Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Lost In The Supermarket

I completed this small portrait painting above the other evening. ‘Ivan’ is only 24 x 20cms in size and is therefore very small compared to most portraits that I do. Thinking about it, I think it is the smallest portrait painting I have yet done on canvas. I also painted the two small landscapes below, which are an extension of my last larger piece of the motorway lights and trees. They are only 20cms x 20cms.

Strangely, I was prompted to do them by a trip to the supermarket where they now seem to be selling artist’s materials. This included these small blank canvasses, which were cheap but of a decent quality, by Daler Rowney, so I put them in my trolley next to my beers.

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying some portraits on a more intimate scale since my stint at the JCC Art Fair painting those small oil portraits. They didn’t take too long to do either because of the modest scale, and provided a bit of respite from a grant application I’m currently working on. In recent weeks I’ve been working with freelance Arts Consultant, Angela Swan, who is helping me put together an application for some funding to hopefully develop my landscape work further in the next couple of years. It’s been really exciting but also time consuming. I’ve needed to make it a priority over my studio time and still have a lot to do. But even so…I still can’t help finding myself turning the key and stealing some time in there…

Monday, 15 August 2011

Top Tips: Lois Dodd and Frank Hobbs

'Winter Sunset, Blair Pond', Lois Dodd, oil on linen, 54 x 48 inches

After nearly three years of writing this blog I finally received a comment the other week (the only other comment I have received was about a post I wrote about Andrew Tift’s work not mine!). It was from a Frank Hobbs, who commented by wondering if I seen the work of another American painter, Lois Dodd, who he thought may be ‘a kindred spirit’. I had heard of Lois Dodd as I know a lot about post-war American painting, and seen some things, but was really curious about the suggestion, as I couldn’t imagine many people this side of the Atlantic having heard of her. This got me trying to find out who Frank was. I discovered he is a painter, printmaker and teacher from Ohio in the USA, who has a great website here:

Frank Hobbs

I really like Frank’s paintings, and the statement about his work he has on his website. I think we share many of the same values in painting, like many of the other American painters I am passionate about, and a commitment to working ‘en plain air’. This is something I do a lot to generate studies and ideas, and so does Lois Dodd, I found as I looked further at her paintings. Both her and Frank however, seem to start and complete many of their paintings entirely on location, which I guess from the modest scale of many of their works, whereas mine are definitely studio based paintings. It is something I’m continually thinking about trying to do too however, and I think with some of my recent small studies, and my experience at the Art Fair with my portrait paintings, I’m gaining confidence to try this in the autumn.

Lois Dodd, 'Two Trees and Distorted Metal Roofs', oil on masonite, 18 x 11 inches

Lois Dodd, 'Broken Windows Study', oil on masonite, 17 x 18 inches

Lois Dodd, 'Thistles', oil on linen, 24 x 28 inches

I can certainly see the link with Dodd to my own work, but her work goes much further in simplifying and paring down in response to the subject, usually a landscape scene outside, and is much more successful because of it. There is a big emphasis on pattern and shape, two elements I really like working with. I’m really excited by it. There are many lessons to learn from Lois Dodd for someone like me.

Thanks for the tip, Frank!

Lois Dodd, 'Night House', mezzotint, 11 x 14 inches

Sunday, 7 August 2011

'Preclusion' and The Birmingham Social Centre

I visited an exhibition in Stirchley in Birmingham the other day with my artist friend, Chris Cowdrill. ‘Preclusion’ was advertised as a genuine ‘guerilla art exhibition’ through the ‘Created in Birmingham’ network and was housed at The Whit Marley Building, a derelict former factory. Chris and I are currently trying to seek out suitable artists to work with on a project we are hoping to launch later in the year with an exhibition. We were intrigued by ‘Preclusion’, as it seemed to share some of our own ideals, so we set off to have a look.

