Winter closes in…

Drifter no. 25, 15 x 21 cm. mixed media on paper, Nov. 2021

Today the weather is, at present, fairly decent…chilly but sunny.  But it’s that time of year when some days are pretty gloomy and it comes hard to work in the cold studio.  So out come my box sets, not the videos but one or the other of my ongoing series of small paper works.

Drifter no. 28, 15 x 21 cm. mixed media on paper, Nov. 2021

Over the past few days I’ve been adding to the Drifters (15 x 21 cm.).  They sit in size order between the Landscapes (20 x 23 cm.) and the Festive’s (13.5 x 15 cm.) with the Pockets (10 x 10.5 cm.) and Baby ‘G’s (8 x 8 cm.) further down and the Geo’s (27 x 27 cm.) further up the line.

Drifter no. 29, 15 x 21 cm. mixed media on paper, Nov. 2021

What is the point of all these you might reasonably ask…well it’s a way of recycling paper works that never resolved, trying out ideas and – well – just keeping busy…

Drifter no. 34, 15 x 21 cm. mixed media on paper, Dec. 2021

Around & around…

Two ‘portraits’ from the Hot South series…in progress or so I hope…

Back in 2013 I exhibited a group of five oval ‘portraits’ of Scandinavian literary detectives that I titled Black North. They accompanied the wall of viruses, my Epidemic series, in the show in the Angear Room at Lakeside Arts in Nottingham. I cannot say I was entirely happy with them at the time and subsequently they’ve been a reminder of doomed projects lurking up a corner of the studio! No matter. As it happens there were a few smaller ovals (they were all aluminium sheet) that never made the ‘epidemic’ cut. Occasionally it’s crossed my mind to make a complementary group of Italian tecs… the other group of fictional sleuths I love to read (alongside several of our homegrown. So I’m now wrestling with Hot South (I’m reworking those from the north too…and will re-title them Cold North). To pad out the five I’m augmenting the three remaining aluminium panels with two in…papier mache. Why not – it goes with the aesthetic of the place after all. The contrast is interesting and challenging.

Immune To Nature, Painting Standing Up no. 59

Whilst I’m mulling (rather, agonising at the mo) it over and as a bit of light relief the Paintings Standing Up continue to provide a distraction…

Time past and time passing…

Davie’s July Sixty Four, 75 x 65 cm., acrylic on canvas, Sept. 2021

I didn’t know Atta Kwami well but our paths crossed occasionally over the years through his partner the artist Pamela Clarkson who I’ve known since the 1980’s.  So it was a sad shock to see that he has passed.  My thoughts go to Pam, a printmaker of distinction whom I briefly mentioned in my Cloughies Eyes blog.

One of Atta’s great strengths as a painter was his mastery of colour, something I rather struggle with.  My solution has normally been to go towards pastels and darkness…though in the past decade I’ve tried to be bolder with my use of the palette.  At the moment I’m working on three new canvases where, alongside the colour, I’m trying to let in the light too.  Perhaps a response to the gathering gloom of late autumn as we hurtle towards winter.  The first of them is finished I think and uses a fragment of text from July 1964, a poem by Donald Davie.

Mopping Up…

Painting The Town Red, the Melton leg of The Heart Of Rural England series. 28 30 x 40 cm. oils on canvas 2020/21

I’m rubbish at finishing up anything…I’m not – as someone once said on one of those awful management profiling sessions – ‘a completer’. Still by my standards the first of this group was only dated back in early 2020 so this is both high productivity and well-honed decision making! And as luck has it the group consists of twenty eight so neatly fitting together in the seven by four grid. This means I’ve now got three of the districts that make up The Heart Of Rural England (that’s the strap line taken from the Leicestershire county boundary sign). It’s taken very nearly a decade to get NW Leics., Charnwood & Melton sorted and with four more to go…plus the city itself its a moot point as to whether this series is ever completed – by me at least! The only plus point being that I seem to be speeding up as I go.

Church & States…

Church of St. Basil, Toller Fratrum, Dorset

Sometimes images just beg to be the beginnings of a painting and this conjunction of the fragment of the Magdelene set into the wall with the shelf and plate above at the Church of St. Basil in the tiny hamlet of Toller Fratrum in Dorset is certainly one such for me. Of course the final painting may turn out nowt like its origins as plainly explained by the sadly departed Thomas Nozkowski in this interview. And yes before you ask we have been gallivanting again…courtesy of our pals Allan & Moira…to the Jurassic Coast, a favourite nowadays. We were following in the footsteps of John Piper, as eloquently explained in Alexandra Harris’ book Romantic Moderns, an artist I’ve come to admire more and more as I get older.

Pocket Geo no.2

The trips away more often than not galvanise me into action on my return and on this occasion it got me moving on a resolution of yet another of my box sets. I’d quite some time ago prepped another set – one to sit between the Baby Geos and the Festive Geos as regards their size. But until today I’d not found either a title for them or indeed completed any to my satisfaction. Now hooray I have six made – and the Pocket Geos are ready to go! They are just the thing for fiddling with at the kitchen table under the daylight lamp in the early hours through winter.

No Reports!

That’s us, in the hut next to the car – the other building is a work in progress…

In my last post I suggested there might be posts from the Outer Hebrides…sadly our location precluded it. Not because we had no signal, the 4G was healthy…but I swiftly exhausted my data allowance! But actually it did me a favour – quiet and no distractions from the amazing environs we were in and those we visited. I will refrain from posting endless glorious photos of these islands, if you haven’t been just go.

