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June 30, 2004

Up and down and side to side

Somehow, and I havenít figured it out yet [but Iím working on it], we are better at judging spatial relationships up and down than we are judging them left to right.

Something to do with coming down from the tree and wading across rivers and generally walking upright I guess.

Itís the same with mirrors [well almost] how come they reverse left and right but not top and bottom?

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June 24, 2004

Unstuck / Unsafe

We none of us like feeling unsafe. We do need to feel a bit unsafe, which is why we drive faster when wearing a seat belt. But we donít like being in-the-dark-at-the-back-of-the-cave-with-a-pair-of-bright-unblinking-eyes-staring-at-us unsafe.

To be truly unstuck I believe I have to feel unsafe. But as there is a natural tendency to get as safe as you can [because we donít like being in-the-dark-at-the-back-of-the-cave-with-a-pair-of-bright-unblinking-eyes-staring-at-us] then, as I make myself as safe as I can, I start to get stuck again.

So I have to struggle to make myself feel unsafe. But the more used to feeling unsafe you get the more safe it feels [because we donít like being in-the-dark-at-the-back-of-the-cave-with-a-pair-of-bright-unblinking-eyes-staring-at-us] so you have to become even more unsafe and you end up painting halfway up the cliff face, when things can get dangerous.

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June 23, 2004

the dark side


- Discuss

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June 20, 2004

Little things

Little things are needed, every now and then, to make us feel important.

Otherwise our insignificance in the vastness of the universe is visited upon us in varying degrees of intensity.

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June 18, 2004

Skirting boards

Skirting boards, donít mention skirting boards.

They may complete the order of a classic column, being the plinth, and give weight and substance to a room, but they are a sod to fit and even worse to paint.

So you leave the skirting boards.
You donít paint them.
You look at them often.
You decide to paint them, regularly,
but you never do.

Then one day, unexpectedly, you find yourself, on your aching knees, paint brush in hand, crouching in an uncomfortable position, neck crooked awkwardly, cutting in the paint betwixt the wall and the wainscoting.

How you got into this situation remains a mystery. At no point can you recall actually acting on the decision to paint the skirting boards. But there you are nonetheless. You have snuck up on yourself.

And so it is with a painting.

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Three steps to figurative art

Step one: learn to draw the figure
Step two: learn to paint the figure
Step three: try and forget steps one and two

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June 16, 2004

The interpretation of the intent

Itís all very well having a passion - having a driving force, out of my hands - that compels me to paint and draw; but what does it mean to others?

I donít expect anyone to understand completely, I donít understand completely; but I hope that there are elements of the paintings that perhaps speak to others in different ways.

For the painting to work it has to operate in many languages, to be able to communicate to as many people as possible.

Sometimes the reaction is one of shock or horror, this is okay, as any reaction is better than no reaction.

Though I would be a stranger to the truth if I said undying praise, abject flattery and a degree of supplication arenít heart warming.

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June 13, 2004

unstuck cycling

This is an ongoing process: being unstuck. Itís not like riding a bike, which once learnt is not forgotten. Being unstuck demands constant vigilance. Constant reminders of the aims and the process.

The: What Exactly Is It Iím Trying To Do? questions.

Rest not, do not lay back and allow any hint of complacency to creep in, I must keep pushing myself.

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June 12, 2004

The seduction of the trick

The magician has to be careful not to be taken in by their own trick.

Like drawing comic rabbits [see below], it is possible to develop a series of neat tricks which translate the three dimensional images of the world into two dimensional ones convincingly.

Looking and seeing is difficult, and the tendency is towards laziness, which, coupled with fear, means you apply the trick when it might not be appropriate.

This is particularly relevant with mouths. ďA portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouthĒ, said Sargent.

The mouth has the highest density of separate muscles in the body. Its subtlety is endless, the amount of expression of which it is capable is immense. The eyes are supposed to be the window to the soul and all that, but the mouth tells us what the subject is feeling.

And it is hard to draw or paint. So, you develop ways of doing it, and before you know it all your paintings have the same mouth; because youíve been seduced by your own trick and stopped looking.

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June 10, 2004

truth and lies

Artists have a difficult time of it. What weíre trying to do is impossible. We, painters that is, lurk in that tricky area: a Field of Impossibility. [not to be confused with a Field of Uncertainty, nor indeed a Field of Cows].

For it is impossible to put a three dimensional object onto a two dimensional surface.

Okay, if you flatten your subject matter out with judicious use of a Steam Roller, you can get the desired two dimensional properties, but you tend to lose a lot of the character of the piece. I suggest this for painters of Still Life only, as the Guardians of the Law get rather keen on artists running over models in the interest of Art.

Figurative sculptors have a head start, working in three dimensions as they do, they have no recourse to the Steam Roller - but their cause is not ours.

ďbefore being a horse or a nude or some sort of anecdote Ė a painting is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain orderĒ
Maurice Denis

After that itís all tricks, itís all lies. Picasso said: ďwe all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth.Ē Mind you he would have said something more like: ďnous savons que líArt níest pas vrai. Líart est une mensongeÖĒ

So itís all very well getting the broken line, and the tonal values and the attractive hue, in the end it either has IT or it doesnít. IT being some kind of truth, some kind of integrity. Something that comes unknowingly from deep inside the artist.

Alors, Pablo! Níoublie pas les sandwiches du lardons

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trouble with rabbits

not everything turns out for the best when you learn to drawÖ

He found a formula
For drawing
Comic rabbits
This formula for
Drawing comic
Rabbits paid

So in the end he
Could not
Change the
Tragic habits
This formula for
Drawing comic
Rabbits made

Robert Graves

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June 09, 2004

drawing the line

By passing a crayon across the paper a line is created. [You have to touch the paper obviously, weíre not on Star Trek.]

The line creates a boundary, it divides the paper between either side of the line. It creates an edge; and here lies the problem: when drawing the figure there arenít any edges, a three dimensional figure has no boundaries, as the ant forever doomed to walk the surface of a balloon will testify to [if an ant could testify that is].

So I work on the line to make it less definite. I try to achieve the broken line. An incomplete line is more interesting to the eye. Just as a solid brick wall is impassable, but a broken-down dry stone wall lets you through [though donít go around breaking down dry stone walls in the name of artistic experiment Ė they take ages to build, and you could hurt yourself].

A charcoal line can be rubbed at and scratched at but you never completely lose it. Re-drawing the line again creates a history and gives life to the drawing.

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June 08, 2004

drawing again

Drawing is the thing. Drawing, drawing, drawing.

Learn to draw, they say, and the rest follows as night follows day. This applies mainly outside the arctic circle, obviously. They say this [who they?] because to draw successfully you have to be able to see, and if you can see you can paint.

It is true that in fact painting as a physical business is easier than drawing. To cover a huge piece of paper in graduated charcoal takes some doing, with a 60mm brush and a bucket of burnt umber it is an easy, and not to say exciting, task.

Iím drawing at the moment, standing figures, life size Ė lot of dirty finger charcoal, and aching arm.

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