The destructive element which is present in painters, and is part of the reason why their lives have sometimes had these distressing outlines, is absolutely essential. [You should] become violently impatient with the inadequate in your painting and be prepared to do absolutely anything arbitrary to kick the painting into a sort of life..
Paintings and drawings by Ben, Cathy, Dick, Fiona, Ian, Ivan, Jane, Janet, Roger, Sandra, Steven. Sue, Tom and Tony.
Mistake. I looked up from my microwaved fettuccine just as Tom was casting round the table for the volunteer blogger. But who can refuse Tom? So here I am - the reluctant blogger. Reluctant, not because I am unhelpful or unwilling, but because I am ill equipped to blog on art. Tom offered some tips. “Take a theme and pursue it” (did he really say “beat it to death”?), “throw in some quotes” (“Wiki will help”) and “concentrate on one of two of the evening’s works”. Such self-effacement fools no one. The blogs by Tom and others are erudite, insightful and thought provoking.
I lack the knowledge and scholarship and here is the dreadful confession: it is wilful ignorance. Somewhere around my mid-teens at a time when I was trying to persuade my parents to let me go to art school (how wise were they?), I started to be able to see for myself some of the works that I had previously only read about. I made the conscious decision to avoid art historians and particularly art critics on two grounds. Firstly because I thought a lot of it was tosh (see Sturgeon’s Law) and I still do. Art tosh is very much alive – see most catalogue commentaries. Barry is nodding at this point. The second reason is because I decided that I did (do) not want anyone else’s opinion to affect my interaction with the work, be that intellectual or emotional. Although this view is under revision, for me it still has validity. Like the tree falling in the lonely forest, does a piece of art exist without a viewer? Does it exist without a reaction? For me that reaction, or lack of it, is fundamental.
I value the purity of response I feel when I see something that I “get”. It is tangible, powerful and I can recall it, every time, even years later. I know it is real and entirely personal and unaffected by any other information or opinion. It is mine alone. Some months back I shared my experience of the BM’s ice age art exhibition. These ancient objects were stunning and the circumstances of their creation inspiring, but these are two separate things: the objects were not more lovely because of the circumstances; they were splendid in their own right. Similarly, Van Gogh’s starry night is not more entrancing because it was painted in an asylum or because, as some tosher has written, he may have been suffering from the ocular disorder of astygmatism!
Now for Frank Auerbach. I mentioned to Tom that I had recently seen a small Auerbach exhibition in London. Ian has seen it too. I was captivated by the three large landscapes, but could not connect with the two portraits. Tom explained that Auerbach only painted a few subjects throughout his career and these all are close friends, intimates. His thick impasto captured shorthand for his knowledge of these people and hence, to some extent would always be opaque to the likes of me. I do not know the subjects, I cannot decode, I do not have the cipher. Clearly they are “art”, just not for me.
Tom’s insight rattled around my brain during the session with Richard. He struck a purposeful, almost aggressive stance with gimlet eyes fixed forward as if daring us to capture his likeness, his essence, what Tom has called the sense of person. In our short acquaintance with each model, even over a two day weekend session, how likely is it that we will penetrate beneath the superficial likeness to the individual below? Certainly not me, struggling to get either a likeness or a total image that satisfies. But some do. Tom’s image of Richard is both a strong likeness, but also carries that sense of the strength of the pose, the intensity of the subject. But is that the man Richard? Tony’s, Jane’s and Hayden’s works suggest a more sensitive Richard behind the jutting chin and piecing eyes, while Russell’s Richard confidently inhabits the environment of the image, more at ease than others, almost questioning the intrusion. Which, I wonder, is the real Richard?
I had to leave the session early when a text message informed me that my morning’s electrical DIY had left the family without heating or hot water. Just passing Elland Road on the M621 I realised that in replacing a switch to the boiler I must have reversed the polarity, so that it was off when appearing to be on and vice versa. The outward appearances did not reflect the true nature within. In an attempt to warm the somewhat chilly atmosphere, I jokingly suggested to my wife that it was a bit like Schrodinger’s cat. “Did it die of cold?” she replied. Good point. Shut up Dick.
by Dick Fowler
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Hadyn, Ian, Patrick, Roger H, Russell, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Jane.
