art, artist, arts, bizarro, British artist, brush strokes, Christian artist, comic book, commissions, connor kent, east sussex, fine art, geek, mirror, oil on linen, oil painting, painting, portrait, portrait artist, portraiture, self portrait, superboy, superman, winsor and newton
The Artist is a curious being. He or she is often confident and somewhat full of themselves one moment and then lacking in confidence and neurotic the next! Many of us are a paradox of existence, holding in tension within us feelings of awesomeness and worthlessness. Now, I’m not saying that all artists are as mad as the proverbial ‘bag of hares’, but in my experience many of us have a somewhat split personality. On the one hand we want to be bronzed and adored, on the other we want to shrink into a hole and hide.
So the idea of the ‘self portrait’ is often a tortuous one for the artist, (unless you’re Rembrandt of course, and then you can’t stop painting yourself! He painted at least 40 paintings, and 31 etchings of himself in case you’re interested), but for many of us it seems like the height of narcissism.
In reality the self portrait is often done out of necessity, nobody else being prepared to sit for you for a day or two. It is also a great exercise in self evaluation for the artist. If you paint a ‘selfie’, then you invariably ask a lot of questions of yourself as you prepare for it and while you’re painting it too!
For me, I wanted to see how much, if any, progress I’d made since I painted the first self portrait that I painted back in January of 2012. Actually I know in reality I had made progress, because with nearly every successive painting after that one, I learnt something new about the medium or execution of the work. Also, I’d found that picture recently, peering out at me from behind a stack of canvasses like some grotesque gargoyle – I should say at this point how much I appreciate the kindness of everyone who made a positive comment about that painting. It was much appreciated and a great confidence booster! – however, not having anything much to work on at the time, I thought a reprise of the subject might not be such a bad idea.
After endless vain attempts to capture an image I wanted to work from, I finally settled on one that seemed to capture my heroic manliness in all its splendor (that’s sarcasm by the way, well… probably).
The reference shot (there was no way I was going to work from a mirror again) was taken in a mirror, hence the reversed logo on the chest. My boys asked a couple of times if I’d spotted that, which I had… thankfully. Actually it was intentional. For those of you like me, geek enough to know your superman…ology, the reversed superman logo is worn by superman’s negative clone, a villain called ‘bizarro’. So while at first glance the portrait could be taken as the artist wishing he was superman (which of course he does), it also displays his inner struggle with that desire, often feeling more like opposite to that ideal. The fact that the t-shirt is black with a splash of red also gave the portrait an interesting visual edge that I really liked, and yes I do know that the red logo on black is in fact Connor Kent’s logo (Superboy). I explained this once to a relative (who shall remain nameless) to which her reply was, “Super…boy!” (incredulous emphasis on the boy). I have not forgotten, and I’m working on the forgiven too, Mrs. Norton!
What I toyed with adding, was a list of words written across the t-shirt that would sum up the person, positive and negative. The idea being that we are all made up of so many things. Who we are is a mixture of good and bad, positive and negative. It might be interesting to ponder what your own list might be. Mine would include: Husband, father, son, brother, uncle, friend, confident, insecure, considerate, inconsiderate, vain, self-conscious, loved, forgiven, thoughtful, forgetful, at peace, in pain, unresolved, restored, paradox, healed, loved… and you could go on ad-infinitum. We are all so many things, but I guess what we choose to be is more important than what we are by nature, nurture, or circumstance.
I didn’t in the end because a) it wouldn’t have worked with the ‘S’ and b) a picture in some way should tell itself and not need a written commentary… probably.
It’s oil on linen 16″x12″:
Detail below. Many times larger than actual size.
It’s getting a bit cold for nocturnal photo shoots in the shed, so this may be last for this year, but the subject was so beautiful I thought a night shot might do it justice.
If you don’t recognise it, the little basket shaped thing in the shot is in fact a poppy, that has slowly decayed over the last few months leaving just the framework of the seed-head. The light is coming from beneath using a tiny led from some disposable thingummy or other and shone through a hole in the bench.
