Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Three Pieces

These three pieces are now mounted in their boxes and on the studio wall It only remains to polish the actual figures and add a protective coating. Reading from left to right they are; Cruciform, Untitled Female Figure and Untitled Male Figure. The smaller box is ten inches (25 cm) tall and the other two are seventeen inches (42.5 cm) tall.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cathedra update

Painted some of the component parts today and set it up as a sub-assembly to see how its going to look. The black box it all fits into stands 33 inches tall. The figure that will sit on the throne is yet to be carved. A piece of limewood is sitting on the bench waiting. Meanwhile here is a clay maquette of the figure sitting on a corrugated cardboard mock-up of the throne.

I've painted the backgrounds for some of the other pieces, all of which are at various stages of construction. This is a sub-assembly of a so far untitled piece.

"Untitled Male" is its provisional name. A reaching figure holding an ovoid form (egg?) aloft. I plan on colouring the "egg" to appear as if glowing with some sort of energy but having seen it so far with only the white primer I wonder if white might be better. I'll have to have a think about that. The figure is made from obeche wood and is as yet unpolished. That will be the next job with this particular piece.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


At the moment I have six sculptures in various stages of completion. None of them actually are completed as I spend a little bit of time on each. They are to be carvings mounted in boxes and there is to be a painting or sometimes a construction forming a backdrop to set the theme for that particular piece. One of them is a reaching figure I featured earlier here.
Most of them have been fairly straightforward, carve the figure, design the backdrop and paint it fit it all in the box. But one in particular offers up a challenge at every stage. As each snag comes up I have to put the work to one side and let it stew for a while. The answer always seems to come up at three o'clock in the morning! But so far each obstacle has been overcome in this way. The piece is to be called "Cathedra" when its completed. Shown here is the working drawing I have up on the studio wall.

A cathedra is the bishop's throne in a cathedral which is why the building is so named. There are similar thrones in monasteries for the abbot or prior. As the drawing shows, I have a figure seated on a throne (cathedra) in front of a backdrop of Gothic arches.I got the idea from visits to several cathedrals, especially Exeter with its high ornate throne. Strangely the one at Canterbury is quite a plain affair. There is a very old example, the Frid Stool, at Hexham Abbey in Northumberland.
Making this should have been quite straightforward and probably would have been had I decided to simply make a painting as a backdrop. But this is a sculpture. I want to show this in 3D and am constructing the perpendicular style arches.Getting each component to fit properly has not been without its problems. It is all starting to come together now but has taken far longer than expected. I sometimes think it might have been easier to do a construction of a complete cathedral rather than just a component of it. The whole thing is to fit inside a box whose internal dimensions are 4" (10 cm) wide by 32" (80 cm) tall. The entire piece to be wall mounted. I'll post a picture of the completed work when its done.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Guardians

A commentary on some of my work with special reference to a sculptural group in 2009.
Myth, fairy-tale and legend form the background of a series of  works which also examines the body language of ritual.

“The Guardians” is a group of sculptural figures arranged in a circle. Currently only in model or maquette form but ideally should be life-size or even larger, possibly one and a half times this. I envisage the group placed in a  relatively remote but not inaccessible place such as a small clearing in a forest and the piece approached via a path taking an indirect route to it. See also this link.

The outer circle are a group of people with a shared understanding, or knowledge. The six who make up the majority of the group are presided over by a seventh whose hood signifies her as some form of priestess; she has the role of leader, messenger, servant and trustee of the group as need arises. She is also the collective voice or mouthpiece. Their purpose is to be a collective unity to protect a sacred truth. Hence the title, for guardians they indeed are. The kneeling figure is the stranger at the gate. The gate being the gap in the foreground of the circle as viewed here.

The Stranger at the Gate
One who approaches the circle. In a life-sized sculpture this could well be the one who visits the sculpture. Who is this stranger who approaches the circle? An uninvited stranger could be on the one hand, a chosen one for some ritual whether as prospective sacrificial victim or slave of the group while on the other hand may be a supplicant requesting help or again, may wish to become a part of the group.

The invited stranger adopts the same body language but in this case the group have need of the stranger’s services. An invited stranger may well serve the group but not necessarily become a member.