I wasn't going to have my painting photographed on Thursday because I'm a proud chap and my first painting in watercolour was garbage, my second creative bit of garbage in charcoal, pastel, watercolour and gouache wasn't that great either but at least there was a bit of something I liked in it... for me anyway. I've recently gone off painting the figure in watercolour this last month and I know why! Its because I paint an awful lot of horse racing paintings and I'm that used to painting them I can paint them in my sleep but the thing is the more I paint them the more I learn and develop with them, the same with figure painting. Last night I tried to paint the figure the same way as I paint my horse paintings but I really struggled, it just wasn't happening so when I struggle I go into another mode a creative mode if you like and the thing is when I enter this mode I personally find it easier, maybe because you don't look at the model as much, maybe if we didn't have a model at all for a week and just created a painting of a figure to see what we come up with (Just a thought) I think it would be interesting, we'd probably all end up painting each other but just say that this was barred!
I know what Tom means when he says : (At what point does the model become redundant or merely a forgotten signpost, an overgrown marker easily missed) its hard to not see the figure in front of us but we can imagine!. A survey a few years ago said that we only use 10% of our brain on a daily basis... wow! what's the other 90% doing, but saying this its still great to paint/draw the human figure in its natural state, painting what we see in front of us and using techniques to interpret, its enjoyable, relaxing and great when it all comes together.
Anyway portrait artist of the year is on skyarts 1 (4 programmes left Tuesday night 8.00pm) I wasn't that impressed who won the heats in London and was less impressed at the second prog in Edinburgh and I think that any one of us could do this programme justice but it will be interesting to see the overhaul winner in a few weeks time. I entered the same sort of competition 15 years ago in Manchester called a brush with fame which was on ITV and we drew a self portrait in the first round and Toya wilcox in the second, Sinita..(coronations st) in the third and someone else who I cant remember, carol smiley introduced the programme and if you like you can see a video of it here.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS0S_fGlMVw ...watch out for me in yellow shirt...hehe laughable now....
As regards our paintings on Thursday what a great display! they look interesting just to look at them as thumbnails, as you look at them three of them stand out for me, jane's, russell's and tom's, I think its the colour that stands out as you look at them has thumbnails and when you click on them to make them bigger you can see the marks that each artist has made, the form of the brushstrokes and pencil strokes, you can see textures and lumps of paint and the brilliance of colours which makes them all come alive. There all great and has said they would all knock the socks off the portrait artist of the year paintings and drawings even my bit o garbage....
by Roger Simpson
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Cathy, Hadyn, Ian, Ivan, Jane, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Sue D-Y, Sue and Tom
Nikki as the Mad Hatter and David's depiction of Nikki
Well I barely know where to begin. I promised this day would be a day to remember and it certainly lived up to it's billing. Nikki delved deep into her dressing up box and didn't disappoint, let's start at the top. First we had the enormous, and I do mean enormous, green felt hat, the kind of hat a small person would wear at a Leprechaun Party and it would still cause comment. Here most appropriately it was the signature topper for the Mad Hatter being both 'mad' and indisputably, a hat. Below this enormous apparition sprouted an unruly shocking pink wig, even fluorescent paint of which I had a tube, wasn't up to this sparkling colour. With the bright halogen light doing a very passable imitation of footlights, the wig gleamed, each filament glistening in it's synthetic brilliance, it's lustrous colour a challenge to every palette.The wig framed Nikki's face, a confection of pale pan stick, vivid lip gloss, eyes thick with mascara accompanied with blue face paint and a dressing of glitter, for the portrait artist this was the North face of the Eiger. Where to begin, which colours to mix, what to leave in, what to take out, how to begin, the decisions were endless and the route far from clear.
