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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Art and Football (Again)

‘Slavia Praha shirt’  pencil and watercolour/36 x 25cm

The challenge of the representation of drapery is, of course, as old as painting itself, and a recently-acquired football shirt suggested itself as being a suitable subject-object of study one afternoon last week, so out came the pencils and watercolours. Whilst the particular qualities of the contemporary somewhat shiny-surfaced sportswear fabric were perhaps the main motivating factor in getting to work in the active observation of, the allure of a jersey bearing a red star, particularly in the context of such a pleasing design, cannot be denied a certain significance too.

Pin badges representing the famous name of Slavia Praha, from the treasured collection as previously featured in forensic detail, may be found here and here (x2).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three Pears

‘Three Pears with Geometric Shape’  oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

On a recent grocery shop, Anna picked up this trio of pears and then, once home, deposited them on a shelf in the conservatory/studio. A quick reorganisation and they were in place and ready to be actively contemplated and the findings represented on canvas. A brief ray of sunlight observed one morning before the day’s painting process began suggested the geometrical shape thus projected might be incorporated into the composition and thus it came to pass, as an additional element to the familiar and habitual.

As ever, one’s mind turns to the various pears painted by Euan Uglow, particularly with these objects displaying a combination of yellow and red skins as did examples studied by the master.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yellow Submarine

‘Yellow Submarine #2’ oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

Whatever it is about the back end of August, but last year I was minded to make a small oil study of the household’s ‘yellow submarine’ tea infuser at that particular time and this year I’ve been similarly tempted, so here it is, this time amidst a blue ground.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bowling Along...

Recently, Mrs Rowley introduced me to the practice of making objects with homemade ‘cold porcelain’ air-drying clay, with the resulting pair of small bowls, modelled within a couple of measuring cups, pictured below.

Given the history of my monochrome ‘white pears’ paintings, and the continuing fascination of looking at such objects, it seemed appropriate to represent the creamy-coloured cold porcelain bowls against the familiar white ground also, taking on the challenge of trying to capture the subtleties of colour and hue as they appeared in the context of the fluctuating natural light, the painting marks analogous to the finger-and-thumb-formed bowls.

‘Cold Porcelain Bowls’  oil on canvas/16″ x 12″/August 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

July, a Not-Quite Fruitless Month...

July, although without day job commitments (an academic term-time contract means regular breaks and a nice long summer recess, of course), also seems to have passed without a great deal of painting being done, although a little has been processed.

By way of context, I must admit here to being a long-time admirer of the work of Euan Uglow and his commitment to a particular way of looking at and recording the visual world. Having invested-in the essential ‘Complete Paintings’ some years ago and frequently studied its contents since, I’d always had a certain fondness for Uglow’s representation of a Homepride ‘Fred the flour man’ figure, a familiar advertising icon remembered from childhood and youth.

Euan Uglow ‘Flour Man’ 1972-4

It transpires that Fred figures, smiling and friendly in appearance even with those ‘Clockwork Orange’ bowler hat cultural associations of a similar vintage, were manufactured for commercial purposes in a number of forms, some of such functional value to the baking process as flour sifters, water vessels, etc, and encountering a couple of these objects during a recent potter around a local antiques/vintage emporium presented the opportunity, too tempting to pass up with such art historical associations as they possess to those of us in the know, to invest in as potential grist to the painting mill.

Soon, the newly-homed pair of ‘Freds’ were in position, upon and against a ground of cardboard not unlike that of the Uglow painting in hue and tone, to pose for a pencil sketch that evolved into a rudimentary watercolour study of the form and reflective properties of (the surface appearance of) the plastic figures.

‘Flour men figures’ watercolour/30 x 21cm (sheet size)/July 2017

Thus completed, the progression into oil on canvas became the next stage of investigation into, as reportedly piqued the interest of Uglow, the challenge of depicting plastic, in this instance not one but two kinds, the larger object on the left having a more reflective surface quality than the more ‘silk-matt’ one to the right, with the result, more thinly and finely painted than the more physically textured technique applied to the ‘white pears’ and ‘woodscapes’ of the past year, presented below: an enjoyable challenge.

