Friday, October 28, 2011


It was a "Doodle Planet" event at Telfords Warehouse in Chester last night, the second I've been to and it was great fun. Blank canvases are set up around the area and people can just drop in and doodle; draw, paint, splot, chat, whatever! And all for free! Fancy dress was optional and I went "sort of" as a Victorian vampire although my weak grey pallor probably made me look a bit tired rather than horrific.

I took some ink and brushes and started with splots and runs, then let the shapes evolve. The halloween theme of the night made me think of the Omen films and the painting became The Rise of the Antichrist. There's lots of different details in there. I've done a few inky pictures on a postcard scale before but nothing like that and it was fun. I'll do another if I get the chance. The beautiful lady behind the bar wanted to buy my picture, which was the highlight of the night. I gifted it to her. My fee was the enjoyment of the night.

Other news:

1. I've one painting accepted into the Three Counties Open in Keele University, two rejected. I didn't get any accepted last year and I submitted three of my best, so I'm glad to get one in, especially as they've had a record number of entries this year. The exhibition runs for about a month from Nov the 7th.

2. I've spent today glazing a painting called Trying To Ignite Love. It should be quite good. I'll put up pictures in progress soon.

3. The Reliquary! Yes, the plaster is now sealed with epoxy resin and the doors are now asleep, face down and glued to the wooden doors with more resin. It is very liquid and takes several days to dry. At first it leaked everywhere and oozed it's honey mess all over the my fine doors and the plastic sheeting I was working on! This was expected though, and these oozes were wiped off (at first I didn't use nearly enough glue and it soaked right into the plaster and wood... that was expected and should make a good bond. I decided not to seal the surfaces first for that reason.)

The doors will need careful wiping and monitoring over the next few days. I must nurse them carefully as this is the most delicate and crucial process; these plaster doors have taken weeks of work and this glue stage must be perfect. If they set in the wring place I'll have to start aagin!

After that I'll attach the hinges and then the gold which I bought today. Two years ago 25 sheets of 24 karat gold cost £13. Now it's £25! I hope I've got enough...

Onward to glory!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tum Tum

A busy painting day today, with the left panel of the reliquary, a moon and a sad angel. Here's the model.


I wasn't very happy with the painting and found it a chore. I'm coming to the conclusion that being alone with a painting all day, day after day makes you go crazy. Years ago I read the van Gogh letters and found myself telling him to think positive (with many exclamation marks) and that he was going about things in totally the wrong way and practically being self destructive in his hyperintroversion. My friend recently read some letters and said that he was just like me. Hmm! Of course I disagree, although I have changed a lot in the past two years.

Either way, it's a disturbing statement even if only partly true. When you only have yourself for morale, discipline is essential. The upper classes join the army if extrovert and the church if introvert. Perhaps I could resurrect some Catholicism to save my sanity. Theism makes my higher intellect shudder, although the fantastically ceremonial aspects could be exciting.

When wet, the painting slipped off the easel and fell face down. This anxiety, ironically, snapped me out of my sadness and made me feel better, which was unexpected because I was horrified at the damage. In the end, the myriad of tiny hairs were easily removed with masking tape, which works brilliantly and hardly affects the paint surface.

Now! I must focus on the future like a laser. At times my situation seems hopeless and my only reason for living is my painting. But then, this becomes a mission. My friends become everyone. My skills must be shared, as a matter of duty to humanity. Deaf Beethoven decides to compose. Success inevitable!

One final ramble; I've recently rewatched a film called From The Life of the Marionettes. Ingmar Bergman is one of my favourite artists and this is perhaps my favourite film of his. I must be (have been) quite like him because I seem to identify with just about every character of every film. He reminds me that 99% of films are about nothing, and those that are about something don't really deal with important truths and feelings. The same is true of paintings. I must try harder to prove that this is possible.

For now, good thinking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reliquary Doors


The plaster carving is compete!

