Blackpaint 98

Roger Hilton

Hilton once drew up a list of rules for painting, some of which were useful, some not.  What to make of: “Paint as if you were painting a wall”, for instance? 

However, one rule was absolutely right, for me anyway, and it was “If you have a full brush and you have made a mark, do not think you have to use the paint on your brush, wash it out.”  I always remember this, just after using the paint on my brush and wishing I hadn’t done it.

In the spirit of Hilton, then, here are some rules I sometimes observe, both for painting and looking:

  • Spoil the canvas, make some marks – you can always paint over.
  • If, like me, you like to shake blotches of paint straight on to the canvas, use a controlled, repeated wrist flick, rather than a violent chopping motion from the shoulder (although the resulting chunky splat!! can be quite satisfying).  Ensure all completed canvases in the area are turned to the wall first.
  • Completed canvases should in any case be turned to the wall, so that when you look at your new effort, the eye isn’t choked by the riot of colours coming from your other work.
  • Look at your picture from the corner of your eye, or an acute angle; can you perceive a definite structure?  Are there good bits?  This doesn’t always work –  if it’s composed of spidery all-over patterns they will merge, of course.
  • Does it look better from far away?  If you think it’s rubbish, it may be that it’s a surface thing.  I’ve found this with Gorky, recently (see Blackpaint…)
  • Does it have a definite orientation, a top and bottom?  Sometimes, just reversing it works.  I suppose this only works with abstract stuff – although Baselitz turned his pictures upside-down.. unless of course he painted them that way… 
  • Leave it on the wall for a week before deciding to paint over it; sometimes they improve with age.
  • If it really is bad and you decide to paint it over, look hard first to see if there are any sections worth saving.

There’s only eight here; I know convention demands ten but I’m an anarchist, so I decided to leave the other two out.

Here’s the latest:

Listening to Robert Johnson, Me and the Devil Blues.

“I want you to bury my body down by the highway side (*2)

(spoken) Babe, I don’t care where you bury me when I’m dead an’ gone,

So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus an’ ride”.



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