‘Mr Uglow and Me’ oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/July 2017

‘Mr Uglow and Me’ in context with the model figures, as the painting set-up.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Saturday evening and, as one of the selected exhibiting artists, the opportunity to attend the Private View and opening of the North Wales Open 2017 at Theatr Clwyd in Mold, our regular cinema-going and theatrical venue, augmented by a programme of visual art and design displays, where many a fine and entertaining evening has been spent.

Despite having made a point of seeing the NWO or its predecessor prior to local government reorganisation the Clwyd Open many years over the last 30+ and previously exhibiting at Theatr Clwyd as an invitee of the ‘Group 75’ show in 2001, this was actually the first time I’d entered work (up to two pieces per individual) for consideration for selection, and was gratified not to hear news that I’d not got both in, as per the judging process (!), building up some momentum after the Wrexham Open success of April. Rather than rest on the old laurels and rely on those tried-and-tested, I decided to submit another of the ‘woodscapes’ (#5) and, for variety but possibly taking a risk in presenting two distinct aspects of painterly activity, one of the recent larger-scale ‘White Pears’ compositions (#29).

Anyway, suitably uninformed, Anna and I made our way to the venue where it was pleasing to see and be part of a well-attended event, lots of milling, viewing and relaxed chat in evidence and a wide variety of art, traditional and modern as they say, the work of professional and amateur practitioners alike, some familiar names, on show.

Anna studying the selection...

With the focus towards the personal, here follows a small group of spectators before ‘Woodscape #5’, the painting in its immediate context and in isolation and then ‘White Pears #29’ in the company of other still life compositions (paintings and a collagraph) and on its own – both paintings were favourably hung, in nice central, well-lit locations in the main and Community galleries, it must be said, so we’ve done very well out of the experience.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New Paint Jobs...

The following set of images represents the evidence of a recent bout of re-painting of previous work, the first time I’ve ever really engaged in such an endeavour but which, upon daily encounter with said objects, was deemed necessary in the light of subsequent developments.

Having recently returned to the subject/object matter of the whitewashed model pears as the field of painting practice, in the form the larger-scale compositions #28 and #29 which succeeded the departure of the series of six ‘Woodscapes’, those ‘White Pear’ works numbered #21 – #27, processed during February – April of last year, came to seem to be too dark in terms of the tone of their grounds, for whatever reason they had originally been (erroneously) rendered thus when painted from life and empirical observation. The earlier time of year, with its own particular natural light conditions, hardly seems to explain just how ‘wrong’ the paintings, and the contrasts between figures and grounds, appeared.

Thus, and in keeping with recent developments, have the grounds against which the objects appear been re-painted, as ever from direct observation transferred to canvas, comparatively significantly lighter in parts and less so in others, with adjustments also to the whitewashed pears as necessary, with the evidence presented below.

‘White Pears #21’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

original ‘White Pears #21’ (2016)

‘White Pears #22’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

original ‘White Pears #22’ (2016)

‘White Pears #23’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

original ‘White Pears #23’ (2016)

‘White Pears #24’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/16″ x 20″

original ‘White Pears #24’ (2016)

‘White Pears #25’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

original ‘White Pears #25’ (2016)

‘White Pears #26’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

original ‘White Pears #26’ (2016)

‘White Pears #27’ (2016/17) oil on canvas/20″ x 16″

original ‘White Pears #27’ (2016)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

More Pears (Amongst the Tomatoes*)

‘White Pears #29’

oil on canvas/40″ x 30″/May 2017

Presenting another recent painting on/off the easel (actually completed before the most recent smaller 'woodscape' of the previous blog post), another in the ongoing series featuring the remodelled and whitewashed pears as subject/object matter with this time, to return to another theme, seeing us once again under the visual influence of Edmund de Waal, arranging and obscuring some of the objects behind a sheet of semi-transparent tracing paper as others sit before this screening device.

As with the previous example, the larger scale canvas allows for a more expansive compositional approach.






* the conservatory/studio is currently host a number of fast-growing tomato plants which have sprouted to the extent that they're obscuring the view to parts of the 'still life zone'.