Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Black Crow Blues

I’ve had a bit of company in the studio this weekend in the form of this huge stuffed black crow that I’ve taken delight in drawing. One of my colleagues, Laura Gale in photography, at JCC borrowed this and several other birds from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Schools and Colleges Loans Service. They have all sorts of interesting animals, birds, and insects you can borrow. I had to smuggle this particularly handsome creature back on this occasion.

I’ve often borrowed different creatures from the Loans Service over the years for students to draw, but I must admit, although the students enjoy drawing them, I think I do more. It’s great to get so close to these things to study and understand them more intimately. Birds are a particular personal fascination, and I’ve made a quite a few drawings of them and a couple of paintings where they feature, but nothing I’ve been that pleased with. Maybe this crow may lead somewhere in paint or print. I can see some possibilities from the detailed drawing I’ve made.

I’ve made quite a few paintings of my own with animals in them now, including one of Laura’s lovely whippet, and really enjoy looking at other painters interpretations. I’ve enjoyed American painter Ann Craven’s colourful bird paintings in recent years (below), and feel a connection with her direct approach to her subject matter, and painterly approach.
I'm pretty passionate about animals, but not as much as Laura, who specialises in animal portraits. She has a real knack of capturing the individual character of her subjects. She has a great website which I've attached a link to below which really showcases her considerable photography skills and love for her subjects. You can also contact Laura there if you wish to commssion a photograph of your own pet.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Return Of The MAC

I managed to get down to Cannon Hill Park today to visit the newly refurbished MAC (Midlands Arts Centre). It’s great to see the place open again, as it showcases such a huge variety of interesting, varied and alternative arts events. This includes live music, theatre, cinema, and exhibitions, as well as all the workshops and classes that it runs.

I have to be honest however, I was disappointed with the new refurb in relation to my own interest in the visual arts. There used to be about four different exhibition spaces, each with very different work at the same time. They weren’t great spaces, but they were used really well. I’ve seen some great photography, painting and textiles exhibitions over the years there, often in the same afternoon. But now there is only one exhibition space, The Arena Gallery, that was open-plan, which I suspect will limit the type of work shown. I felt pretty gutted. So, it was a welcome return to all the other stuff, but it felt like a loss for people like me who enjoy such exhibitions, and also a loss of opportunity for artists in the region to possibly show their work.
Here's a link:

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Alan Sillitoe 1928-2010

I was saddened to hear of the death of Alan Sillitoe in April 2010 at the age of 82, as I’ve enjoyed and been influenced by the themes in many of his novels over the years, particularly ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, with its story of working class escapism from the drudgery and hard labour of the factory floor in post-war Britain. Sillitoe’s and also Stan Barstow’s ‘A Kind Of Loving’ were important novels for me in their sympathetic portrayal of ordinary working class lives in Northern England that never slipped into sentimentality or cliché. They always felt true and authentic.

They were working class writers writing about working class lives. This was important to me and their example gave me confidence in an interest I had in painting about some of my own experiences of the working class culture I grew up in. This eventually lead to me painting for several years about the ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Mornings’ in the West Yorkshire towns of Dewsbury and Batley, where I found myself living on and off for several years.

pastel on paper, 1992, Shaun Morris
Sillitoe’s ‘The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner’ is my favourite story by him, which is a short story written as a monologue of a Borstal boy who finds mental freedom only during his daily cross-country run. He tells of the theft that led to his incarceration, and ‘the outlaw death’ that his father died; then he deliberately loses a prestigious cross-country race to spite the values of the authorities. I really love its anger and the rebellion of the boy’s act.
The film starring Tom Courteney is also great, as is of course the brilliant ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ with Albert Finney. Although the latter can appear a little dated, it still possesses a real crackle and fizz thanks to the brilliant performances and the direction of Karl Reisz, and of course the magnificent Johnny Dankworth soundtrack.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Changes and Alterations...

White Daffodils in Red Round Vase,
oil on canvas, 120 x 120cms, 2010

After my recent 'Six Hours in the Studio' I decided to re-paint and alter that particular painting quite drastically. It's typical really and serves me right. I often have to live with a painting for a long time before I'm sure I want to share it with an audience, but here I am trying to keep the blog stimulating and varied for the occassional person who may stumble upon it.
I also thought those photos on that blog were a bit mechanical as a way of illustrating some aspects of my practise. A video would have been a much better idea...which I am incidently working on in relation to my 'Audience' commission at JCC. It's only been two years in the editing suite, and it's only going to be about twenty minutes, and I'm not sure it will be that thrilling even, but I'll keep you updated. I hope to post it on the website portfolio.