Saturday, April 30, 2011


After working on a painting for six weeks for the ASTT show on "Celebrating Forests for People", I decided at the last minute before taking it to frame that it didn't cut the mustard. I liked the first sketches, based on some photos I took in Lopinot last year. The painting in the end had a whole raft of techniques incorporated in it, not for the sake of it but each one for a specific reason or for some effect that I wanted. Some of the techniques might be my own inventions, I haven't heard of them before although I tend to think there's not much new under the sun in painting. I found myself not remarking on my "inventions" or even realizing I'd invented anything, only remembering them days afterwards when the matter of "invention" in art assessment came up in conversation and only then did I recall this ... and that .. and the other. Even now I have to rack my brain to remember those  so-called inventions. For example ... I started the painting off by taking prints from the final block of the croton linocut with different coloured water-based inks. My intention was to glue them to the board to give a subtle background texture of foliage and exuberant growth lines. Then again, water-based ink is not waterproof and I needed to overpaint in acrylic, so I tried spraying fixative over the prints. This worked fine and the inks didn't run when I painted acrylic on top. A useful thing to know.

The first sketch had an invention too.  I haven't read about it or seen it done, but I'm sure it must be used routinely by artists for roughs, it's so useful and quick and effective. The sketch was done with markers (Faber Castell Pitt pens) which are strongly coloured. To lighten the background I glued on tracing paper which worked well.

Forest sketch, markers on paper 9 x 12"
The downfall of the painting was one invention too many, when I added some oil-based printing ink to the last layer. I didn't like the resulting marks and tried to remove them with turps which was a mistake -- it got to be a little like Mr Bean with Whistler's mother.  So that's the story of the forest painting.  It wasn't a big loss, it didn't have anything of the freshness of the sketch above, they never do! I have to get  out of my head the idea that a spontaneous lively spur-of-the-moment drawing can easily be scaled up or translated to a different medium.

At the same time, I've gained confidence in my ability to invent and now realize I do it all the time without remarking on it even to myself. It's a matter of bringing unconscious things into consciousness which might not always be a good thing? Besides, I doubt any of these are new, they're things that happen naturally.  You encounter some sort of obstacle when making work and look around the environment for a way around it. I bet if I googled any of these I'd get pages of results.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who's who

Who's Who, mixed media, 12 x 16 ins
I did this for a change of pace in September 2010. It started as a doodle and after a while one thing led to another and I got lost in it which is always a nice thing to happen. There should be some familiar faces in there, if not then it's very badly drawn.

These are contemporary artists drawn from a UK magazine. I don't think either of them is recognizable but I like how the two drawings complement each other.

Added 23/4: These are the "originals" in the top drawing clockwise from top left:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reading to pass the time

I'm twiddling thumbs and trying to make the time pass in a multitude of ways, waiting for results to arrive. Books are the best in this kind of scenario for occupying one's mind in pleasant ways. Here are a few I've just read or am reading.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Vintage International. A novel by a Swedish writer set in Sweden. A terrific story. Translated from the Swedish. Published c. 2005. The author is dead now, what a pity.

The Bostonians by Henry James. Had this in the bookshelf for aeons, never read it. In fact I never got past the first few pages of any Henry James novel before. This one is going well so far, I'm on page 126. Writers have to be observant and be able to interpret what they observe and therefore they know a lot, and Henry James knows a lot. That plus flashes of brilliant imagery keeps the pages turning.

From the library (first visit in months):

Complete Photoshop CS3 for Digital Photographers by Colin Smith and Tim Cooper -- I wanted to find out how to do something in Photoshop. Found it out from this book and probably won't read any more. It looks pretty good if you have Photoshop (I don't).

Theories of Art Today, edited by Noel Carroll, University of Wisconsin Press. Twelve philosophical essays about the definition of art. One of the essays is about how art can't be defined. I'm planning to read two or three of them or at least try.

Assessment: Case studies, experience and practice from higher education, edited by Peter Schwartz and Graham Webb. London, Kogan Page, 2002.  Libraries are wonderful for books like this that you would never buy. On the blurb it says among other things: "Offering a compelling series of case studies, this book brings together a variety of assessment techniques. By taking the reader into real-life situations, it focuses on showing how assessment can provide a transparent and meaningful link between learning activities and desired learning outcomes".  I had high hopes for the book but have to say they were dashed. The "real-life situations" were often chatty anecdotes and there was not a lot of concrete information.

Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch, Penguin, first published by Chatto & Windus in 1954. An odd story, comic in places. The first part is dodgy, the second moves along at a brisk pace with many laughs.