30 July 2009

Nearly came a cropper

The time is 4.38pm: I’ve been beavering away all morning and into the afternoon. Much of it spent on one of those top-secret paintings, trying to knock it into shape. During my time away from it, I had aninkling that I could try some chalk for a more malleable glow, and so I tentatively set to werk. It seems to work quite well.

As I took a break and sat pondering what next, it struck me: More contrast. I set to dry-brushing some black oil paint in from the edges. It has certainly made the figures glow. I’m not quite happy with it, but a big step has been taken. My only worry is that this will lead to me having to darken the whole of the background of ‘…SMILE’. Eek!

I took a stick of white chalk to the areas around ‘I THINK’ at first it looked like I’d made a grave mistake. I hoisted the canvas down the hatch, and propped it up outside. Hmmm, not quite how I’d hoped, but a bit of light brushing smoothed everything out. Can’t look back now I thought and I applied the same technique to the rest of the words. It made a pleasant change werking outside in the daylight.

Earlier today I nearly came a cropper coming up the ladder with too many things in my hands. “Idiot”, I thought, and made a note not to try that again.

Back on that top-secret one that is proving a tricky one to pin down and bring in to line. I feel like every thing I try just makes me even more unsure, and I just can’t see how to make it right.

23 July 2009

Thursday Painter (slight return)

My dad just dropped in to say hello. It took a bit of prompting before he clicked what the dates were all about. He also commented that I was quite prolific, seeing all the canvases stacked up around the cramped studio. But most of them are unfinished, I pointed out.

Yes, I am a prolific starter.

However, I am pleased to report that SPQR is finished, and signed:

Just have to hope the commissioners are pleased with it.

It feels like about 4pm, but it’s only 12.47. Like last week, I think I’m a bit frazzled from my marathon session of Wednesday Painting. I am also a little giddy having finished a painting. As far as I can recollect this is the first I’ve completed this year. A cause for celebration, you might think. Only now I’m not clear which to pay attention to in its absence. The top-secret paintings have all been werked to death this week, as has ‘…Smile’.

So now I’m back at the “rock face”, adding some extra magenta glow in the darkness . I take a few steps back, I can see the problem now, I must set the neon deeper down inside the crack. And this is what I set out to do… We have made progress, but it is not quite singing out from the depths just yet.

22 July 2009

squalid-looking flies basking on the fence

It is 3.55pm, I’ve just been doing one of those tense, close detail tasks, the kind that makes me hold my breath until I go blue in the face and start shaking uncontrollably. I had to scream to release the pressure.

Wildlife watch: Earlier this morning I stood and supped a cup of tea in the sun. I wasn’t the only one enjoying the warm rays – there was a gang of squalid-looking flies basking on the fence:

Also this morning, I brought SPQR out of stasis, and I’m pleased to report that after a couple of minor touch-ups, it looks ready to be unveiled to its benefactors. I will hang it in the house and consider it this evening, just to make sure.

I will be here for two days again this week. I have to say that I find this temporary set-up quite agreeable, it allows me to relax a bit more into the werk, rather than pressurising myself to get a certain amount done in one day.

There are top-secret werks to be done now, just as soon as I’ve had a cup of tea.

I’m back at werk, my brush loaded with Cobalt Blue and Cobalt Violet, painting up another violet-purple glow. It has some way to go before it reaches the level of SPQR, and there’s only a short time to get it there. But I cannot werk on a wet ground, so it must rest.

5.41pm: I’ve hung two paintings in the house – SPQR and that unnamed pink neon one. Time for a little pick-me-up – water with a drop of Herbas de Menorca chamomile liquor, it sounds vile but tastes a little like pastis. Not quite as good as pastis though.

Just been absorbed in another intense bout of activity: making the letters of ‘…Smile’ as white as can be. It is tense werk, so I feel I can allow myself another little pick-me-up: this time I opt for the Anis with some water. Much better, but that’s the last of the Anis.

It is 8.35pm: Following another period of white-glow rendering, I’ve carefully lifted the huge canvas down the ladder and it now sits in the hallway. It looks good, but not quite finished. I will pay it some viewing time this evening after tea, and werk out the next course of action.

My werk is done for today.

16 July 2009

they call me the Thursday Painter

Yes it is Thursday. Yes I am here. As far as I can tell there hasn’t been a massive disturbance in the space-time continuum; black holes haven’t imploded and sucked in the stars and planets of the solar system; this isn’t some groundhog day, stuck on repeat, déjà-vu scenario. I have just chosen to spend an extra day here in this increasingly filthy, eternally pokey, loft-cum-studio.