The Numbers of the Group
Seven is a magic number as is five, three and nine. An odd-numbered group has an even number of members plus one. The balance and its fulcrum. Thus an addition would create an imbalance as there would be no fulcrum figure. Three, five, seven; but what of the nine?
Nine has the potential for imbalance, - it is three times three, or thee groups of which one is the fulcrum which would be a troika. Who leads the troika? Nine is the larger number and should be the stronger with a cube root of three. So what about three? Three has one fatal flaw. The saying “Two’s company and three’s a crowd carries some merit. Two strong figures and one weak. Two for a one-to-one unity, the third is rejected or at best, sidelined.
Tolkien took this further in The Lord of the Rings:-
             “Three rings for the elven-kings under the sky,
              Three rings for the dwarf-lords in their 
                                   halls of stone,
              Three rings for all mortals doomèd  to die
              And one ring to find them and keep them as one.”

A tenth item to control the flawed thrice three. Thus we have an even number, ten, which is fatally flawed for should the stranger be malevolent, then control of the One will control the potentially unstable nine; and herein lies the irony. Darkness rising. The foundation of all good-versus-evil stories.
A small digression from this little numbers game:-
The forces of evil are numerically strong while the forces of good are numerically weak. The evil, or “dark” side soon gain the advantage but for one fatal flaw. If that tenth particle is removed  i.e. the dark side decimated, then the forces of good will prevail.
Now to look at the other numbers of five and seven.
A group of seven consists of two trios and a leader. Two’s company, three’s a crowd? Set them in a circle. Three couplets where each member compliments its opposite. Each of the opposites find stability in the fulcrum. Look for example at the Seven Sisters or the Corona Borealis. Such energy passes through the fulcrum to focus on the centre. Stone circles appear to work on this principle. This group of seven has not only a numerical stability but a sense of balance that appeals to the aesthetic felt at an instinctive level. However, such a septimal arrangement has a more inviting aesthetic where a gateway exists opposite the fulcrum where a visitor can either remain or go on to the centre.
Five is not so inviting. The five points of the pentacle have no central focal point though entry may be less daunting than its sevenfold equivalent. It begs the question, - is the energy of a pentimal formation defensive/protective? That is, is its purpose to protect those within and focus its energies on keeping malicious forces at bay while conversely, is the focus of a septimal formation in the centre energising those within?

The Human Factor
So far the numerology and geometry has been discussed to set the stage for a mythical drama. It takes the human aspect to shape events. There are those who wish to be left in peace to get on with their lives, those who will defend that right and act for the good of all and there are those who wish to have it all to themselves and control everything and everyone. Usually it is the one who seeks total control has turned away from his fellow beings and alienated him/herself. As such a one becomes more powerful, that very power has to be used to bend other’s will to this end. A titanic struggle of opposing forces ensues and (usually) it takes an innocent or naïf to be the one to tip the scales so that evil is vanquished and good prevails.

The Guardians? They stand still, and watch, and while Middle-Earth remains in harmony with itself there is no need for action.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Healer

Regular readers may recall seeing this  image as part of the second picture posted here. This drawing  is 40 x 50 cm. and is intended to be developed into a painting at some point. Actually I'm having to plan what I do and when, in the studio just now. At the moment I'm  making a number of carvings. That generates a lot of dust. Not a good environment to make paintings in, so such work is on "hold" for the time being.

So, what about this image, The Healer?

I am in two minds whether to call it that or give it the Greek title Therapeia (Θεραπέια) or even The Comforter. The healer not only heals or helps to heal, physical wounds but also emotional and spiritual ones too. While physical damage may require the application of dressings, medication and nursing care, emotional healing and dare I say, spiritual healing responds at a much deeper level through contact, communication and compassion for ones fellow beings regardless of who they may be. Sometimes it is enough to just listen, and be seen to listen. Response is not always necessary. Indeed the healer may be quite unable to offer practical advice but the fact they have taken the trouble to care is often enough.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Of Angels...