Below this hung a bow tie of shall we say generous proportions, resting provocatively on the bust part of bustier, well it was burlesque after all and a certain piratical swagger was added with a luxurious half coat of dusky satin and then as if that was not enough we had numerous bright hankies sprouting from thigh length crimson suede boots. Part Pirate, part escapee from Wonderland and part glamorous siren, Nikki did us proud. But after the first gasps of delight came exuberant determination followed by furrowed brow intensity shading into sighs of puzzlement finally followed by reckless abandonment, a 'what the hell' attitude seemed to be the consensus, we tried but the mountain was too high.
The problem was not dissimilar to painting a picture of a garden in full bloom, you know it fits together but all the elements seem contradictory, colours clash, shapes seem illogical and the whole appears to be made up of a series of random parts, one independent of the other. Life drawing is a stroll in the park compared to the visual problems such a subject brings but this is OK, it's different and as such it requires different solutions, almost a different mind-set. My solution, not the only one by any means, was to focus in on the clarity and logic of the face, use that as an anchor around which the other forms, patterns and colours could swirl. It's a simple trick, have a look at Gustav Klimt's portraits to see how a master does it. What I like about this method is it allows your own creativity to respond and take off, you can see this in the energetic portrait by Issi where the shapes of the hair infiltrate the brim of the hat and then find echoes in the background. The whole portrait radiates energy and movement, expressing the excitement of the subject after all this was no mundane sight that confronted us. Louise does the same thing with the hair which has become a spaghetti force field of unruly lines surrounding a face bathed in unearthly light rapt in a spiritual glow.Sue did a fabulous first drawing, exactly appropriate to the subject, all wriggling Toulose Lautrec lines and with all the bathos of a performer slipping down the bill, it was the Moulin Rouge writ large.
But the drawing that seized me, haunted my thoughts all the way home was the magnificent and odd piece by David. I've put it at the top next to a photograph of Nikki so you can see just how far from the subject David travelled. It's a magnificent meander into David's head, a drawing literally appearing to evaporate almost as it simultaneously seems to appear, I love it almost more than anything I have seen in many years. It strikes me as a drawing full of humanity, a profound piece that suggests the shadowy melancholy that stalks us, a memorable memento mori that says, even when confronted with the frippery of celebration let us not forget the deep truth of our limited time and just how precious those moments are. There are some wonderful transformations, my favourite being the bonkers bow tie becoming a valve out of which our evanescent consciousness seeps slowly coalescing into something recognisable. Were this drawing made by Edvard Munch it would be celebrated worldwide as an iconic expression of the transition from the conscious to the unconscious, from living to dead. in my opinion I think it's a drawing to cherish, a work to meditate upon, a work of art that I find profoundly moving.
If art is anything, it should be the vehicle by which we reflect upon our lives, the sadness is when it becomes the shallow commodities by which excessive wealth is flaunted as in the obscene price paid for the very good Bacon triptych of Lucien Freud. David's drawing reminds me of what art can be and for that I am grateful and thankful to Nikki and her willingness to help us in this search. I am also grateful to those who joined us and I hope enjoyed this unusual exception to the rule at Redbrick Mill, it was a tough day but ultimately I think a rewarding one with some exceptional work.
Paintings and drawings by Cathy, Fiona, Hadyn, Issi, Louise, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist David.
What a haven of welcoming creative tranquility the greeting at Redbrick studio offers every time I arrive. Most times it passes me by, arriving early and warmed by a cup of tea we sit down and discuss the week's events before setting out canvas and materials and away we go. Paradise!
Not this week.This week I had to travel to London to do a presentation tomorrow. I needed samples to take, which were ready to collect from work from 11.00 am. On arrival at work I hear we've a quality issue with one of our biggest customers, a Pharma company and we've somehow missed off the black (barcode and text) on one carton. Although this is one carton out of a run of 105,000, the implications would have been catastrophic had our customers bar code reader not found it. We now have to do all the traceability checks, interview the relevant staff and try to ascertain what went wrong, whilst the production director and rep, site visit our customer's factory. If any of the 105,000 cartons had ended up in store at one of the major retailers, they could recall every pack at a potential cost of £70.00 per unit. Scary!!!
