Sunday 30 August 2009

Back to Basics

Thursday 27/08/09

I've really got to re read my blogs - what was I thinking? I'm a ninja - I'm an olympic athlete - I'm a boxer!? What? Let's get real - I'm 42 years old, I walk into town, I paint and I tell a funny story (ha ha). That's it.

Back to basics.

There's a bit of sun and I've got the commission painting to finish so I walk into town (see told you) to set up by the abbey. I pass the Griffin Inn - it was a pretty grubby pub, nothing to write home about, but part of me can't help being sorry that it's had the pub makeover. You know the one - it's all polished wood, attractive staff and a high priced food menu now. (That wasn't the funny story - maybe it's coming next.)

I pass the Castle Galleries (boo hiss). I don't think much of it, but I look in the window at these paintings of beautiful people, semi naked and pouting and I think about the artist and I realise, 'he's just selling sex'. I move on to the paintings next to his and think, 'he's selling a story' and the one further on, 'he's just selling a joke'. They've all got a 'thing' that their art is geared around. What am I selling? A memory? An idea? If the answer is just 'a view' then something's wrong.

(okay so that wasn't funny either, but here it comes I can feel it ...)

I set up in the same position, but things have changed - the sun isn't getting up as high in the sky anymore and much of the foreground is in shadow (I'll have to work round that) and someone's gone and put flowers in hanging baskets everywhere. Pah. (I say 'someone' when obviously it's the council - grrrr - damn them and their mad council tax spending ways)

I get quite a few people looking at the painting. A chinese lady complements the painting and then says, 'Are you going to put the flowers in? They are so beautiful.' I control my response and don't say, 'No lady, I am NOT going to put the flowers in. Can't you see that my painting doesn't NEED any flowers in it?'

(damn - not funny either. Still, plenty of time left, maybe this is it ...)

More people look and I'm not even going to mention the PB question. The painting comes together and I'm feeling pretty pleased with it. I can't think of anything to write on it apart from the title, 'Waiting'.

On the way back I'm near the Griffin Inn again and despite their efforts to enhance the area there's a guy with blonde dreadlocks puking in the street. He's bent over, his left hand on his knee propping him up, while he uses the other to keep his long dreads away from the stream of vomit. Nice. (Yes, it is only 2 in the afternoon.) He's got a mate with him who is comforting him with the occasional pat on the back. He obviously needs no interference from me so I walk on by. I can't help but marvel at the particular shade of green.

(Was that the funny bit? Is that all? No wait there's more ...)

(Oh, no there isn't. So much for a funny bit.)

What am I selling?

Monday 24 August 2009

In Training

Friday 21/08/09

Been on holiday, so I'm behind on both the blog and more importantly the painting. I'm getting kind of twitchy cos painting is like anything - if you don't practise then not only are you not going to get any better, but you're going to get worse - think of it as being likely an olympic athlete cos it's just like that - honest.

So now I'm in London for a follow up holiday weekend at the in laws, but I can't leave it any longer and I've brought all my paint gear with me. I want to paint some more Thailand paintings because time is marching on and the whole series is taking forever. I've got to paint outside so that I don't get paint anywhere in the house.

There you have it. I'm in a back garden in Wembley painting a Thailand sunset.

The garden backs onto an Underground line (part of the overground Underground thing) so there are intermittent train rumblings.

There's a small child in the garden next door who insists on screaming. She's not in pain or anything - she obviously just likes screaming. Aaaaaarghh. Aaaaaaarghh. (Very high pitched.)

That's it then. In a back garden in Wembley with trains rumbling past, a little girl screaming, painting the perfect sunset.

Beyond the railway line is a big park and there's a fun fair set up so I get the sounds of the people and the rides drifting over. And the food ... mmmm burgers.

And the bugs - where do they come from? - they seem to like the colour of the painting.

That's the scene. In a back garden in deepest darkest Brent, with trains rumbling past, a little girl screaming (Aaaaaarghh. Aaaaaaarghh. Very high pitched.), all the fun of the fair, dive bombing bugs, painting a sunset in Thailand. Something just feels odd.

Saturday 22/08/09

Got Thailand out of the way for now, time to get back to the plein air thing. Definitely out of shape - think Chris Hoy not riding a bike for a month or two - so while the family visit Hampton Court I set up the other side of the Thames to paint.