Some items to catch up on. First the CBP prize; one of the very few competitions worth entering, because its relatively cheap to do so and run by, and for painters. Still a week to submit!

Now onto postcards…I’m currently involved in two projects. The one above :art on a postcard and also : secret post card show 2021

And lastly two shows I’d love to see but fear I may not get to….both by painters of my generation who I admire greatly. If you can get along and support them:

Freya Purdue

Trevor Sutton

The loose ends…

Mort’s Hermaness, Acrylic on paper, 110 x 30 cm. 2021

I’ve a passion for poetry that began in my early teens. Actually it went underground between my twenties and sixties but has come back roaring in the past decade. I have an inkling its that way as regards our obsessions for many of us. I’ve rifled through a fair number of my favourites for the text that wraps around my paintings of late – Redgrove, in particular and Charles Wright is another. But recently I’m rather taken with Helen Mort‘s Division Street. Not least because of her poem North Of Everywhere that takes Shetland as inspiration. Perhaps because her work is more contemporary I’m wondering what the etiquette and legality is in using fragments of these many poets? Of course – as yet – I’ve not exhibited these works much (several were installed at Deda last winter but, courtesy of COVID, nobody saw them) and other than this blog they’ve not been publicly released but…

Mort’s Shetland, Acrylic on paper, 137.5 x 33.5 cm. 2021

Anyway these two have been on the studio wall since late June, so time to get them completed ahead of our holiday…stand by for reports from the Outer Hebrides…

Mopped Up…

The Glowing Tree, Oil on paper, 63 x 52 cm. 1985

All being well – and one isn’t as sure as in past times – we should be off to the Outer Hebrides at the end of next week…nice… When I was employed the holiday season always saw me endeavouring to tidy loose ends and clear work before departing. Nowadays the studio serves that purpose. So I’ve been digging out work that, for one reason or another has never been properly archived. The Glowing Tree has for many years been stuck to the back of another work on paper (a result of a sticky glaze). Now restored and thoroughly dry it joins the stack in one of the 15 plan chests of ‘stuff’.

Lost Chord, acrylic on canvas, 186 x 36 cm. 1995

Lost Chord is a canvas that somehow was never resolved to my satisfaction but I’d kept rolled up in the back of the store. Now its re-stretched (quite a job…my wife helped wrestle it into submission) and given a subtle ‘make over’ so its a mute point as to whether the date is strictly accurate. Still two pieces of work mopped up and archived ahead of the hols.

More thinking…

Frisby (Painting The Town Red), oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm. 2021

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what you are trying to do – take for instance the project I’ve mentioned once or twice – the Hinckley and Bosworth leg of my Heart of Rural England series. I went out on the first trip for this leg two weeks back and again this past week. But I was struck by the fact that my enthusiasm for taking the photographs that have previously made up the imagery for the canvases has somewhat waned. Not surprising really given that as I go into this part of the project it gets harder and harder to find arresting and original images that might make up the canvas in question.  After all Burbage (trip 1) is really no more than a suburb of Hinckley nowadays and is not so different to several others…The villages of Ratcliffe Culey, the ‘Sheepy’s – Magna & Parva, and Sibson (trip 2) much like many others across the county.  Maybe it’s time for rethink?

Craxton (Painting The Town Red), oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm. 2021

I mused on this whilst walking across to Burbage Common – a walk that took me away from the ‘town’ and into the Leicestershire Countryside, and again whilst journeying between the latter group, a longer trip of around 7.5 miles.   Of course I took plenty of pictures in and between locations that might just be what I’m looking for on this leg of the journey.  But it needs mulling over for a bit….more thinking required!

Something that doesn’t need much further thought is the alarming decline of our rivers and streams.  The second trip involved criss-crossing Shenton Brook several times and passing the rivers Sence and Tweed.  All seemed pretty much as dead as the dodo in regard to wildlife…a sad story if my surmise is correct? Meanwhile two more completed paintings from part three of the Heart Of Rural England (Melton Borough – Painting The Town Red)

Size and scale…

Sketch for January, Weatherland series…mixed media on paper, image 30 x 48 cm. 2020

As regular readers know I have a genius for prevarication. I have been planning the Weatherland series since I completed my large Landscape & Memory project some time back. I managed to make sketches for the twelve paintings – one for each month – that will comprise this series (rather than the 54 in the L&M group!) but have been dithering for many months on the size of these canvases. Reviewing the sketches much of my agony revolves around the question of scale. Not least as regards the size of certain marks translating into the body movements required to accomplish them and the relationships between them. The question of scale is often in mind when planning something in advance – one reason I often just get going with a panel or canvas rather than having it plotted out. But I’ve now settled on a metre high by 1.6 wide…not quite exactly the dimensions of the sketches but pretty darn close – and critically just right in the sweep of my hand across the canvas…

Edmundthorpe, Painting The Town Red, 30 x 40 cm., oil on canvas, 2021

So I now need to sort out the dreary business of stretchers, canvas and priming not my favourite pastime. Luckily the Heart Of Rural England project that is trucking on (now on the third part – Melton Borough:Painting The Town Red) has a rigid 30 x 40 cm. format that clarifies matters, not least in utilising shop bought ready made canvases. This group is progressing nicely now; Edmundthorpe is the twelfth completed with the other fifteen on the studio wall (at least four of which are pretty much cooked).