What has occurred since yesterday is a crisis of confidence. All that hard werk I did has been firmly punched in the nose this morning and it’s left me reeling, dizzy and sick. I think I’d better go and have a cup of tea…

I don’t really have much choice but to press on, I got as far as ‘I THINK OF’ last night, so I need to finish adding glow to the rest of the words. Then we’ll see where we are after that…

I’ve added the slightest hint of a shadow in places to suggest 3-Dimensionality… Hauled the behemoth canvas outside, noted where it needs extra glow emphasis… hauled it back up through the hatch… Time for lunch.

Looking back: yesterday was pretty intense, no wonder my brain feels a bit frazzled today. I’ve done a bit more werk on those top-secret things. And then went back to add that extra glow emphasis to ‘…Smile’. Not much time to do anything else except clean up and ship out.

15 July 2009

not time for hunny

I am on a pretty tight schedule with these top-secret paintings, so I have spent the entire morning werking with acrylic, diligently painting over the numerals, layer upon layer, over and over, again and again. I have lost count of the number of passes, somewhere around 7 or 8.

The joy of acrylic is that it dries so quickly. I have a special makeshift palette for acrylic paint (another tool of the artist):

[Sadly it is not yet time for hunny.]

I’d like to say that I never signed up for this obsessive, fine detail werk when I decided again to play the role of “the artist”. However, such behaviour remains with me since those art school days, when I would take a simple, usually repetitive, idea to fanatical lengths. Mostly I liked the idea of systems and the production-line ethic…

If only I had the patience and temperament to fulfil these intense lines of werk. Truth is I can be a testy little bugger and every so often I have to pull away and take a deep breath before I scream or my hand has a spasm and draws a violent, unhinged line across all that hard werk. Right now is one of those times. STEP AWAY FROM THE CANVAS. As soon as my hands are steady again I’ll turn back and continue.

Only now I’ve lost track of which numeral I had got to. The problem with acrylic is that it dries so quickly… Looks like I might as well werk from the start on this one.

It seems to happen when I get to the fourth character: I have a tendency to hold my breath whilst I werk, and it reaches a crux point, where I have to turn away, exhale and give my poor, fidgety eyes a break. Oh woe is me: the tortured artist.

ENOUGH. I paint over that number nine for the last time.

We’ve moved onto a layer of oil paint: Titanium white with a hint of lemon yellow. This is quickly smudged outwards to create the subtlest of glows. It is the first step of many steps on the third stage of the painting. (stage 1: creating a ground to werk on; stage 2: filling in and building up the numbers; stage 3: making it glow.) We have a long way to go, and not much time.

5.40pm. Time for a little pick me up: My slapdash version of a Pastis - a splash of Anis in a plastic cup of water – it tastes pretty good considering.

8.12pm. Yes I’m still here. Took half an hour break around 6pm, drank coffee, came back ready for more werk. Have been buzzed by a wasp and seen the biggest spider. Got to get on, there’s painting to be done.

8.30pm. I think we can call it a day now, a proper days werk under my belt.
[For the record, I started at 10am.]

8 July 2009

top secret

Wednesday Painter reporting in at 2.41pm: I have been werking away on three top secret paintings. Choosing fonts; drafting them onto canvas; filling them in; masking them off; painting in the surrounding negative space…

And most of this whilst on my knees.

I give the old knees a break and stand up at the “rock face” for a while. I am *almost* pleased with where it’s got to. Not long now.

Back on the top secret werks: I spend some happy moments scuzzing 2 of them up, painting roughly over, then knocking back; pouring white spirit down them, then water, then more paint. I finish with a faint layer of white acrylic to knock everything back. My hands finally look more like I’ve done a good days werk. But it’s not over yet…

More oil paint - a dirty, diluted grey - brushed on, then wiped off straight away. Followed by a wash of watered-down white acrylic: wipe it down and stand back.

My werk here is done for now.

1 July 2009

a broken vow

The loft is pretty humid today, stifling, still air, and a real lack of oxygen. Keep getting really short of breath. I’ve been drinking plenty of water, but that’s just making me need the toilet every half an hour. Excuse me: duty calls…

At present I am werking on ‘…Smile’. It calls for more glow, and I dutifully respond.

Post-lunch: God it’s even hotter in here. I’ve switched off the main light, and I’m werking by daylight lamp. The crow has been given a bit more definition.

Now, I know I vowed that I wouldn’t start any new paintings until some of the current ones were completed, but I’ve had to break that vow. I’ve just begun a set of three commemorative date pieces. I’m just building up a ground on two of them, before I add the numbers.

I think the heat is starting to affect the computer. Every word I type takes about 30 seconds to appear on screen. Lucky for me (and the Mac) I have an engagement with Big Star and the Tindersticks tonight, which means I need to leave early. So off I go…