I can't get a good angle - the square format works against me and I end up trying to fit the entire ornate palace into a couple square inches. Combine this with the lack of sun and I'm on to a loser. Luckily no one comes by - the fishermen and the campers (not sure where they go to the toilet) on the river bank don't bother me and I blank anyone on a boat.

Damn, damn it just keeps getting worse. I try a few feeble pencil marks, but it doesn't help.

I pack up in disgust.

Sunday 23/08/09

Forget about Chris Hoy, I'm a boxer - you're only as good as your last fight - and I got pasted in the first round yesterday. I've got to get back in the ring - I can't let the last painting just sit there as the pinnacle of my artistic career, it'll eat me up like a canker unless I can expunge it with a masterpiece.

All panicky I look round my father-in-law's garden (still in London). [Aside - what's happening to me? It's a beautiful sunny day - I could drive into the centre and paint any number of magnificent architectural monuments. Surely that's what I should do.]

Bizarrely I settle on an old jar with long since dried orange paint and a couple of encrusted paint brushes. (Bob and weave, bob and weave.)

You know the set up: In a back garden in Wembley, trains rumbling past, little girl screaming (Not so often, but still going. Aaaaaaarghh. Aaaaaaarghh. Very high pitched.), all the fun of the fair and dive bombing bugs. Add to this the searing heat, a perfect blue sky and me painting an old jar - something still feels odd. (Bob and weave, bob and weave.)

A jar, yeah, great idea - lets try a series of perfect circles (Whump! a punch to the head), all neatly aligned (Grunch! a blow to the ribs), overlapping (Whap! a jab to the face) and see through (Whammo - that's it. Cut to slow mo shot of head swivelling, lips swollen and askew as gum shield, spit and blood arc over the ropes. I hit the deck like an easel with two legs and the crowd sits there in stunned silence - could this be the end?)

Maybe it's not that bad. If I squint my eyes I almost quite like it and that's okay isn't it.

Isn't it?

(The flies - don't forget all the dead flies in the bottom of the jar. Maybe I made it to round 2.)

Saturday 1 August 2009

I am ninja

Thursday 30/07/09


It's raining, it's sunny, it's raining, it's sunny.

I need to be a one man tactical painting assault team. Get in, do the job and get out, never leaving a man behind.

I've got the wet weather gear. I'm set up. There's a big white van right in the middle of the view I want to paint, but WHA! WHA! I am ninja and I strike like the lightning and paint round bends, WHA! WHA!

The rain starts, but look at me, I am ninja and I dodge the rain drops, WHA! WHA! The rain keeps coming and WHA! WHA! I keep dodging, but the rain keeps getting heavier and wha wha whaddayaknow, it's p*****g down and I'm soaked and everything's soaked and the wet weather gear can't cope cos it's too torrential and you know the workers sitting in the van are having a good old laugh and I give up even though I've only just started the painting.

Helluva summer.


Someone somewhere figures that they've had enough weather fun for the day and the afternoon/evening proves to be a good (relatively speaking) one, so I can start the commission down the road from our house.

It's a difficult composition and I'm standing a bit awkwardly, but for a first session it seems to be going okay and I get to know a few of the neighbours.

Friday 31/07/09

Pulled something in my back yesterday putting out the rubbish (oo, I am so ninja) so I'm walking a bit strangely today. I haven't done many out and about drawings recently so I stop by this house on the way to the studio. It's recently been done up and I think it looks great - like a georgian norman bates motel. Shame the surroundings detract slightly, but I just ignore that. I think it would make a good painting, but I have to stand in the drive way so I'll settle for drawing it. I take my time too, to do it justice. There's no sign of life - I guess it's residential as there are no adverts and it's so big that it's probably more than one, but no one stirs. The net curtains don't twitch and no one bothers me as I stand leaning against a gate pillar - maybe I could have painted it.

Later, still walking to the studio, through the busy crowds of shoppers I cross Milsom Street. I trip over something, catch myself before I fall and walk on pretending that nothing happened (you know, you've been there - heh heh, yeah did it on purpose, but really, I am cool, no really).

Oh yes, definitely ninja.