While I've been working on this.....
.....I had some Gregorian Chant from Prinknash Abbey playing on my old tape player. This particular recording has the plainsong in Latin on one side and English on the other. It was a particular chant about an angel kneeling at the altar praying alongside the singer. It conjured up an image of a religious at his/her devotions being joined by an angel, not as a superior being but an equal.The Roman Catholic Church has some beautifully worded liturgy involving angels from those guarding us as we sleep to conveying us to the heavenly grace after death.The French 19th century painter, William Adolphe Bourgereau illustrates this well.
 It is a romantic image of its day but I like it none-the-less for that.
So what are these angels? They feature very strongly in the psyche. They can be manifested as winged beings or as in the Far East, Bodhisattvas.
The word "angel" stems from the Greek αγγελός, - angelo, meaning "messenger". Hermes was one such in Ancient Greek legend, he had winged feet and may be the forerunner of our current era image of a winged being. As an interesting aside Nike of Samothrake is a winged being but purports to being a deity rather than an angelos.

But  angels are more than mere messengers. Some act as guardians as depicted in the story of Tobit and the Angel , while others serve as celestial musicians or even as warriors.
Some of us like to believe we have a personal guardian angel. This idea is given credence in Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius". The words of this great choral work are taken from a poem written by Cardinal John Henry Newman . In it he describes how an angel had been given personal charge over the soul's safety and was responsible for bringing it to meet God. The link is to a lengthy poem but worth taking the time to read.

Do we have personal guardian angels? Do they even exist?

I have known times when it seemed there was someone/thing watching over me. There have been times when I've done something that was not quite right and sensed a watching being overcome with sadness or disappointment. Things have happened where I should not have survived, yet did. There have been times when I felt vulnerable and somehow sensed a re-assuring presence. I'm sure I'm not alone in all this. Do we have personal angels? I don't know.
Do they exist? Science can now demonstrate that much of what we take to be holy manifestations are in fact mental constructs manufactured by our own brains. Perhaps it is a survival mechanism. Perhaps the scientists are right, but when we look deeper, after all the imagery has been reasoned away, there's still something. 
"Photea, Angel of Light" from my sketchbook. An idea that may evolve into a painting as part of the myth and legend series.
A figment of my imagination. And yet, and yet.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That "challenge" and other work

"The Offering".
The carving stage of this challenging piece now complete and repairs to shrinkage cracks done. I've left it like this for the time being while I get on with other stuff. I want to be absolutely sure the wood has at last settled down before moving on to waxing and polishing. Before that, there's more work needed on the repair itself to make it a bit less visible. It has stood in this corner of the studio over a week now and so far its looking good.

Currently, I'm making a series of figures intended to sit in wall-mounted boxes like the one shown here and featured with other work on my website. This particular piece called "Introspection" was shown in a recent exhibition, Narrative Pieces. The box is about 16" tall.
One  piece I'm making is a female figure standing as if leaning with her back to the wall, one foot resting against it and her arms extended upwards. The clay maquette will give some idea of what I have in mind.
Carving started in the middle of last week and has kept me busy for now.
At around 3-00 pm. today I stopped for a cup of tea. Actually I take several cups of tea during my time in the studio. I think its safe to say Luneside Studios runs on tea!  I didn't merely stop to have a quick slurp, I needed to step back and assess how things are going. Much of the time this figure has been worked on lying down so I arranged it in a standing position by fixing it to an upright post. An anglepoise lamp served to provide some side-lighting.

She stands some 12" (30 cm) tall and her extended arms make the entire figure about 14" (35 cm) tall. In the context shown here she looks more like a martyr from Renaissance imagery than the  more peaceful image I have in mind. There's a fair bit of work to be done yet.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Journey to the Temple

It is early Sunday morning and three of us make the car journey to Rochdale Zen Retreat, a temple within the OBC tradition. As the address on the link shows, Rochdale is something of a misnomer. It was originally sited there but subsequently moved to Horwich, just north of Manchester and is now at Little Hoole, just south of Preston.
My friend drove me from Lancaster down the M6 and we made a detour across the Fylde to pick up another friend at Lytham.
It was a lovely and clear if cold morning as we journeyed there. Lapwings  gathered in the low-lying fields and overhead we saw two large skeins of swans making their almost casual flight inland in characteristic vee- formation. A low flying heron flapped lazily  in the opposite direction only a few feet above the ground following the riverbank. The Fylde is relatively flat but one or two low lying hills that projected above the rising ground mist gave the impression of something much larger.
After picking up the third member our little trio  headed for the Ribble estuary and skirting the outer edges of Preston entered another area of flatland, the Leyland Hundred. This is ancient flatland whose history stretches back to Saxon times and is indeed recorded in the Domesday Book. It extends almost as far south as Liverpool. Our destination at Little Hoole is in a delightful rural setting. Its hard to believe it sits right on Preston's urban doorstep.
After meditation, a Dharma talk and a cup of tea we headed back home in the afternoon sunshine stopping at a drive-in MacDonald's near a marina on the Ribble . Tea and sandwiches completed a pleasant and uplifting day out.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Of dogs and dreams

