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September 28, 2004


been working down the other end of the oil painting factory... preparing an exhibition, or rather preparing to take part in ON THE WALL at Kensington Olympia Thursday 30th to Sunday 3rd October.

So it's been clean hands, white gloves, cutting mounts, framing pictures, choosing pictures [difficult] writing lists, printing portfolios, working out prices [very difficult], making signs and generally remembering to take the double-sided tape.

Back to painting next week, and though it's clearly important to show your work, I know what I prefer.

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September 23, 2004

not writing a letter

Writing a letter, you start at the top of the page with your address, then: Dear SoAndSo, then progress down the page, to the conclusion and: yours sincerely… Then it’s all envelopes and stamps.

Strangely enough, painting and drawing are not like that.

You don’t start at the top and work down until it’s finished, well I don't anyway.

Painting and drawing are more like developing a photograph. If you haven’t done it, the old fashioned way, with a developing tray and, well, developer, you must have seen it in the movies. The paper slips under the clear fluid, the tray is rocked gently to wash the chemicals over the surface of the paper. Then, slowly, in the dim red light, an image begins to appear; faint at first, but getting stronger. But, and here’s the key to the analogy, not at the top and getting stronger as it goes down but: all over. The whole image comes up together.

That’s what you are aiming for in a drawing or painting, bring your image out of the paper all at once, from faint marks to full contrast, without the chemicals and dim red light, obviously, but then again whatever does it for you.

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September 21, 2004

the new look

Well, as you can see I've had the decorators in. This is largely due to a huge update in the dark and dangerous section of movabletype's computer by my friend Jonathan, who kindly hosts these Unstuck Diaries and generally knows about this sort of thing.

Thank you Jonathan.

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September 16, 2004

the what it is

I’ve written at length, and thought for longer, on what it is I feel about how I paint.

I’ve talked about how I like brush strokes and blots and drips and gloopy paint. What I don’t like is colouring in. Drawing a shape on the panel and filling in the spaces with different colours. Sometimes it has to be done for the good of the painting, but it’s flat, mind-numbing, stuff that only adds a compositional element to the picture.

What I am interested in is the energy of the picture, the energy of the painting, the actual painting. Painting energetically. Painting with feeling, both feeling for the subject and feeling for the paint. So I enjoy both; I enjoy the form and I enjoy the act of applying the paint.

It ain’t easy, applying the paint, it takes time and effort to maintain the energy, but that is when the painting works. It is also why I can’t paint all day every day - I get exhausted.

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September 10, 2004

angry day

Angry day, but contained, then let loose on some panels, more panels than was sensible, it has to be said. Tried to eat the whole elephant in fact. Got a lot of paint on mind you, interesting results too, quite unstuck; if push comes to shove.

Push: “Hey! Give us a hand, will ya!”
Myself: “But it is impossible.”
Push: “The hell with that, lend a hand here.”
Myself: “But…”
Push: “Are those paint brushes in your hand?”
Push: “Well, let’s get some paint on”

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Trouble at t’ studio

With apologies to the good people of Yorkshire, much maligned by comics everywhere.

It’s tricky stuff this art business. Should get myself affiliated to the Incorporated Union of Industrial Oil Painters then I’d be able to go down the club of a Friday night and drown my sorrows with fellow artists...

Myself: “Bin down t’studio all day, raight ‘ard, it wo’ an’all”
Fellow Artist: “aye, lad, there’s nowt but trouble down t’studio”
Myself: “fo’ty sen on us, wo’kin’ in t’dark, wi nowt but nude women fo’ comp’ny”
Fellow Artist: “aye lad, folk don’t know the like”
Myself: “an’ at my easel, there wus jus’ me, n’bd’y else, jus’ me, tha could ‘ear bloody clock tickin’. Well tha could’ve ‘eared blood clock tickin’ if bloody music weren’t so loud.”
Fellow Artist: “aye. Lad, there’s summat in wat tha sez”

[Is there?]

Posted by john at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And then there're the brushes

So, painting’s hard, difficult, yes, with all its attendant angst, both subjective and objective. But, hell, there’s the brushes.

Holding upwards of seven brushes in one hand, without one touching another, and knowing what particular tone or tint of colour is currently gracing the outer bristles of each brush. Let alone knowing what tone or tint is under the above.


Now there’s a memory game for you.

Posted by john at 03:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pick the brushes up

Pick the brushes up, put them down,
Pick the brushes up, arrange them
Load the paint
Put brush to panel
Feel the same,
Put the brushes down
Make the coffee
Feel the marathon ahead.

Try not to look at the panel
Try to absorb the figure
The skin
The bone
The light bits
The dark bits
The tits
The lips

Pick the brushes up
Load the paint
Put brush to panel
Try not to think too much
Just apply the paint
In a vague pattern
To resemble
The figure.

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September 09, 2004

Light on dark, fat on lean

Put down some dark colours in the background, then hit the flake white and fill almost, but not quite, up to the edges. Leave a little bit dark, a little bit of darkness at the edge. Leave a little fight in the line, a bit of dark breaking into the light and vice versa. Make the line work. Night and day.

And when schlurping* the flake white over the dark make sure the dark is a thin coat not a thick coat, so the light can be thick and powerful. This way round and the paint doesn’t crack as it dries, thick coats of paint clearly taking longer to dry than thin coats of paint. So you don’t need to watch it; dry - the paint, that is.

You can instead get on with giving the whole thing a good coat of looking at.

*schlurp v. arch. technical term for the application, with great gusto, of large schcloops* of paint.
*schcloop n. arch. term for
[enough, Ed.]

Posted by john at 05:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

and again

Then if the pose, when painted, doesn’t feel right, it can be altered – the joy of opaque oil paint, re-balanced – the joy of colour perception, or it can be painted out – the joy of acrylic primer.

And before you all scream NO! don’t paint it out! It’s my painting and I’ll do what I like with it.

Posted by john at 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004

a place for the marks

The brush strokes go on, dark lines on a white ground. The shape is outlined, the composition begins, the form evolves, there is no turning back.

It takes a powerful commitment to make the decision to proceed with a picture. To distil the images, drawings and photographs, from many sittings, to make the one and only painting.

No matter how good the painting, if the composition doesn’t work, the picture doesn’t work. It takes a lot of looking to find the composition that works, or that says what I want it to say.

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