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August 30, 2004

Searching for significance

Itís hard to see feelings as significant. From the inside what I feel seems nothing unusual Ė to me, obviously, Iím feeling the feelings. My own feelings can feel insignificant. So itís hard to value an expression of personal feelings.

Itís easier to look at what others are doing and gain value from them: borrowed significance. But this is clearly not true expression, and results in pictures of tulips or soggy landscapes or [heaven forefend] Scottie dogs in tartan ribbons.

Unless of course Scottie dogs in tartan ribbons are deeply significant in your life Ė in which case donít paint: do Crufts.

In 1975 German artist, Joseph Beuys, walked round the edges of a dilapidated room in The Poorhouse, Edinburgh, holding a blackened cooking pot up above his head. This was called Ďthe 3 Pots Actioní. It meant something to him. Others were left to ruminate on the significance. In 1976 he represented Germany in the Venice Biennale. Thatís significance for you.

And thatís it really: it must mean something to you. After that itís just opportunity and good PR.

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August 28, 2004

unstuck dancing

Ever seeking to expand my sphere of experience, Iím extending the unstuck project into dance and movement.

It seems a logical progression. Iíve worked for many years drawing and painting dancers, and the recent work with figures and text in becoming unstuck has included projected images which I feel need to be experienced live.

So Iím working on a dance piece to accompany an exhibition of the unstuck paintings. A dancer, painted with text and with text projected onto her, will dance in the dark space of a disused mill floor.


I'll record the piece, digitally, and perhaps increase the layers of text before screening the film in the forthcoming unstuck exhibition.

Now I need a musician - and a dancer, obviously.

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August 26, 2004


I am connected to the work, to the paint [physically sticky with it at times]. I am connected to the subject. It is something from within me that I donít understand and find no other tangible way of expressing the feelings, other than painting. I only understand that it is happening and I am doing it.

I paint therefore I am, if you like.

Though itís hard to remain inside it. That takes great confidence. To let you see what you will in my work. I know no more about it than you. But because itís come from inside, itís scary to let you look at it.

There are no text books here, only beliefs

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August 25, 2004

law 11 appendix I

Paint anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, happiness even, just donít paint complacency. Paint wild, paint crazy, paint big, paint with bare feet, paint in the rain, just donít paint complacency.

Paint because you have to, not because you want to. Paint because you need to get something out, because you need to put something down, not because you want to make pictures.

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August 24, 2004

Laws of painting: No 11

Donít paint complacency, no-one ever got anywhere painting complacency

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August 23, 2004

No model

It takes longer to paint a picture without a model.

With a model I feel a need to paint, I feel there is a requirement to paint. After all thatís why weíre both here.

Without a model I wander about aimlessly [updating the Unstuck Diaries] and generally spending a long time not painting.

I can not paint a still life for days on end. But then why would I want to paint a still life? The French call it nature morte and thatís a better description. I want to paint life, the living, breathing, heart-beating stuff.

But sometimes I have to paint without a model, using photographs and drawings, and it takes longer. Plus there is no heartbeat so itís much more of a struggle to get life into the painting.

Let alone
the lack of light
bouncing off the skin.

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August 20, 2004

truth and lies

Too many conscious marks and the piece is flat. Too many chaotic marks and the piece lacks definition. As ever itís about striking a balance between the two.

The work must just come out, burst forth, in sheer, unstoppable, heart-stopping panic. Then rely on learnt skills and experience to define it.

It must be an impossible-to-resist-the-urge-to-do-it piece. Not a planned-with-HB-pencils-on-white-paper-over-a-cup-of-coffee-and-a-custard-cream piece.

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August 15, 2004

the fear

The fear of the big blank panel. Staring out clean and empty it dares you to make a mark. TOUCH ME IF YOU DARE! But itís not too difficult to sneak up on the big blank panel, to splatter it, or outline a figure on it, without too much commitment at this stage.

Then the fear of the first marks. Okay, bypass this one, without even thinking: block out the highlights and shadows, get some paint on, make the first marks a process and the fear goes.