When my daughter is working a full day, my wife and I take it in turns to walk her dog . My wife usually does the morning walk and I do the afternoon one. This happens a couple of times a week on average.
 This is Tai, my canine companion who loves to catch sticks, run away with them then drop them at my feet obliging me to throw  once again. He is a Staffie/Labrador cross who lives for play. But there are times when he's content to simply walk,sniffing around and leaving a scent mark here and there. One of his favourite routes (and mine) is a circuit from his home and taking in Fairfield Orchard where he meets other canine friends.

In the centre of this orchard is a semi-circle of tree stumps, a sort of installation which I suppose can be anything you want it to be.
For me its a source of inspiration. It reminds me of a sort of "court" where, apart from trials taking place, it could be a high court of kings or guardians of secret places or a tribal council seat. The list can be endless. Something along the lines of the guardians of the Grail come to mind as in Wagner's Parzifal.
However, such legends are not the exclusive realm of early European Christianity, consider Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example the Council of Elrond not to mention the Arthurian legends. I could go on.....

I first came across this semi-circle some years before on a (dog-less) walk. It inspired an idea that culminated in......
"The Guardians".
Seven figures standing  12 inches  high and one kneeling figure, all  on a base 18 inches square. I envisioned this as a life-size or larger-than-life-sized group located in a forest with an easy access path but  sited in such a way that one would come across it by surprise. The passage of time would have it overgrown with moss giving a more fantasy-like aspect .

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Its like Fairyland

I took delivery of some boxes for an ongoing project today. The project is of small sculptures in wall-mounted boxes, rather like figures in recesses that you can see in some churches.
Here's some I made earlier. They featured in my exhibition, "Narrative Pieces" last June through July. There are more like this in the proverbial pipeline.
The current batch of boxes were made by a friend of mine who brought his two daughters along while delivering them. They walked into my studio space and the look of awe and wonder was really something to behold. I don't think they've ever seen a sculptor's studio before.
"Its like fairyland." one of them exclaimed.
I suppose it is, - even if it is a bit dusty.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Offering" Drawings

During 2009 while working in Larnaka I made a series of  large drawings of individual "priestess" figures taking part in some imagined temple activity. They were shown at the college's gallery as was customary. Artists-in-residence are usually invited to stage an exhibition of their work, not only at CyCA but wherever that residency may be. Perhaps these drawings will all get another airing at some future venue.

 Here are two of the fore-runners of the current sculpture project. The semi-transparent clothing follows the trend extant in ancient Greece around 450  to 300 BC as evident in the sculpture of that period.
However, I felt it might be better if the arms were covered like in the (photo-shop enhanced) image...

This is edited from another painting, "Meeting".
From this I did a charcoal and chalk drawing on textured grey  paper...

.... by now the idea was beginning to take shape. She holds aloft a bowl containing some light or energy radiating substance as an offering to some deity. This piece is about A3 size and stands on its own as an individual work. On my return to England I started to work out how this could be made as a sculpture. I decided the upper arms should be horizontal and the figure kneeling. I may at some future time make a standing "Offering" but not just yet. Another practical consideration is keeping some strength in the limbs. These could break off all too readily so this is where the long sleeves come in.

The working sketch. This brings the whole thing full circle. Little did I realise that once the maquette was made, working this up into a full sculpture would present itself as a technical challenge.

Challenge (3)

Spent a quiet Sunday afternoon at the studio making shims and wedges to fill the cracks. The wood seems to have settled down now. I'll shown the finished work in a week or so.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A visitor to the studio

There were some friends of another studio member being shown round Luneside Studios and and one of them homed in on my space. It turned out she loved sculpture. She had a look at several pieces then commented, "They're all religious pieces, aren't they?"
"Fair comment,"  I said by way of reply and added, "but not of any particular religion. I am  a religious person but prefer not to make a statement relative to any specific faith."
For a long time I have tried to avoid any religiosity in my work but it shows anyway so now I just make the work and if those who look at it see a religious message then so be it. But it is not deliberate.