The left panel has become concave due to dampness, I should have been more careful and ensured a flat non-absorbent surface at all times. For the poem I printed it onto tracing paper and scraped though the lettering as a guide, then carved them more deeply and neatened them up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New routine


Day two of the centre painting for the reliquary, it's now complete. Here is a little blue tit. Yes it's supposed to be upside down. Yesterday I was trapped in detail and felt like the whole painting was a disaster but today I finished the rest! Zing!! This shows that you should indeed try the hard bits first. One of my rules is do the hard bits, the best bits, the most scary bits, first. That builds confidence, and means that you do the most demanding parts when you have the most energy and focus.

For the last two years I've had the same work routine:
9:10-10:40 painting.
10:40 break (20 mins).
11:00-12:30 painting.
12:30-1:30 lunch.
1:30-2:20 painting.
2:20 break (20 mins).
2:40-4:10 painting.
4:10 break (20 mins).
4:30- 6:00 painting.

Done. This was based on the "90 mins work, 20 mins rest" theory, which I read was the best for biorhythms. Actually it didn't work very well. I got too little rest and those 20 minute breaks were all to easily eaten into by a few addictive minutes at the end of a painting session.

Yesterday I started a new one and I'll see if this works better:

9:00-10:30 painting.
10:30 break  (30 mins).
11:00-12:30 painting.
12:30-1:30 lunch.
1:30 walk (20 mins).
1:50 meditative sleep (20 mins).
2:10-3:40 painting.
3:40 break (30 mins).
4:10-5:40 painting.
5:40 rest or painting (20 mins).
6:00-7:00 evening meal.
7:00-8:30 painting.

This gives both more rest periods and more work time, partly because the days are longer, but that's fine because I don't have anything much to do in the evenings.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Relief Collage

I can't believe it's been so long since my last post! I've been hard at work painting and have finished two new paintings and underpainted another too!


Today I've invented a new art form! I've been decorating the doors to my reliquary (which have annoyingly bent due to moisture, see how the left one is raised at the top and bottom). These are mirror smooth sheets of plaster, the casting of which took many days of agonies. Then, decoration. At first I used an air-dried clay to add details to the surface but then I thought I'd try something new and today did it.

I began by doing a "texture hunt", and went into the garden to collect leaves, bark, twigs and other things that might produce a good texture in plaster. Then I mixed up some plaster and poured it onto glass, casting bits of leaf and other things, also sandwiching it with more glass to produce one very smooth flat side to these experimental sheets. When dry after only about half an hour I removed the sheets, which broke into millions of pieces like a jigsaw. This was intentional. I then picked out the interesting shapes and interesting textures.

You can see them on the left. I then glued them onto the doors. This was most fun and was a sort of cross between a mosaic and a collage. I used air dried clay to smooth off any sharp edges. The results were good and it worked much more efficiently than carving (with less mess too!)


My big worry with this is the fragility of the plaster and I'll have to be very careful. I'm wondering if I should take a latex copy of the front carvings just in case, although there is a risk that that process will cause damage (because I've never tried it before). If the cabinet is too delicate then I might have to forego entering it into any major exhibitions, which would be a microdisaster. I'm toying with the idea of displaying the work myself on a pay-per-view basis. It might be the only way it'll be seen.

The paintings for the inside have been underpainted now, and I want to glaze these next. I've got one painting idea that isn't underpainted but I'm rather tired of the lengthy process and disenthused with painting so I'm thinking of painting that one in one layer. My other paintings in progress will take at most two days each, excluding the giant Quest For Pity, which I started back in March and hasn't been touched since!

Once the front is carved the next step is to seal it and glue it to the doors, then the hinges will be attached, then the gliding and the attachment of any gemstones. Then I'll need a glass heart of some sort for the paintings, and the final sculpture (most likely in air-dried clay) for the top, and possibly an arrow if it will fit. I want it completed as soon as possible.

Onward!

