recent series of paintings that featured the compositional device of ‘blurring’ some objects-as-observed behind a translucent screen of tracing paper inspired by examples of Edmund de Waal‘s installations of his work, this development might be regarded as continuing something of a visual dialogue with contemporary ceramicists.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

White Pears #27

'White Pears #27'
oil on canvas/16″ x 20″/April 2016
Continuing with the Edmund de Waal-inspired compositional device of placing some of the observed objects behind a translucent ‘screen’ (of tracing paper), this latest painting displays a distinct split between upper and lower levels, those on the upper horizontal plane unscreened and those on the lower behind and appearing out of focus, but no less keenly seen. In the representation of both, and over the entire picture plane, of course, paint as manipulated material stuff is emphasised as such as much as it assumes ‘object-form’ in the description of the whitewashed, re-modelled, hand-finished pears and the horizontal and vertical surfaces of the grounds upon and against/behind which they sit and appear.
This one might have failed more than some of the others in the series to date…