Challenge (2)

From behind, the crack that appeared in the sculpture doesn't look too bad. The image on the left is the maquette sans crack (naturally) and that on the right is the wood carving after I had cut through the line of that shrinkage crack. Needless to say this work is far from finished, much of the rough carving is still in progress. However if we take a look at the figure from the front ....

.....it can be seen the damage is much more obvious. This is after having made the cut and divided the sculpture into two halves then tidied up the jagged edges. The plan is to carry on carving the two separate halves until it has reached its semi-finished state and by then, hopefully, all shrinkage will have ceased. After that the two halves will be re-united and permanently fixed and  traces of the cut removed. Having got this far I have no intention of giving up on it even if I am a bit disappointed at not having made a single-piece carving.
In the next few posts I'll show some of the drawings and other work that has led to this point.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This is becoming something of a challenge.(1)

This is a maquette about 6" high for a sculpture of some sort of priestess making an offering. The idea grew from research done in Cyprus into early Hellenic civilizations when a matriarchal society was the norm. The priesthood played a central role and of course the temples were run by women. Fast forward to more modern times and we see that making offerings has always been an essential part of religious practice. Using the Minoan era as a starting point a series of drawings were made during the 2008/9 residencies  both in Lempa and Larnaka. More of these anon.

From the drawings the idea of a sculpture, if not a series of sculptures, emerged and the above maquette was made.This was further developed to become a larger piece with a view to casting, probably plaster.

However I became dissatisfied with it.  I decided a wood carving might be a better idea.The question now was, should it be carved from a single piece or should I make a construction laminating several pieces of wood and making the carving from that? The whole thing was shelved for a year or so.
Then I took delivery of an ash tree which had been felled some six months ago.
A section of the trunk was selected and cut. There were a few minor shrinkage cracks but nothing to worry about too much. Or so I thought.

Once the bark had been removed and I commenced carving the cracks widened dramatically as this example shows. This is another piece of the same tree which I'm leaving until it settles down. The carving I started, developed a wide crack right down the front which is exactly where I didn't want it. As time went by the crack continued to widen until the whole piece was quite distorted. The hands that are to hold the bowl have ended up not parallel but at 45 degrees with one hand as intended but the other rotated outwards.
This is what I mean by this particular project becoming something of a challenge.
However, after leaving it for a few days to see how far it will go, it seems to have "settled down" somewhat and today was spent rectifying the situation. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Allow me to introduce.....

She has been my model for some ten years now. She has never complained, stands perfectly still, never answers back,  keeps her opinions to herself,  never whinges wanting to be fed, in fact has never been fed and nor paid, for that matter. But she does have a bit of a glassy stare and is not flesh and blood, more fibreglass  and  metal really. She stands in a corner of my studio behind the door so that she doesn't give visitors too much of a fright as they walk in. With much of my work centrering around a Hellenic theme she is dressed for the most part in a chiton which I made myself, as I have all her clothes as shown here. Recently she has turned up at exhibitions when my work is being shown. But I must admit there is a bizarre side to this when transporting her. Her legs and arms go in the boot of a car while her torso travels in the passenger seat. Wearing a safety belt of course!

The current on-going project wall has a corner with words associated with my ideas. Not unlike the "brainstorming" so much in vogue at business conferences. I tend to write the  keyword as it comes to mind and never look at it again once its on the wall. For some reason, once I have physically written and posted it, its there, in my brain. If you click on the picture below it should show large enough for the labels to be legible. Some words are in Greek. I'm trying to keep this newly learnt language alive.

Just to give an insight into the creative process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Healers and Healed

This last few months has shown me just how fragile health is. Gradual decline with advancing years can be an accepted norm and indeed was in my case until a spate of urine infections told me that there's more going on here. There's something wrong.
Once that "wrong" was diagnosed and treated many of the problems I associated with advancing years, such as constant tiredness, breathlessness, all resolved and I've got my life back. Sufficient to say there is an ongoing programme of treatment to reverse the condition. There is no evidence of cancer by the way.
This has all given me another area to explore artistically. There are preliminary drawings and ideas posted on my studio wall covering the theme of the fragility of health and the activity of healing. I have for a large part of my working life been involved in the latter and now I am experiencing being a patient. This gives a rounded picture of the whole idea as illustrated in the drawing above. This will be developed into a painting at some point.