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Pope's Guide To Streaks And Crisp Edges

See! See! This is exactly the problem I was having today. Look at the over-crisp edge where the red touches the green, and look how blotchy and streaky the green looks, and similar on the red (you might need to zoom in to see it). This is a consequence of a very smooth surface, paint that has dried early (the red was dry before the green was painted) but even with those two certainties, the pain of the situation can be attenuated by having an accurate underpainting that is very smooth, most easily done using opacity, or a few layers.

Well, that picture, if you haven't spotted it, is by Raphael, and today I was painting my "Prometheus as a Turkey" and having the same problems. My "rocks" are as streaky as Pope Julius and sliding my transparent darks over the poorly executed underpainting was a lesson in introretrospective chastisement. I should have painted the underpainting more slowly and with more care an accuracy. Painting on a flat smooth surface is difficult because the exact depth of paint is needed. Too little and blending becomes impossible and the result is uneven. Too much though and ridges start to form. The slightest deviation is visible. I have a few on this painting. Here is a clip of the rocks so far, by the way...

Unfortunately the photo is too blurry to show the level of detail! Anyway, I've persisted. Another layer, I tell myself, and the painting will look just fine, but I'm frustrated that in my head I can do better, and I'm sure that if I repainted it, a week's work, I could achieve a more Leonardic smoothness. He though took years to paint anything for this reason. Raphael painted lots and quickly, and so had to compromise, and more like him I'll probably call this "good enough" and worry about perfection in future paintings.

After all, my best paintings are in my future, not my past.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Dr. Who Dream


On Sunday I dreamed about an F-18 aircraft that I designed and made a model of. It could bend it's wing up and down in a curve to gain more manoeuvrability. This made the aircraft good enough to defeat an F-22 Raptor, which represented the enemy.

Aircraft that attack others is a recurring theme in my dreams. Sometimes they fire at enemies and fail to damage them, sometimes they do manage to shoot the enemy down when using lots of firepower. There's certainly lots of attacking going on. This dream that included an ally that was capable of defeating an enemy has to be positive.

Then I dream that I'm in a brown wood-panelled restaurant with a boy I know. Some people are making an noise with music or putting on some sort of performance and I'm trying my best to ignore them. They pick on me and insist that I listen to them and stop ignoring them. I become polite and ask their names, shaking each of their hands as they sit down around the table. I say that my name is Mark, as in the planet Mars. My actual personality is that of Matt Smith's Dr. Who. I ask them to explain and they say that they are performing, acting as a train. The team then perform, sitting in seats like pews. The location now looks a bit like the Lamb pub in Willaston*. One performer at the front says things like "Brakes released!" and everyone shudders, then "Breaks on!" and everyone shudders again. The scene out of the window is moving and I think that the performance makes the illusion of being on a train very realistic. I know that the scene beyond the window is supposed to move anyway at a constant speed because we're on a spaceship or some other form of transport.

I congratulate them and say that I'm going to treat them to a reward. I ask them to pick two, and take them with me (and Amy Pond, now my companion). I take them into the Tardis. The others try to follow but I block them out. I move past the desk in the entrance hall, then into the main room which is very white and has a lake or pond with a bridge over it and lots of animal furs. The decor reminds me of the 1970's. Amy moves to the end of the room with me, but we see a time-old copy of Amy moving in the same way as she did near the door. Then we see a future Amy dressed differently. She is grabbed by some invisible monster and dragged along the floor by both arms. At other points there were other signs on my (the Doctor's) impending death.

* My art group Art Support has had a few end of year lunches at this public house, and it's the only association I have with it. The most memorable lunch there was the last before my friend Anne had her accident.

I often dream of Dr. Who, and much of this probably relates to the finalé to the latest series which the BBC recently screened. Overall I think that this is a warning to listen to part of myself (the performers) and is generally a warning to relax (the train ride, which I find relaxing; if not actively depressing!).

Last night's dreams were about running from an enemy, once again. I managed to find a safe haven in a city with outer defences capable of repulsing the enemy. Today I've decided to rest and do nothing!

In art, all of my reliquary underpaintings are complete. Next step is to try, again, the plaster relief.