Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Life Drawing in St Ives

When I was down in St Ives recently, I went to life drawing classes at the St Ives School of Painting, which is always a huge pleasure.  The classes are held in the old Porthmeor Studios, which have been refurbished, but which were originally fisherman's net lofts.

You learn not only from your tutor, but through the model, the other students, and the energy created by the class.  A good life drawing class is where everybody is giving - model, students, tutor, setting -  and you put that all that energy into the drawing.

Luckily, we had a great model, and I thought it would be useful to show you the whole series of drawings (even the rubbish ones) so you can see all the drawings from a single class.  

These are mostly 10-minute poses, so you have little time to get down all the main information. It's all about the sense and weight of the pose, what it feels like, rather than detail, so it's very broad, expressive mark-making.  We're not talking HB pencils here.

I'll talk about the materials another time, but for now, here's the drawings.  They are all done on buff-coloured A1 sheets of paper (that's 8 x A4 size).  So they're big.

(The black shapes at the sides of some of the drawings are the clips holding them on to my board.)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - Cultural Icon?

Well, I couldn't let today go by without mentioning the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, which is being billed by the BBC as reflecting all our social history, forming the golden casket of all our collective childhoods, and generally being the most wonderful thing ever to happen on television ever (even when they cancelled it for years).

Here's the original, Doctor I M Foreman* himself, William Hartnell, in the first series with grandaughter Susan (second left) and companions Ian and Barbara.

Whatever happened to Susan...?

Anyway, last night there was a programme about the genesis of the programme, called An Adventure in Time and Space.  Written by Mark Gatiss in his usual somewhat self-indulgent style, it told the story of how Doctor Who came to be made as a children's programme for the BBC back in the wibbly-wobbly black and white days of 1963 (and unfortunately screened for the first time on the same day as President Kennedy was assassinated).  

Doctor Who: An Adventure In Space and Time
William Hartnell (David Bradley) and Carole Ann Ford (Claudia Grant). Photograph: Hal Shinnie/BBC

It didn't make any huge revelations, and was typically Gatiss-moist-eyed about the nostalgia of BBC as a creative powerhouse.  There were a number of lingering shots of the round architectural form of Television Centre that made it look like Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

However, the programme did also show how the BBC (acting as a microcosm for 60s society) was sexist (in its attitude towards female producer Verity Lambert), racist (in its attitudes towards director Waris Hussein), but suprisingly, not ageist.  It put grandfather-figure, William Hartnell, at the centre of its new cutting-edge children's programme.  How's that for a revolutionary forward-thinking idea?  


Hartnell was, of course, only 55, but looked 75, and his own complex character and hard-living lifestyle led to crotchety, unpredictable, idiosyncratic behaviour that made him both charming and exasperating.  Perfect as the template for the alien doctor. 

However, it also led to an inability to remember lines, which led in a strange way to the longevity and success of the programme - in having to replace Hartnell in 1966, the BBC had to invent one of the core concepts of Doctor Who - that of regeneration.  

Thus Doctor Who could continue, rather than just being a footnote in BBC history, and Who could tap in to a whole rich seem of traditional folklore and mythic legends of rebirth and renewal, such as the Green Man and Robin Hood (cf the 80s series Robin of Sherwood, with its change of lead actor).  This mutability means that it can be an ever-changing mirror to reflect and comment on the ever-changing social and political culture in which it exists.  

After An Adventure in Space and Time, there was a showing of the first 4 episodes, An Unearthly Child.  

I'd never seen them before, and they made for very interesting, if slow-paced viewing.  Originally, there was a continued adventure across several 25-minute episodes, like a serial.  These centred around introducing 15 year old Susan Foreman, her grandfather the Doctor, and Susan's teachers Ian and Barbara.  They all get transported back to prehistoric times and are held captive by a tribe who want them to create fire.  

There are some very lengthy discussions about fire, which is seen as a desirable necessity, but also as a threat by some members of the tribe. The holder of the secret of fire is the one who holds the power (fire therefore being a metaphor for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis - big topical stuff for young minds).

Whilst at times it seemed as though nothing was happening, it was still riveting from an 'I'm actually watching the very first episodes of Doctor Who!!' squee point of view, and also from relief at having plots which were good, plain, involving adventures, not convoluted ego trips for writers (Moffat!! (shakes fist)) .  

The best bit was when Ian put his hand on the Tardis, and felt it hum and vibrate.  "It's alive!" he exclaims.  Oh, yes it is.  And that tiny tactile scene and those two words introduced a massive central idea - that the Tardis is a character, but also a metaphor - it's like Spenser's House of Alma in The Faerie Queene.  And it's like all of us, bigger on the inside.

Steve Hill Doctor Who Image Archive

There was also a lovely piece of dialogue from the Doctor to Ian, "If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?"  That's poetry.  