This is a section of the ideas wall. You can see the "Healer" sketch at the bottom along with variants of this theme. The crucifixions at the top are not meant to portray any Christian message but are an attempt to look at how a healthy body can so readily be damaged. There's more work to be done in developing this idea. Its all a bit of a mixture really. Rather like emptying a box of jig-saw pieces onto a table then trying to put it all together into a coherent whole.

I like visiting other studios to see how work develops; in many ways it is more interesting than viewing the finished product in some art gallery where little hint is given as to how the artist's work got to that point. Similarly, rehearsals give a deeper insight into the play or concert than the actual performance.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What am I trying to say?

Artists speak through their art as do poets, writers and musicians through their chosen medium. So with my art what am I trying to say?
For a long time my answer was, "I really don't know." I just know there are certain things I need to express through paintings and sculpture. But then do I know this? I'm not sure. It is relatively easy to portray what I think people want to see; a woodland scene, a placid sea, a glorious sunrise/sunset, or a gentle portrait. Pretty pictures that might look good on the wall.
But what of the darker stuff that lurks within? Goya wasn't afraid to portray this nor was Francis Bacon. We used to discuss this in the kafeneons of Larnaka far into the night. Then it was something that Andros, a tutor at CyCA said, "Make art about what you feel inside yourself. You don't have to show it. Don't give your gold to fools." Now where have I heard that last bit from? It was a 13 th century Zen master, Dogen.
That was a lightbulb moment (twing!). Its not just expressing the dark side but being coy about material that is right under my very nose. I have spent nearly a whole lifetime trying to express things through art when really it is art that expresses me.
Take for instance the "Enigma" series. All the figures look vaguely like nurses. I denied that is what they were at the time but lets face it,  many of these pieces were painted when I actually was nursing. This type of uniform was just being phased out as I started my (nurse) training in1979. The Enigma pieces then, were stereotypical representations.

The picture above is from my recent exhibition, "Narrative Pieces", which was shown this last summer.It was conceived in 2009 whilst sitting on a beach in Larnaka and watching the sunrise. It is called "Contemplation" which is self explanatory, I think. The figure is nurse-like but while it is not a self-portrait, I reckon it is something of a character portrait.

Last week, the Storey Gallery in Lancaster hosted a lecture given by a ceramics sculptor, Christie Brown who along with her art very much spoke my language. We shared a lot of common ground though her (art) forms were quite different to mine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ressurection, - perhaps.

Seven whole months have past since I last wrote here. A lot of water has gone down the Lune and into Morecambe bay since then. So a little bit of tidying up the profile and putting up a picture of what I look like rather than a section of my artwork as a cypher. But that may change. Thole Man has been resurrected. Let's hope I can keep it going.

This last summer has had me coping with illness, much of which has since been resolved but is still something of an on-going process. The price of growing old I guess. But, having said that, I still present as a young looking septuagenarian  Leastways that's what people tell me. Certainly at my age, especially when then majority of my contemporaries have died, I am grateful to have lived long enough to "live the dream" and spend much of my time making art.

A lot of my friends never made it to retiring age, 65. I'm inclined to think the government statement that more of us are living longer is something of a propaganda myth.But let's not get political.

Thole Man will continue as varied ramblings covering art, life as I see it, and a little spiritual; input here and there.

Cyprus is becoming a distant memory. It was 2009 when I was last there having worked for three-month periods from 2005 sometimes visiting twice a year. However I have gathered enough material to keep me in project material for quite some time. Painting is a relatively fast process, I can produce a sizeable piece of work in 30 to 40 hours. Sculpture is quite another matter. It can take months to produce a finished object. Its not a case of making drawings then the piece, - if only. No, it sometimes if not always calls for the making of maquettes (models) out of clay. Drawing in 3D if you like. Then the process of carving requires time and patience.
Imagine if you will a figure enclosed in a box but with the packing material so tight it is the same density as the figure. You need mallet, chisel, file and finer tools to realise the object within.But when that figure finally emerges, it is like being a midwife at a birth.