Back to tranquility. Unfortunately Joanne, one of my favourite models to pose at Redbrick had been laid low with a virus,what a pity because she is a delight to draw. However, we fortunately had an excellent stand in with the equally talented and inspiring, Fiona.
She gave us a lovely pose which she held beautifully, sat on the 'ugly chair' which had been camouflaged with a luxurious blanket. A perfect combination which inspired some awesome pieces. Patrick, who very rarely fails to turn out anything other than very desirable (ie. saleable) pieces further enhanced his reputation with a stunning profile portrait, vibrant in colour and thoughtful in economy of line. He should frame it. Russell's use of colour, texture and sensitive background produced another fine result. Ian's proportion and compositions are improving every week resulting in "a very nice piece of work" also Ian a lovely, LOVELY Bakewell Tart!! Stephen is following a similar path as myself regarding drawing and proportion and I always look with admiration at his drawings and especially his Saturday paintings, every improvement I make is always matched and improved on by his progress. On Monday I went to the National Portrait gallery where Frank Auerbach had a couple of sketches displayed one was nearly as good as Sandra does in her two minute sketchbook. It's always a pleasure to watch Tom. He doesn't always get the finished product but always pushes the boundaries, eliminating marks (the rest of us would die for), painting over stunning backgrounds with equally stunning but different colour combinations, oh to be an artist!
by Haydn Bradbury (our reporter on a train)
Paintings and drawings by David, Hadyn, Ian, Jane, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Sue, Tom and Tony.
After careful analysis and a lifetime of collecting data I've come to the conclusion that this is the thing that artists whinge about most frequently. At the top of the list, without a doubt is the big T, TIME, every artist I know is in a constant state of angst about how time colludes to betray their incipient masterpiece. Usually it's the lack of time, 'just another hour that's all I'm asking', they plead, how can time be so cruel as to leave this wondrous thing, tantalizingly dangling, creativus interruptus, a job undone, the collective frustrated sighs of defeated artists is a hard sound to bear. And yet week in week out this is how most sessions end, like a balloon slowly deflating as it becomes evident that time really has run out. But on Saturday, Teresa made the brave decision to stop, she decided further work on her delicate mixed media piece would only compromise it's fragile balance between resolution and promise. Using sheets of old carbon paper she slowly built her drawing, the furry lines appearing like spirit writing beneath the carbon. The effect is a drawing made of marks and smudges slowly woven into an almost skeletal depiction of Steve. It has a bleached bone quality, both taut and baggy as lines loop uncertainly searching for purpose whilst others suggest structures of the skull. Ironically in the week that Lou Reed died we see his handsome broad jaw and high cheekbones realized in this striking drawing, Lou would have loved it I'm sure.
Teresa took on time and won, she made the right decision and left at the right moment. Some of us stay far too long, we're the serial washer uppers when the party's over, I'm probably the worst offender, hour after hour bludgeoning my work into submission. Ian was probably saved by the clock as his lovely little figure perches perilously on its spindly table, his magic mirror strategy is working.The whole work is a paradox of blocky marks acting as indications of space and looking for all the world like a blue version of Matisse's 'Red Studio', all this contrasts against the subtle accuracy of the lovely head and sinuous body. Not only is it beautifully observed but it's also sensitively realized, with a minimum of means Ian expresses sympathy, apprehension and fragility, no mean feat in a figure less than twelve inches high and painted in only a handful of colours.
I also find inspiration in Emma's piece combining monoprint and pastel. I can see an affinity with the famous Christopher Wood self portrait, they both have beguiling distortions that seem to disarm the viewer, a knowing sense of directness where reality is referenced without being slavishly followed. It's roots can be traced back I think to an earlier time when artists were looking for a new kind of truth in their images, an un-tutored, less cynical view of the world, Ben Nicholson found Alfred Wallis, the young Lucien Freud found Cedric Morris, I wonder if Emma has found anyone, maybe she doesn't need them. We can all see Emma's latest work at her forthcoming exhibition at Ken Spelman's Bookshop in York November 15th - December 31st.