It was surprisingly violent.  However, the scariness of Doctor Who has been a common thread through several generations of children, who can see their deepest fears and untangeable uncertainties about the world around them displayed on screen in visible, nameable ways - a cyberman, a dalek - and then explore the ways that they can overcome them. The Doctor is worth the monsters. 

At one point (episode 4) there is a wrestling scene where two semi-naked cavemen fight together in the firelight.  Which made me wonder was Ken Russell amongst the 10 million viewers in 1963?  Because it reminded me mightily of the firelit wrestling scene in the 1969 film Women in Love between cavemen-like Oliver Reed and hirsute Alan Bates.

Now there's a link I never thought I'd make...

Tomorrow it's The Day of the Doctor.  Most amazing television event ever or huge let-down, like every Who Christmas special since The Christmas Invasion?  

Well, it has Piper and Tennant in it, so it can't be all bad....

* The Tardis is hiding in the junk yard of I M Foreman, 76 Totter's Lane.  Ian then addresses the Doctor as 'Doctor Foreman'.  I M Foreman - I am for man.  Doctor for Man.  The doctor who heals mankind.

The real name of the Doctor is 'hidden in plain sight', and I M Foreman is not only suitably Messianic, but could explain why he's always hanging about planet Earth.  Well, it's as good a theory as any...and by the way yes, I know none of this is actually real.

Sculpture Class....

Back at my sculpture class, it was all going well for my 'wave' piece.  It's a metal armiture in a herculite base, with chicken wire covered in plaster bandage and herculite making up the wave form.

When it dried, I was pretty pleased with the general shape.

However, once I started painting and staining it, it all went a bit wrong.

There's various colours of ink, wax and some aluminium leaf in there. 

It's meant to look reminiscent of a piece of seaweed, and the shape's really pleasing.  But it didn't turn out how I expected at all.  It looked awful.  So I kept on working in it, rubbing it back and waxing.

The problems came with the inside facet of the scupture.  What to do with that?  It was all looking as if this was some sort of piece of army-issue camouflage art.  Yuk.

Then my tutor suggested using the towel that I was leaning on to line the inside.  Suddenly, it all came together...


So next week, making a towel out of latex...

Standing Room Only in the Studio...

Because of all the work for my London show that's currently in the studio all at once, things are getting a little crowded...  and there's still more to paint!

Currently, the paintings are drying before going off to the framers in groups to get set into their bespoke gilded frames.  Then they'll come back to get labelled and wrapped.  After that, they get loaded up into the art carrier's van and then off they go on their 500 mile journey southwards.

The next time I see them, they'll either be hanging in the Business and Design Centre in Islington, or hanging on the walls of the gallery in St James's when I go along to my preview in February.

Monday, 18 November 2013

London Solo Show

Here's a date for your diaries...

The date for the preview of my solo show in London next year is Wednesday 12th February 2014 from 5.30-8pm.  

As usual, it's at Duncan R Miller Fine Arts, in Bury Street, St James's, London.

Everyone welcome!

There will be the usual full-colour catalogue available, so if you'd like a copy and an invitation to the preview, then just drop me a line at the usual address.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Free Pass to Cambridge City Art Fair!

A revamped Cambridge City Art Fair opens on Friday for the weekend, this time handily housed in the town centre (The Guildhall in the Market Square).

I've got a new batch of paintings on Stand 7, the Lime Tree Gallery, so look out for these if you're going!

Across the Sand, Bass Rock (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Clifftop Flowers near Carrick-a-Rede (Oil, 10 x 10)

Montbretia by Stormy Sea, Portstewart Oil, 10 x 10)
 Bluebells at Camusdarrach (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

If you'd like to go, you can download a complimentary 3-day pass to the Fair (worth £10), courtesy of the Lime Tree Gallery.  Just go HERE.

If you do go to the Fair, I'd love to hear your feedback!

Cambridge City Art Fair runs 11am-6pm on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th November, and 11am-4pm on Sunday 17th November. Find out more about the Fair at their website HERE. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

RGI Opens

I was at the opening of the RGI (Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts) at the weekend, finally back in its old home of the McLellan Galleries In Sauchiehall Street for the first time in 10 years.

(For those of you who don't know, the annual RGI exhibition is THE show to get in to in the west coast of Scotland.  It's an open submission process, so you are selected by your peers, possibly bought by the public, perhaps picked up by a gallery and maybe even awarded a prize - so its an important event in the Scottish art calendar.)

Here's my painting on the wall.

That's it at the top....

 There, RIGHT at the top...

There we go. 

It's Tower Bridge with HMS Belfast, in case you can't quite make it out.

