Monday, 25 January 2010

'...lost and moody...'

Winter Painting, oil on canvas, 90 x 110cms, 2010

Here’s one of the new paintings that I’ve completed this month. It’s based on a view of a tower block in the fog in Highgate, Birmingham from different studies. I feel it represents a small pictorial breakthrough in my approach to landscape and the themes I’m hoping to develop further. An artist friend said it had a ‘lost and moody’ quality to it, which is weird, as it sums up pretty much how I’ve felt all month regarding my work…

Monday, 18 January 2010

American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, Nor the Iraqis Nor the Afghans),

I love these portrait drawings, and the sentiment behind them, by American artist Emily Prince currently on show at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

In an article in The Guardian it describes how ‘at the last count, the artist Emily Prince had drawn 5,218 small pencil portraits of soldiers: all of them very different individuals, and all of them dead.

Today her project, American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, Nor the Iraqis Nor the Afghans), went on display for the first time in the UK at the Saatchi gallery in London. For two days Prince and some 10 helpers methodically pinned up the simple but powerful drawings, some with additional personal facts and tributes, and all of them on cards that correspond to their skin colour.

Prince said the idea came in November 2004 shortly after George Bush's re-election. "I felt really frustrated by the direction America was heading ... I needed to channel that energy into something."

She said it was all too easy not to think about the conflicts and the resultant deaths on both sides if there was no personal involvement. "That gap disturbed me. I wanted to engage more deeply with the information," she said.

"I'm not always emotional when I'm drawing the portraits but the most moving part is reading the articles. Before I began I had a stereotype of who a soldier would be and that's been taken apart."

The work has a resonance with British artist Steve McQueen's Queen and Country project, in which he created postage stamp sheets of 155 British soldiers killed in Iraq. He continues to campaign for the stamps to be issued.

Prince's work will be shown until 7 May, and the project continues until the conflicts stop. "I can't see any sign of it," she said. "It seems perpetual."

What a powerful statement. I’ve got to go and see these. Here’s also a link to Steve McQueen’s brilliant ‘Queen and Country’ project’s website

Sunday, 17 January 2010


I’ve been painting most of the day. I don’t really regard myself as superstitious (I’ll happily walk under ladders and open umbrellas indoors), yet I do find myself following the same sort of rituals each time I attempt a painting. I place my tubes of oil paint out in a certain order; clean my brushes carefully and lay them on the bench in order of size; cut up five pieces (always five) of material to use as rags; squeeze out my oils onto the palette in a particular way from warm to cool colours. I then carefully fill up my jars of oil and turps, after usually an hour mixing all the colours I’m going to use before I start. I then line up the music which I like to work to (this has also in the last few months become ritualistically Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ as the first album I’ll play. I just love it. It seems to fit the mood perfectly). It does indeed all feel like some sort of ritual or small ceremony.

It all seems a bit sad seeing it written down, but I think it’s a lot to do with the way I paint. I don’t work on paintings generally for more than a day. I like to try to nail it in one sitting. I therefore like to keep a whole day clear to attempt a piece. It often feels like I’m about to step into the ring for nine rounds with Mike Tyson as I walk to the studio on a painting day. I feel these rituals are just a way to help me ‘psych up’, clear my head, stick to tried and tested routines of preparation so when I am ready to start putting those first strokes of paint on the canvas, which is so thrilling and nerve-wracking, nothing gets in the way.

Thinking about it, when it comes to painting, maybe I am a bit superstitious…

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

January 2010

Snow has fallen and hangs heavy on the trees. If I brush against the branches of the fir I’ll be buried. It’s deep as I walk, making my feet freeze. I look up at the icicles hanging from the porch as I rattle the key in the padlock and enter the cold studio. It’s January 2010. Welcome to the blog, with your host, Shaun Morris.

I’ve been listening to too much ‘Theme Time Radio Hour’…

I’m off work. I was sent home because of the bad weather. It’s nice to have some extra time in the studio. I’m ruminating. New Year’s resolutions. The same every year: do more work; get it seen by more people. Get a decent gallery behind me.

Since August 2009, I have actually had a decent gallery behind me; Tregoning Fine Art in Derby. It’s not come to much yet, with no sales. They are still interested in representing my work though, particularly the recent ‘nature’ paintings. ‘It’s about building a reputation, earning trust through sales’, says Phil Tregoning, the gallery owner. I’ve still a way to go here. I’m trying to find some wider representation for more of the work and Phil has given me a few useful pointers to some other possibilities.

That being said, commercial representation is just one avenue for the work. It’s pretty limited on many levels. I’m keen to get involved in more project work in the community or commissions and seek funding for some of these ideas.

A new year. As I sit here in the studio, a bigger question seems to loom. What work do I actually want to make?

There seems so many possibilities at the moment…so why do I feel so stifled by them?