I know, there are almost innumerable puns that could be made out of the title of this piece, but I shall refrain and let you think of them yourselves if you want.
This piece is the result of one of my nocturnal visits to the shed. It was a dark and windy night… sounds like the start of an eerie tale of mysterious doings, but it really was a dark and windy night, when I shut myself in our tiny shed with some of the treasures previously gathered by our boys earlier that day, a candle or two, a torch, a carrier/grocery bag of treasures, tripod and my camera. Perched on top of the lawn mower and judiciously pointing a torch from overhead I snapped this shot of a conker. For those unfamiliar with the “conker”, it’s the fruit of the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) tree here in the UK.
Well today on an equally horrid day, it’s raining hard and still windy, I sat and wrote the text, scanned it in and combined the text and image on the Mac while listening to Charles Trenet “boum” bouming on the stereo.
Voila! As Charles might musically say.
art, artist, black holes, brush strokes, east sussex, faith, fig, illustration, inspiration, it's a wonderful life, oil on panel, oil painting, painting, panel, Richard Eyre, still life, universe, walt disney
Summer has now undeniably packed its bags and left. Autumn now reigns in East Sussex and I sit here looking out of the window at dirty grey clouds, like cotton wool that’s been dropped in a puddle and watch the wind bend all the plants in the garden whistling tunelessly as it catches the edges of the windows, seemingly angry that it can’t get it in. Good job it can’t, because I’m drinking my tea, cosy and warm inside and I have no desire whatsoever to be outside!
I’ve spent more of the morning than I wanted to fiddling with my latest painting. Initially I thought I wanted to add the words “fig. 1.” just below the subject, but having done so I came to the conclusion that it drew too much attention from the subject. While I was coming to this decision and listening to Radio 3′s Essential Classics, Sir Richard Eyre was saying that, “if an artwork needs a label explaining what it is, then it has probably failed as an artwork”, at least I think that’s what he said. Anyway I agreed and rightly or wrongly removed the still wet lettering with a little linseed oil on a rag.
It’s been an interesting piece. Initially I was going to paint-in the wooden surface that the subject was sitting on, but the complexity and detail in the sunken scarred wood grain got the better of my patience and I came upon the idea of painting it out. This was one those occasions where victory was snatched from the jaws of despondency and in fact a better idea than the first emerged.
I don’t know about you, but for me believing in my ability to pull a job off is almost everything! Discouragement can be so immobilising that it can even be the end of a project entirely, but this is a phenomena that I’ve noticed isn’t just limited to painting. DIY projects, public performances, essays, anything that you’ve not done before (and every painting falls into that category) seems to rely on your levels of self belief. One of our favourite films, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, opens with a conversation in the heavens. As the hero, George Bailey, is being discussed Clarence the angel asks, “is he sick?”, “No” comes the reply, “worse, he’s discouraged”.
Encouragement in life is essential! If you want someone to succeed they must have encouragement from somewhere, whether that is from a loved one, from their faith, from friends, or even from themselves, wherever it comes from it is of primary importance to enable someone to succeed. Discouragement on the other hand crushes the heart and destroys self-confidence and joy.
You see if you’ve done something before then it’s as if an invisible track has been laid down that speeds progress and encourages a sense of certainty that whatever you are doing can easily be done again. However if what you are doing is new, then every tiny step can be difficult and uncertain. The greater the fear of failure the more crippling slow progress becomes. In short, encouraging someone can be one of the best and most rewarding things that you can do for another person and discouraging, one of the cruelest.
Anyway, suffice is to say that with the advent of a new direction I was encouraged enough to press on with the new picture. I’ve not done a still life before, but the source photo for this one was shot late one evening in the shed outside and the resulting combined lighting of candlelight and iPhone screen light seemed give the subject a beautiful quality that I wanted to paint.
It’s called “Fig.1.” because… it’s a fig, and… well, I thought it was funny. As usual the photographs of the piece are somewhat disappointing. Photographing black seems to be challenging. Painting in black is likewise challenging. Black seems to have its own gravity, sucking towards it every speck of dust in the room! Perhaps that’s actually how black holes really work, it has nothing to do with their density, it’s actually their blackness that creates intense gravity!
