Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Exploring surfaces

At the moment Tuesday is my painting day, the day when I can forget about everything that needs doing for A-side B-side, forget about life's stresses and actually focus on the thing I love doing the most!  Precious Tuesdays...

I am currently working on a series of studies, I started them as an experiment, purely as a way of exploring new ways of applying paint - without the pressure of thinking they had to be completed for an exhibition or even to show anyone at all.  I began by using image references but quickly stopped using them in favour of painting more intuitively.  I've found this really helpful, rather than continuously looking at an image to check whether lines are correct or colours are right, I've simply been choosing to mix colours because they feel right.  As the painting progresses I allow the paint and marks to dictate what should come next, whether I should wait for a layer to dry and apply a glaze, whether there needs to be a rough surface with texture, and whether that should be left to dry to apply yet another glaze.

All the time throughout the process I think about the concept and ideas which inspired this series of studies, but I don't feel bound to it, and I've noticed that this way other themes and avenues to explore have arisen.  Painting this way has felt quite liberating so far, and I feel that at last I am allowing the paint to work its own magic and relinquishing my control a little.  Paint is a magical medium with endless possibilities, it sounds strange - but for me, taking the time to explore it and simply experiment with it feels as though I am paying it more respect.

Some of the studies seem to be nearing completion, and I am now considering putting them forward for an exhibition although this was never my initial intention! Perhaps the things that turn out best happen accidentally....

Some pics below are snippets from my current painting studies:

Monday, 11 March 2013

Man with a Blue Scarf

A friend gave me a book about Lucian Freud a while ago, and I finally got round to reading it recently. I found it fascinating and a very inspiring read, so I thought I would share afew quotes here:

(All of the quotes are from 'Man with a Blue Scarf' by Martin Gayford'  the book describes Gayford's experience of posing for Lucian Freud, recollecting conversations they had whilst he painted his portrait)

Girl with a kitten

'In 1954 Freud wrote that 'the picture in order to move us must never merely remind us of life, but must acquire a life of its own, precisely in order to reflect life'

'As far as I'm concerned the paint is the person.  I want it to work for me just as flesh does'

'I always thought that an artist's was the hardest life of all.'  Its rigour - not always apparent to an outside observer - is that an artist has to navigate forward into the unknown guided only by an internal sense of direction, keep up a set of standards which are imposed entirely from within, meanwhile maintaining faith that the task he or she has set him or herself is worth struggling constantly to achieve.  This is all contrary to the notion of bohemian disorder' 

'for Freud quality in art is inextricably bound up with emotional honesty and truthfulness'

 The Painters Mother

The book describes how Freud radically changed his painting style in his 30s, starting to paint 'with broad, loose strokes of the brush rather than tight, meticulous surface detail', this meant that he alienated some of his earlier supporters.  It was fascinating to find out that his work was not appreciated or accepted until much later, he had virtually no income throughout his 40s and 50s.  

I have been going through a big transformation of my own work which has meant I have barely shown anything new for a long time.  I've also left behind the security blanket of using humour, and what became a recognised formula of image and text on canvas.  Stepping into the unknown has been massively daunting for me, so I found it very inspiring to read about how Lucian Freud pursued a big change in direction and lost followers in the process.  Plus the fact that he went on to develop his painting for years and years with such strong dedication and work ethic, without earning a penny from it.

I often romanticise about the day when I can paint 6 days per week! but like most artists I have always had to work alongside my practice to support myself, because painting has never paid the bills.  Even though painting full time is my ultimate goal in life I don't think I would have the courage to stop doing paid work until I had some sort of financial security - for fear of ending up homeless!  Lucian Freud's bravery and rigorous work ethic despite all the odds has left a remarkable legacy and wonderful collection of paintings for the world to enjoy.  

I have heard negative things about Freud, for example he rarely showed any affection to his children because he was constantly painting.  However I find his story and his paintings very powerful and moving, and as a painter myself 'Man with a Blue Scarf' was an amazing book to read.

 Reflection (Self portrait)