Sadly, the exhibition was disappointing, but what we discovered at the building was fascinating. I expected artists to be invigilating the show, and to discover a ‘Freeze’ type ‘abandoned warehouse turned into a gallery’ type scenario. Instead, we were welcomed into the building by two ‘official squatters’ who were occupying the building as The Birmingham Social Centre. I love visiting buildings like this and it was really exciting having a guided tour by one of the Social Centre members. One of the big problems with the show really was that the work on display just couldn’t compete with the strength of the building. Many of the old fittings and features in the space looked like strange sculptures, and were much more interesting than the art.

Anyway, here are a few photos taken by Chris of the place, which demonstrate this point, and below are some details about the Birmingham Social Centre. It’s and inspiring and refreshing to come an organization like this in these challenging times. I think a lot of things like this are springing up across the country in opposition to the sinister right-wing, market-driven idealogy of this horrible government.

We both really enjoyed these photographs above by Martin Pritchard.

I wasn't sure, as one so often is these days, if these objects above, were a sculpture or installation. Sadly, I suspect not...

Why are we in the Whit Marley?

Posted on July 14, 2011 by birminghamsocialcentre

What we aim to do?

The Whit Marley Building has been left empty for a number of years. Much has been striped out an the building is slowly detoriating. Buildings like this are part of Birmingham’s heritage, we want to take care of it while it is unused and put it to use as a community centre.

We are currently doing up the building and creating meeting spaces which we want to let groups use for free. Some of us are university students, some of us are teachers and we aim to provide free A level and GCSE tuition in most subjects once the building has been done up. We are aiming to run a “Free Shop” in which people will be able to drop off unused items for others to take for free.

Why are we doing this?

We want to make a point about waste, Birmingham has the most abandoned buildings in the country and sadly the highest rates of homelessness. We live in a society that is intensely wasteful we are doing this because we want something that is visibly the opposite.

We all have strong politicial convictions; we live in times and a country where the whims of media barons are given more attention by governments than ordinary people. Viable and profitable pensions are being raided to give money to the rich, education is again being made a preserve of the few… we want change and if you think like us come join us.

Check it out and support it...

Friday, 5 August 2011


oil on canvas, 90 x 120cms

Next...this painting I did yesterday, which is seen drying on the studio floor. It’s based on a view of trees set against the evening sky with the motorway lights shining through. I had a good time painting it, using just two colours to create a whole range of tones by working in my favoured oils ‘wet into wet’. I laid down a ground of the deep orange all over the canvas and then worked the black (a mixture of burnt umber and ultramarine blue, never black paint) into this. The way it mixed with the wet orange paint, combined with applying the brushes at different pressures, opened up the whole tonal range from very economic means. I then worked further black tones onto this to create depth and movement. Although it looks loose and open, it was a difficult painting to work on and find a ‘way in’ with the techniques I wanted to use, but once I did find the ‘way ‘in’, it was incredibly involving and exciting to work on.

Listen, I’m a painter. This is how I get my kicks...

Monday, 1 August 2011


oil on canvas, 140 x 90cms

I completed this painting last week. I see it as the next one in my ‘Stolen Car’ series that I have talked about (I say ‘next one’ but I’ve decided the previous ‘first’ painting I made is pretty rubbish, so this is probably now the first in the series (which I’ll probably decide is also rubbish in a few months time too)).

At the moment I’m not sure what I think, and I’ve turned it to the wall for now. It is more or less the painting I planned to make, but whether this was a good idea I’m not sure yet, but that feels pretty exciting. You try to extend yourself with each piece you do. When you create something new you often can't be sure what it is you've made. I think an audience can sometimes play a really important role in 'completing' an artwork.

It seems to demonstrate two aspects of my approach: the need to be more controlled and pared down in the background, which represents the distant motorway and evening sky, up against something more gestural in the foreground, which represents the briefly illuminated rough textured grass in the car’s headlights, the way one suddenly catches sight of something. The two areas seem almost to be in two different time frames, which I quite like the idea of. It’s too early to say anything else about it, but I’m happy to hear anyone else’s views.