Apart from the McLellan Galleries looking fantastic, and finally being used for the purpose for which they were intended, the show has certainly gone up a notch as well.  I can't say that I saw any paintings or sculptures which I would have questioned the inclusion of.  There were some that I didn't like, and some I didn't understand, but that's a different thing.

So if you get the chance to go along - please do.  It's on until December 8th (closed Mondays).  And take the opportunity to once again enjoy the beautiful big, open exhibition rooms of the McLellan.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Stormy Weather at Eastbourne

Here's the painting that I did after visiting Eastbourne recently during the big storm.

Storm Swell, Eastbourne Pier (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

This is the view from the pier looking down to Beachy Head.

Towards Beachy Head (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

And this is looking the other way from the pier, down the beach towards Bexhill on Sea in the distance.

Storm Swell, Towards Bexhill on Sea (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

Armistice Day

Today is Armistice Day, and next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Two of my grandfathers fought in World War I, and as I've written about here. my paternal grandfather William survived a gas attack in the trenches in 1916, and went on to work after the War for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as a monumental mason.

It's quite something to think that someone who is so close to me in terms of family - my grandfather - was born so very long ago - 1887.

He carved not only war memorials such as this one at Little Common in Sussex

but also carved some of the 54,896 names on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, which honours those who were killed, but who have no graves.  

As you can imagine, this would be a very sobering and mentally difficult task for someone who had survived the war, but who had seen all the horror of those friends and comrades who had been killed.  It must have filled him with guilt for surviving, but also with a resentment that his life and creativity was spent tied up with all that death, and that it never went away.  The shadow of the war and its effects (mental and physical) hung over him for the rest of his life.

I am hoping to go with a group of friends to Ypres next year to see the Menin Gate, and also to visit the grave of my great-uncle.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Shona Barr at Flying Colours

This is a painting from my sister-in-law's solo show, which is on just now in London at the Flying Colours Gallery.

Shona Barr, Dahlias and Cosmos (oil on canvas 36" x 36")

Grayson Perry - The Reith Lectures

If you've any interest in contemporary art and what it is to be an artist, then I highly recommend that you have a listen to Grayson Perry's four Reith Lectures recently broadcast on Radio 4, which are available now to listen to on i-Player.  You can also download a transcript.

Photograph: Richard Ansett/BBC

Usually handily packaged under the moniker 'transvestite potter', Perry is witty, intelligent, articulate, knowledgable and funny, and talks huge amounts of illuminating sense about art, the nature of art, and what it is to be an artist. 

Tune in to the first lecture HERE.  It's a thought-provoking treat.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

New Stylish Home for "Cottage near Portree"

I've been contacted by the owners of one of my paintings to share pictures of it in its new designer home.  Here it is at 48 Rydale in London.
The painting is "Cottage near Portree", with a plum and moon frame. I think it looks pretty stunning against the bold, black walls.
It fits right in to the sleek, modern, minimal interior, adding an organic splash of colour.  It's great to see where my paintings end up and to see how they compliment their new surroundings and bring pleasure to their owners.

Despite the fact that the subject of the painting is (somewhat ironically) a traditional croft in the middle of a large open space, the house where it is now situated is poles apart, being a cutting-edge spanking new self-build in London, squeezed onto a corner plot that used to have garages on it.    You really couldn't get two more different homes.
Awkward and tiny, Adam and Shauna could see the potential that no-one else could – and they have created a clever curved three bedroom house over 110m² which features stylish interior spaces (designed by the couple themselves) which make maximum use of the small footprint, a secluded external space and a highy efficient stick-built construction. Grey water recycling and a green roof, as well as triple glazing, complete this masterclass in efficiency.
- See more at: http://www.homebuildingawards.co.uk/glabay-and-ohandley-residence#sthash.lZ1wsg0Z.dpuf
Awkward and tiny, Adam and Shauna could see the potential that no-one else could – and they have created a clever curved three bedroom house over 110m² which features stylish interior spaces (designed by the couple themselves) which make maximum use of the small footprint, a secluded external space and a highy efficient stick-built construction. Grey water recycling and a green roof, as well as triple glazing, complete this masterclass in efficiency.
- See more at: http://www.homebuildingawards.co.uk/glabay-and-ohandley-residence#sthash.lZ1wsg0Z.dpuf
48 Rydale is up for an award for the way that it makes use of a tiny amount of space to create an uber-sleek and stylish three-bedroom home with an outdoor area as well.  Read more about it HERE.
Thanks to Adam and Shauna for getting in touch to tell me about it!  Good luck with the competition.

If anyone else has photos of my paintings, then please do get in touch - I'd love to see them!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Into the RGI

Good news!  I've had a painting accepted for the RGI (Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts) annual exhibition!

Tower Bridge with HMS Belfast (Oil, 16 x 40)

The exhibition runs from 10 November - 8 December, and is back in its proper home at the McLellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.