Posts Tagged ‘blues’

Blackpaint 2

December 1, 2009

My last painting is hanging on the front room wall, where I stick them to see if they are finished or not.  It looks like a caricature of Elvis, with long, drooping, backswept side-whiskers and a black and grey whale emerging (escaping?) from his left ear.  It’s in blue, black and orange and there’s a Turner red spot in it.  I think I’ll call it “Sitting on top of the world”.

I’m making little progress with my other one; bright but somehow dead red, black, dirty grey with white sweeps.  As yet, it has no discernable characteristics; maybe a dog’s head?

This illustrates the haphazard nature of my “method”, which boils down to  slap the paint on and hope that it will resolve itself into a striking image and/or an effective combination of colours.

I suppose there must be loads of painters who work in this sort of way; the results can be surprising and there are advantages and drawbacks.  the main advantage is the sense of freedom you have in marking a fresh canvas.  You’re going to change it anyway, paint over, mess it about so you have few inhibitions.  Also, you soon develop a sort of “look” or style.  There must be something in your head that makes you make marks and put together colours in a similar way, if you have no “preconceived object”.

This gives you reassurance and supplies your work with a sort of spurious integrity.  in other words, repetition and familiarity validate your stuff, if only to yourself.  It works the same with music; Mahler’s 9th has that bit that sounds like “Abide With Me” and there is another Mahler symphony that definitely has “I’ll be seeing you”.  My cassette of Caruso singing the Improvviso from Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier” has a snatch of “Over the Rainbow”; it helps you remember it and listen out for it and, I think, to like it.   

Soon however, you hit the drawbacks.  Setting out without a plan is radical in one aspect, but can lead to  conservatism in another.  If you are old and set in your ways, your ideas of “beauty” are  fossilised and you can end up with paintings that look like those of your heroes (not as good, of course).  Making a plan, doing a draft could force you out of habits and take you in different directions.

Having said that, I read the other day or maybe it was on TV,  that Paul Auster thinks a book to an extent “writes itself”.  Francis Bacon always claimed not to make sketches – a lot of his stuff was taken from photographs of course – and he said that accident played a major part in his painting.

On Bacon, John Richardson is bringing out a book which claims he couldn’t do hands or feet (must check that).  He didn’t go to art school and it reminds me of Robert Hughes’ diatribes against Schnabel and Basquiat – and, at a remove, of those crackpots who say Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays because he hadn’t been to university.  it also reminds me of that great bit in The Monty Python Bok, where there is the Durer drawing of the hands with several duff versions crossed out, and “Damn, damn, damn” scrawled on it.

Richardson also says that Bacon did his best paintings when he was in sado-masochistic relationships with Peter Lacey and George Dyer and that he went off when he “settled down” later; the old tortured (literally)artist theory.

Criticism has gone downhill lately; in an Observer review the other week, Rachel Cusk (or Cooke, can’t remember) referred to the artist Conrad Shawcross as “adorable”.

What I’ve learned  this week about art is from Hughes’ “Nothing if not Critical”; one way in which Lautrec and others differed from Impressionists  was in having a line around figures.  this was borrowed from a form of ceramic work called cloisonne, which had sections divided by a strip of metal.  I suppose it’s obvious that Impressionists (effects of light and all that) wouldn’t put a thick line round things – but it was new to me, primitive as I am.

Listening to: Hot Fingers, Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang, and Black Snake Moan, Blind Lemon Jefferson.

“Some black snake been sucking my rider’s tongue”.

Blackpaint, 01.12.09

I am Blackpaint

November 30, 2009

Why Blackpaint?  Because I’m using a lot at the moment, sweeping it around my canvases as if I were Kline or Motherwell, but without the vision.  Unlike them, I use it for cheap dramatic effect.  I like blue too, especially Prussian, as well as blues music – but somebody beat me to Bluepaint, and Charcoal too, so Blackpaint it is.

I paint sort of abstract stuff; I say “sort of” because they usually come out looking like something – just nothing on Earth (except abstract paintings).  I usually paint in the early hours, mostly sober.  Canvas on the floor, I slap, or actually tip acrylic paint on and mix colours on the canvas.  I cut shapes into the paint with charcoal which splinters and sifts about, dirtying the painting up.  I find this gives it a bit of “bottom”, stops the colours being too pretty or vivid; gives it a sort of Englishness that goes with our light.  I think Adrian Searle remarked on that in relation to early Hockney (again, no comparison intended!)

Sometimes, I scribble and mash into the canvas with oil pastel when all else fails to produce something viable; but I’ve found you have to be careful not to paint over oil pastel with acrylic later, because it cracks like leather (looks quite good, actually) and scrapes off really easily if, for instance, you stack canvases against each other.

I try to paint every day, but I don’t sell much; maybe £1000 a year.  I sell cheap – the most I’ve made on a single canvas is £250.  Luckily, I’ve got just enough to live on and pay the bills even if I don’t sell; I couldn’t buy paints and canvases though.

I don’t care much about getting good prices, but I like to sell because it means someone has been prepared to part with money to hang my stuff on their wall – I need that validation, being self-taught.  The only training I’ve had since leaving school some considerable time ago is a life drawing and painting class once a week.

Being a Londoner,  I’m up to the Tates and the Nat and the Hayward all the time.  I’ve seen the Ruscha and the Baldessari and the Balka but not the Kienholz prostitutes yet – maybe tomorrow afternoon?

The first time I went into the Balka box was a Saturday afternoon and it was full of screaming and posturing schoolkids and foreign students, every second one with an illuminated mobile phone  held high; apparently the artist didn’t want to dictate how people were to behave in his installation.  The second time was first thing on a Wednesday morning, not many people about and this time, a notice  asking no mobiles etc.  Groped forwards in a darkness that swallowed you up, cliche I know, but I watched a couple disappearing as they went in, as if into a cloud of soot; very eerie.  Then inevitably, my eyes adjusted and the blackness became just dimness, and the effect receded.

Also inevitably, since the artist is from Cracow, there are associations with Auschwitz and the box looks a bit like an enormous cattle truck…    

The other thing I wanted to say is also crashingly obvious (but that has never stopped me before); how a picture that you love one day can leave you stone-cold on another.  I’m thinking of the Joan Mitchell in the Tate Modern – one day, very complex, nuanced, absorbing, subtle; another day, a depressing mass of greys and creams.  Or the Asger Jorn with the little globular figures smiling out at you ; some days, the colours are fresh and bright and sing to you; others, they are dull, dirty, livid and depressing.  Sometimes too, you have to see them from a distance, say, across the gallery; that Motherwell in the surrealism bit is brilliant from a distance but nothing much close to. 

But the Picassos always blast out from the walls – the Cubisty one in same room looks to be climbing out!

In the paper (Observer) yesterday, story about Kieron Williamson, seven year old who started painting landscapes and churches and harbours a year ago and sold out an exhibition in 15 minutes, making £17,000; some bidders were reduced to tears by the paintings.  Compared to the boy Picasso by the gallery owner.  his father is a freelance dealer.  Reminds me of that little girl in the States who was painting abstracts a few years back, and selling for thousands – but this time it’s “proper” pictures that look like something.

Anyway – I have to stop now.  Back tomorrow. 

Listening to Cannonball Blues by Furry Lewis;  Viola Lee Blues by Cannon’s Jug Stompers; Trinity River Blues by TBone Walker.

“I wrote a  letter, I mailed it in the, mailed it in the air indeed Lord,

I wrote a letter, I mailed it in the air,

So you know by that I have a friend somewhere”.

Blackpaint 29.11.09