Stray Dogs of Sicily. Painted in photoshop over the course of this week. Caught these beautiful old things on camera while on holiday a few years ago, always been meaning to do some work from what I gathered there. Working on my painting style, hopefully to be translated into oils soon as I get the time. Left the background to the imagination on this one, adds a dream like quality I thought, plus lets your eye create the rest of the space., having used only a few lines and colour changes. Plenty more development happening currently.
Recently I’ve been becoming more confident with my mark making, I think due to a general attitude of experimentation and trying to find a more essential look to my observational stuff. With digital it can be hard to embrace the organic and smudgey feel I aspire to with oils. I’ve developed a way of working in photoshop recently that’s starting to feel quite satisfying. No layers, about 4 brushes and often not even lifting the pen off the tablet. A harking back to the practices of art foundation, and a real step forwards for my mark making. I’ve tinkered about with this style of painting before when I was obsessed with Natahan Ford and David Ajenjo’s work. My aim is to take some of this spontaneity into oils soon when I get time. Can’t wait to try a portrait in this style..
Although I’m not by any means a prolific painter, the practice of putting colours together in an abstract way on a board, or canvas has been part of what I do for as long as I can remember. Not the biggest part, but a consistent one. I think with abstract work, it’s very easy to talk yourself out of painting, as often without the anchor of a solid subject, you can easily come adrift, and several bad colour choices later you’re looking at a very different painting than an hour ago. I feel the successes I’ve had with abstraction come from being bold, and tying the piece to some abstract notion or concept, routinely undisclosed.
When I get spare time I’m mildly obsessed with making electronic music, Roland, Korg and Arturia get most of my spare money. When working with sequencers and drum machines there’s a subtle quantisation that begins to happen in your thinking. The hardware keeps notes in sync at 4s-8s-16s-32s etc, and this looping and repetition sometimes finds its way into my paintings. The Brain loves finding patterns and order, I guess seeking out meaning and making sense of things. I see these patterns and repetitions in nature too, when I look out from my studio to see layers of colour and growth. In these paintings below there’s some suggestion of space, with an implied horizon line, but the square format, in my view, keeps it ambiguous. These are untitled pieces, and both in acrylic. On the left, a recent canvas commission at 80x80cm and the right, a recently sold piece on hardboard at 50x50cm. Currently working on a much bigger commission around this style. watch this space.
When preparing for my recent show, which was so rudely interrupted by coved, I made quite a few one day paintings that were intended to occupy a kind of study corner in the show, a little nook where the style was loose and experimental. Things that were just in my line of sight on a daily basis that I felt drawn to. If you look at anything long enough, and study it with fresh eyes, there’s great beauty to be captured, even the presence of a spray can, a mass produced object. Varying levels of success here, all in oils, and on board. I feel the orchid painting has something about it that’s worth pursuing, something about the composition and the cutout bold shapes is unusual for me, a more flat composition defined by the bold shapes. I worked this one up quickly, always a sign I’m in the zone on a piece..
This painting is based on an epic sky from late autumn 2020. Off the back of some plain air work I was doing at the time, I developed a real desire to expand on photos I’d taken. Here, taking a standard format shot of a sky over Sheppey and expanding it out into more of a panoramic. I’m using the mixer brushes in photoshop quite heavily here, this is a delightful way to work when you get the settings just right. I think even though it’s digital, my mark making still has some umph to it. Large image painted at 600x250mm
To be printed in Gicle’ paper.
In August 2020 I booked an exhibition space in Whitstable for March 2021, rather optimistically, considering we were looking like entering a second wave of the pandemic here in the UK. When trying to figure out what I was going to produce for the show, I started taking some trips out with the sketchbook while the weather was still holding. I felt driven under the circumstances to take every opportunity to connect with the outdoors after being cooped up for months and to bring those little escapes into my work. I made it up until mid October before my sketch days turned into ‘take the camera out and wrap up warm’ days. Luckily my interest in digital painting matches my passion for oil work. Apart from the final painting, in oils, these are images I worked on from reference in photoshop back in the studio. That late autumn light in Blean Woods was quite something, here I’m focusing on the water carving its way through the woods peacefully, and how the colours of that time of year have tell the story of decay and natures preparation for the dark cold months ahead. Everything was brown, silver, or some shade of grey. Those bright green leaves really lift those upper sections of the pieces.
Out for a walk this evening, taking in the Whitstable sea air and marvelling at the rich and crisp sunset, I began to think about my blog. This page. An aspect of my creative practice that I’ve allowed to become neglected in recent years. Several years ago, I cleared much of this pages’ content and purged everything I thought was unworthy of publication, or not representative of who I am as an artists now. I opted instead for the easy and ubiquitous instagram. Although the mighty insta’ clearly has it’s upsides, the sheer number of people you can reach instantly being the main one. But I’m beginning to feel that its addictive quality and my slavish obedience to its algorithm is doing me no good and tricking me into thinking I’m progressing artistically. Now this is not to say that I’m not a busy and active creative professional, just that Instagram has cleverly and subtly derailed my ability to curate and record my work properly.
Scrolling through the last four years of instagram posts, it’s rather overwhelming for me, the sheer volume of work that has been put down half way finished is telling. Often halted to take a quick snap, ‘Work in progress’ I often entitle posts, followed by getting distracted by the subsequent likes…. and follows, starting something else, or just getting lost again in a seemingly endless stream of great art, interesting images and… well, just about anything that can distract me from my mission. The sum total of my instagram page is an interesting and eclectic body of work from one perspective, but click on the link to my store, and you’ll be met with very little, a ghost town basically. How has this happened I ask myself, how have I made so much work and finished such a small fraction of it. Clearly something is missing from this artists’ practice, and clearly something needs to change.
As a day job I make super real Zbrush sculpture, toy prototypes, 1/6 scale likeness heads, props, miniatures, and collectables, and have done for the last sixteen years. This brings with it a very honed focus and attention to detail, so in many ways, not wanting to be too harsh on myself, I’ve been slowly but surely doing my 10,000 hours. I think having this anchor of a daily sculptural practice and a thriving freelance career has been the bedrock of my sanity at times. There comes a time though for someone who calls them-self an artist, and feels like one in his bones, to recenter, take stock of all the experience gained and point in a direction. I feel like the mild addiction to posting unfinished ‘WIP’ work on instagram has to be interrupted for me to progress as an artist. One thing I believe that applies to all aspects of life, is that you should start from where you’re at now, with optimism and clarity and commit fully to the things that feel nourishing.
So what’s this mission, I’m asking myself? It’s been so long since I’ve asked myself this question, I’ve forgotten what the answer is. Put simply, now I’ve been mulling it over, it’s to develop a creative direction that is focused and satisfying, and to begin to tighten up my raison d’etre as and artist. This blog is about that process unfolding, where as on instagram, to my detriment I’m chasing those likes and views, here I’m recording who I actually am creatively in long form. My artistic endeavours have taken many directions over the years, but central to it all has been a love of drawing and sculpting, loose paintings and a curiosity with character, I have at least 50 full sketchbooks as proof. I want to forget art genres for now, forget hashtags and spend more time making art and recording where that takes me..