Here it is. Oil on panel:
The original lighting of the image seemed to make the skin of the fig look more like a constellation of stars rather than a fruit and the image is more luminous in real life. I incorporated a lot of purple into the black background to give it a richer feel and the black around the edges of the fruit is blended with oranges, yellows and purples to give it a sort of glow. I even added a few constellations in the spots on the skin for fun, but they’re not that clear from the shots sadly.
There were some progress shots, but my phone crashed and lost those, however they wouldn’t have revealed much about the process. What this piece did teach me though is that transparent and semi-transparent paints are much more efficient at creating luminosity than an over reliance on Titanium white and that underpainting your tonal values well first gives you much more creative freedom with colour later.
Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarised in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.
- Walt Disney
animals, art, artist, aviation, brush strokes, Christian artist, dog, fluffy, flying, illustration, inspiration, Jack Russell, oil painting, paint, painter, painting, pet, picture, portrait, winged dog
Sometimes when you haven’t painted for a while, it doesn’t matter what you paint, you just need to paint. It’s a bit like pushing a car. I don’t know if you’ve ever pushed a car, but you’ve gotta keep it moving, once you let it stop it takes ten times the effort to get it into motion again! So in defence of the subject of this picture I didn’t plan on painting a flying dog, it was a spur of the moment sort of thing that just seemed like a good idea at the time and I needed something to get me back at the easel again. The something in this case was our small fluffy Jack-Russell called Hunny.
Occasionally she gets picked up by one of our boys and when she does she rather patiently does so with a look on her face just like the one in the painting, a look of quiet but disapproving resignation.
So here she is (I’ve included some shots of the process), Hunny the world’s only flying canine in oil on wood panel.
Autumn has finally arrived like an unwelcome, but expected visit from a difficult relative and with the advent of a new school term I’m finally back at the easel. While the painting is progressing I thought I’d just post a couple of quick shots taken this week.
Autumn in the Garden
by Henry Van Dyke
When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark
Makes its mark
On the flowers, and the misty morning grieves
Over fallen leaves;
Then my olden garden, where the golden soil
Through the toil
Of a hundred years is mellow, rich, and deep,
Whispers in its sleep.
‘Mid the crumpled beds of marigold and phlox,
Where the box
Borders with its glossy green the ancient walks,
There’s a voice that talks
Of the human hopes that bloomed and withered here
Year by year,–
Dreams of joy, that brightened all the labouring hours,
Fading as the flowers.
Yet the whispered story does not deepen grief;
For the loneliness of sorrow seems to flow
From the Long-Ago,
When I think of other lives that learned, like mine,
And remember that the sadness of the fall
Comes alike to all.
What regrets, what longings for the lost were theirs!
And what prayers
For the silent strength that nerves us to endure
Things we cannot cure!
Pacing up and down the garden where they paced,
I have traced
All their well-worn paths of patience, till I find
Comfort in my mind.
Faint and far away their ancient griefs appear:
Yet how near
Is the tender voice, the careworn, kindly face,
Of the human race!
Let us walk together in the garden, dearest heart,
They who know the sorrows other lives have known
Never walk alone.
I’ve seen velvet purses on sticks, brass dishes, and even plastic buckets used as offering collectors in churches. Our local church wanted something… “different”. So a used wine box from a local wine shop was acquired for free, given a coat or two of shocking pink (it was left over from decorating) and sign written on the lid and sides. There’s even a little cam activated lock on the end to dissuade young enquiring fingers. I think it took six bottles of wine originally, so there’s plenty of room for the weekly collection of notes, cheques, coins, buttons and sweet wrappers, and still have room for at least three bottles of wine!
These old wine crates seem to be surplus to requirement to our local wine shop, so I guess anyone could pick one up and paint it for a variety of uses. We use one to keep spare guitar and mic’ leads in (that one I’d like to stress is not bright pink), but you could keep anything in one… even wine!
It is however very pink, I hope it doesn’t put anyone off…