Thole Man has been revived. Let's hope I can keep it going. I may not necessarily post daily. Please feel free to make your comments.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Not so placid sea

Winslow Homer was an American water colourist around the turn of the 19 th to 20 th century and spent some time in my countryside at Tynemouth. He did several paintings of fishwives working the tideway at Cullercoats which lies on the coast midway twixt Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.

Girl in an apron, yes but not quite in the placid settings I placed my apron girls. Nor is the sea quite the Mediterranean depicted in the last posting. The North Sea is rarely thus. No lingering in the warm sun here. Its do what you came to do and get back in the warm, quick.

I like this work. It has caught the essence of a workaday life in an uncomfortable setting. Homer's subsequent work, on his return to the USA was a little more genteel.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Stranger gazing out to sea

One of my latest pieces, a girl in Hellenic period dress gazing out over the sea. Figurative and seascape combined.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

An Obsession (5)

"Homage to Jawlensky" was painted about a month ago. About time, I reckoned, I did a version of the original that has taken me on this artistic journey.
I didn't really awaken to this until I was delivering a lecture in Larnaka, Cyprus, back in 2009 where I showed some slides of my work and this time showed a full retrospective rather than focussing on more recent stuff. To my surprise, the "Girls in Aprons" aroused much interest and it was one of the full-time teachers at CYCA who suggested that I explore this in more depth, especially at this stage in my career. There is an obvious underlying thread.
They could be right. These works have always been painted in a random off-and-on manner. I always kept the subject at arms length lest this obsession grow into a compulsion. But now I think the time has come to explore this a little more.

If there is anyone out there reading this, I welcome your comments.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

An Obsession (4)

Moving things along a little, here are two later examples. I have moved on from the blue dress/white apron image to shades of grey. Dark grey dress/light grey apron. These are post 2005 by which time I had retired from nursing and so no longer addicted, if that is the right word, to the traditional colours of nurses. Incidentally, I always denied these were images of nurses per se but clearly there is some relationship. Such is the nature of things.
I think that at the final analysis artists tend to make statements/comments through their art about their surroundings and the situations they find themselves in.

This particular example shows the model in a meditation pose with hands in lap with the thumbs touching lightly as prescribed in the Zen tradition. Another case of comment about the situation this particular artist regularly finds himself.
The model for these paintings is a life size mannequin in my studio. She is the perfect model. She never moves, never complains, very cheap to feed i.e. doesn't eat, so far as I know, and never answers back. I call her Galateia after the Cypriot Pygmalion legend. Well I would, wouldn't I?

Friday, March 04, 2011

An Obsession (3)

This was painted around 1995. At the time I was starting to look at chiaroscuro works such as those by Carravaggio but at the time of painting this I was also influenced by NASA images from their space programmes where stark differences twixt light and shade were sharpened to an extreme degree. This figure looks as if she is sitting out in space. But that is what I was doing at the time. I made several versions using the exaggerated play of light and shadow. I think another influence at that time was in seeing nursing colleagues moving through the shadowy world of the ward at night. Their white dresses contrasted starkly with the gloom of the background. The main light source at night on a hospital ward is anglepoise lamps directed down on to a table surface or the floor.
This particular piece is painted in acrylic on Fabriano paper. I used Frabriano quite a lot at the time, I liked its rough, canvas-like texture.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

An Obsession (2)

Busy time at Luneside yesterday. The print room is being refurbished and heavy printing machines being moved about though thankfully I was spared helping with that, my days of heavy lifting are long gone. I made the tea, - things like that. Well somebody has to do it! In the evening we had our monthly business meeting. Suffice it to say I never got the chance to get to a PC let alone write up a blog. By the time I got home I was only fit for bed.

Follow on from Jawlensky's picture of a couple of days ago, Girl in a Blue Apron, back in the earlier 1990s I picked up this theme and drew my Girl in a White Apron. It is a pastel drawing on
brown paper, about A5 size give or take a few millimetres.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

An Obsession (1)

About 50 years ago I came across this painting by Alexei Jawlensky, "Girl in a Blue Apron" painted in 1909. I can't say I have become an avid follower of his style of painting though his contemporaries were members of the Blaue Reiter movement, an exciting time in German art of the period. However this particular work struck an emotional chord. Interest has waxed and waned through the decades but never-the-less has remained something of an obsession. I have made versions of this from time to time.

However, for today I thought I'd just show the "cause of it all" and in subsequent posts show a couple of examples of what I made of it.