Only to return double! The figure is blocked in and looks Ė well, okay. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO ANY WORK ON IT Ė I WILL DEFINITELY WRECK IT. So I fling paint about in the background and work up some contrast around the figure, dark ground then light over it to help the edges of the figure fight for existence on an increasingly chaotic panel.

At some point* in the above session my brush hits the Naples Yellow and drags a bit down into the white and whips it up onto the top of the shoulder, then before you know it Iím into the neck and highlights on the breasts and the belly and then another brush hits the Indian Yellow and veers off towards the Ivory Black, and for a brief exciting moment, with all care thrown to the four winds, I paint fearlessly.

*more often than not in the fifteen minutes before Iíve got to be somewhere else.

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August 12, 2004

Laws of painting 9 & 10

more in the intriguing series...

No.9 Things donít look good until theyíre done*
No.10 It takes a long time to do.

*Law No.9 is one of the few laws that can also apply to cooking.

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More on the doing of itÖ

The craft of it is relatively easy to get on with. A sort of practical right/wrong business with its own order and a set of rules all to itself that won't let you down if you follow them.

The it itself isnít difficult, mainly because itís non-prescriptive. Doesnít always occur, but when it does, it is, by its very nature, relatively easy.

Itís the practise of it thatís the hard one. Learning to keep on going in the face of terrifying odds. Constantly doing drawing and painting when every financial and responsible bone in your body screams out for you to stop and take up hairdressing.

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The doing of itÖ

Thereís the craft of it. The skill: choosing the size and proportion of the panel and then making the panel. Preparing surfaces, priming, sanding. The mixing of paints, knowing about transparent pigments, opaque pigments, genuine turpentine, linseed oils, sun thickened oils, drying times and siccatives, fugitive colours.

Thereís the practise of it. Drawing the figure regularly, learning how it is, how the muscles and bones are, how the light falls on the surfaces. Learning which colours give what effect.

Then thereís the it itself. When the craft is complete and the skills are at hand, when the practise comes easy then, with the brain suitably distracted and the brushes loaded, then, sometimes, if the wind is in the right direction, then, it happens [so long as itís not half-day closing obviously].

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August 09, 2004

In the cellar

Thatís where the unstuck work is kept, in the cellar.

Through the old wooden door that isnít opened much, down the damp untrodden steps, and the flaking lime washed walls, onto the cold stone-flagged floor, past the musty isinglass stained pot, past the broken glass peeling window frame and the rust encrusted grate. Through the dark, cold, thick, frightening air, to the corner where the flagstone is missing and the clear water runs under the house.

There a four year old boy stands on stone looking at the underground stream, thinking thoughts as clear as the water, appearing and disappearing in the breath-catching, naughty you-shouldnít-be-down-here torch lit corner.

Thatís where the unstuck work is. Stacked up in the strange room under the walled up stairs.

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August 07, 2004

Rembrandtís colours

Bruine Oker
Gele Oker
Kasselse Aarde
Loodtin Geel
Malachiet Groen
Omber Rouwe
Rode Lak
Rode Oker

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August 03, 2004

Standing barefoot

Standing barefoot on a smooth grey rock in the middle of a fast flowing stream she thinks of days of grass and cold water, of the water parting on either side of the rock behind her as it always has and always will.

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August 02, 2004

The road to involvement

Painting is about being involved.

But not a disconnected, scientific, analytical, oh-look,-itís-time-for-lunch involvement. No, with a model in the studio and paint on the brushes, it is, for a few hours at a time, a whole life lived by the moment.

It is a connected relationship, beyond science, beyond formality, beyond sexuality and off into that wondrous place, where the muse lies supine: the righthandside of the brain. The alpha-state that, suppressing the longwinded, laborious, labelling of the lefthandside, lets the essence of what is seen and felt flood the body with inspiration and an unstoppable passion to put it down in paint.

And like any altered brain state it takes some getting there. Made all the more difficult by the fact that the lefthandside doesnít want you there in the first place. Like trying to avoid an alien invasion it constantly changes the signposts so the road is never the same twice, and there are no maps.

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