When I look back over the work completed on Saturday, one thing is definitely evident and that is, time was on our side, having a full day really does make a difference. I'm now keen to see what work will come out of our next full Portrait Day with Nikki on Saturday 16th November, there are still a few places and I can honestly say it will be a day you won't forget (in a good way!) Email Tony to book a place, email@example.com
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Cathy, Emma, Ian, Ivan, Sandra, Sue D-Y, Teresa, Tom and Tony.
"I PREDICT THE FUTURE": Weatherman's Amazing Claim!!! At this time of year, when bright sunny days alternate with windy wet ones as reliably as fuel company price hoicks, one has to seize the moment! To take a long walk, to tidy the garden, to frisk about outside! This message had clearly not reached theThursday Afternoon cabal, whose numbers appeared swollen with neophytes, acolytes and semi-expressive abstractionists of all persuasions, forming a dense corral around the studio. Very intimidating to us crepuscular interlopers, seeking to insert or ingratiate ourselves therein. (Especially when you arrive already knackered from a sunny day's dog-walking and gardening). So one jockeys for position, usually ending up in a hinterland of extension leads and broken tables. As I prepared myself for for a prolonged examination of Jannine's back and an ugly chair, I caught a glimpse of my own even uglier countenance leering back at me across the room from between two easels. And there, alongside, a perfect image in miniature of Jannine from the front, hardly as large as her actual, adjacent head. The Mirror! There should surely be lots more of them, saviours to those in a tight corner. Suddenly my unpromising position became as good as anywhere in the room. My mental landscape seemed to open out and embrace the prospect of an Ideas Image, as opposed to a copying exercise. I invoked the spirits of Giorgio de Chirico, of Jorge Luis Borges, of Lewis Carroll and Mr Benn (the one in the fancy dress shop, not Tony or Hilary). At this point I should have Calmed Down Dears, and adopted Sandra's good practice of making preliminary sketches to plan the composition. But I knew that time was really too short, and I just went at it, with a resulting image muddled and over-ambitious. (Soon to be collage-fodder). As is so often the case, how I'd like to spend a full day in the same situation. Nevertheless, the experience was replete with possibilities for future attempts, and I'd spent a rewarding evening. Let's have more mirrors! I'd spent the tea-break talking with Ben, so many of the images came as a surprise to me, as I had not really taken them in on the night. As ever, a rich mixture, fascinating to revisit at leisure. Too many, I'm afraid , to include all individually. I'll have to be selective, and apologies to those I miss. First, I must mention Fiona's clay piece: I love to see 3-D work, especially as I'm so useless at it myself. To produce something of that quality in so little time is magic to me. The "other" Fiona (you know who!) and Ivan made drawings from opposite profiles in contrasting styles. Hers was full of lively, nervous energy (I think it was something to do with the coat; it certainly made me nervous). Ivan's was my favourite work from the night: delighting in detail, drawn with subtle variety of line, it is full of gentle humanity and humour. The pose has the prim propriety of an Eighteenth Century silhouette, but with neatly aligned nipples and a few disobedient hairs poking up from the back of the head. I love it. Haydn is drawing with great speed and accuracy these days; an accomplished piece. Jane's picture is another full of humanity, supported by fine drawing/painting, done with feeling. Something Chagall-ish, Kokoschka-ish about it. Patrick's has the power and feeling of a landscape about it, I love the sinuous white lines snaking around the contours. Interesting to compare Roger S' and Russell's entirely differing handling of a palette of primary colours. Wouldn't it be great to have them swap work halfway through, so that Russell could bring some details to the head and hand emerging from the welter of splashes, and Roger could introduce an element of abandon to studied balance. Sorry guys: sacrilege to even suggest it! I'll stop now, before I dig myself deeper in the mire.
See you all next week, I hope. (Save me a space!)
by Chris Fallowfield
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Ben, Chris, Fiona E, Fiona , Hadyn, Jane, John, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Sue, Tom, Tony and featured artist Ivan.