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February 27, 2005

not letting go

Maybe itís not about letting go.

Maybe it's about hanging on.

If the universe is basically a chaotic state, then, being undoubtedly part of the universe [without going into it too deeply], we are naturally chaotic. Letting go therefore creates chaos. And is chaos creative?

Things can be created in a chaotic state Ė we were Ė though it involves a certain amount of chance. Two schools of thought on this. One says that we were inevitable and any changes in the primordial soup would always have thrown us up onto the beach. The other says that two atoms out and it could have been green slime all the way.

So Iím thinking letting go isnít the answer. Letting go completely and leaving all to chance doesnít give very good odds in my opinion. And letting go a bit seems to be a bit half- arsed.

I work on the idea that in the process of creating a picture there is a time to let go, and a time to hang on. The picture moves through different stages where different approaches must needs be adopted.

A picture, to my mind, needs all of the following: emotion, passion, skill, technique, thought and freedom. The first two are innate, the second two are learnt, the last two are hard won.

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February 22, 2005

letting go

Iíve spent years learning how to paint, now I have to learn how to let go. I have to learn how to put my skills into the background and let the passion seep through.

I keep promising myself I will do a huge panel where I will just do what the fuck I want. Where I will just let go, and give free rein to all the passion and energy and anger in here.

[but Iím scared]

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February 16, 2005

the roller coaster

When I was at college a life drawing tutor explained to us the Roller Coaster of creativity. ďYouíll do a good drawing - often surprising yourself,Ē he said looking directly at me. ďThen youíll do a bad drawing.Ē

The thinking goes like this: you work hard at drawing and look hard and eventually see, and the result is a good drawing. So naturally you feel good about this and a degree of confidence seeps in. So that when you next begin to draw youíre feeling more confident than hitherto; so you donít look quite as hard, you donít see as much and you produce a bad drawing. Your confidence goes, you look much harder the next time, you see more: you do a good drawing. And so it goes on.

After many years of this and trying to tame the roller coaster, with a degree of success it has to be said, I seem to have flipped tracks and am now riding the roller coaster backwards.

I push some paint around feeling fantastic [see previous post] and then, instead of feeling confident I feel terrified. How did I do that? [because I still donít know how to bring all the ingredients together at the same time, and donít even know what all the ingredients are Ė and when I think Iíve found them they change, such is life I guess. ] AnywayÖ so, after the elation of some delicious painting, I then struggle to do any kind of painting or drawing, feeling I will inevitably fall flat on my face.

The balance is to maintain a feeling of directness, of spontaneity, while at the same time employing a wealth of skill. A painting or drawing shouldnít look forced, in my opinion Ė and it is after all only my opinion.

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February 14, 2005

Clear and present passion

I used to think I wasnít an artist. On dark days, alone in the studio, facing the nightmares of my deranged imagination, I still do. But I am becoming increasingly aware that this thing that has been driving me to paint all these years is the amazing thrill of actually putting paint on panel.

Regular readers of this journal will know about my love of oil paint, especially when it gets to be just the right consistency and mixes sublimely across the palette. I love the big brushes which push the paint about. But most of all I love looking at someone standing or sitting or stretched out in front of me and applying consecutive and adjoining layers of colour to capture the play of light across their body.

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February 09, 2005

Painters who canít paint.

What does an artist do? Today itís hard to define. Time was he was [for in the past he was mostly a he was] he was a craftsman with a set of tools and skills who could capture a likeness of something in paint.

Today, as we are constantly reminded, an artist can do anything from exhibiting no paintings in a gallery just painted white, to exhibiting their bed. Today the set of tools and skills have been replaced by THE IDEA.

Call it conceptualism, call it post-modern, call it Brenda, it is now not about the basic task of capturing a likeness but about the more complex task of commenting on our condition.

It is no longer necessary to be able to paint to be a painter.

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Trying to paint

My idea is to express the sensuality of the human body. The subtlety of skin and muscle, curve and line that has driven us for millions of years to chase the opposite sex with a view to taking partners in Natureís sticky dance.

To do this I need skills, I need to be able to handle paint in such a way that it expresses both what I feel and what I see. I donít want to go down the line with Ingres and produce flawlessly blended eggshell skin, nor do I want to take the totally analytical approach of Uglow.

For me I have to be present with the feeling and the paint [hence my need to paint from life] and to try to use the medium to express the passion. I canít seem to stand at a distance and try and work out tricks with paint that will produce effects. [I wish I could, but I canít]

For me painting is a live thing.

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February 01, 2005

the choice

You have to choose. Well, okay, you donít have to choose Ė I have to choose. I have to decide. I have to decide what image to take further, what image to put into oils, into a medium that can last 400 years. Best not to think about that bit.

Iíve done my homework, I buy the best paints: Michael Harding, I prepare hardwood plywood with acrylic primers. [Which is more than can be said for Leonardo.] But then itís up to me. What do I do? What do I paint? What fraction of human expression do I endeavour to capture?


Then how do I capture it? I can put colours next to each other so they suggest space and volume. I can match skin tones. I can analyse the form and render it accurately. But the IT is something that happens when Iím not looking [or thinking] and it is the IT that makes the picture.

Oh, sure, the other elements help, but they are as dust without IT. And just think if I choose the pose without IT Ė no matter how well I painted I wouldnít make it.

Tricky business Johnny Painting.

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