oil on canvas, 140 x 70cms, 2014
It’s been a long and tiring couple of months. I don’t think I have quite recovered physically or mentally from the school summer holidays and the looking after of my two children daily, especially my six year old boy, as I too am on holiday from my lecturing job at this time. From seven in the morning to seven at night I would be continually on the go in parks, zoos, skate ramps, museums and of course at home in the garden, before eventually throwing them in bed, opening a beer and collapsing on the settee after another day’s action. Some children are great at amusing themselves, and my youngest seems happy to do so but not so my son who needs more support with this. And then back to work at college, which I’m glad to say I have slimmed down to three days this year, taking an extra day off to look after my daughter. We were straight into an Ofsted inspection at the start of term, which is always the most stressful time as you get used to new groups and crank up the engines for another year. Only thing is, as you can probably tell I think my engine has been running constantly without much of a break and is in need of a service. Please don’t get me wrong though, I love the time with the kids and consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to have some good quality time with them. We have all had lots of fun this summer, as well as the usual ups and downs of parenting. It’s just really tiring is all I’m saying…! I don’t think I’m unique to any other parent.
It has to be said though, that the crazy days out with the kids, has really helped me focus my energies in the studio, where I found myself most evenings, relishing the quiet time to myself. In this time I’ve found myself working on three new paintings, working more piecemeal, on different parts of a particular painting each time. Admittedly, two of them were nearly completed in single sessions, but then subsequently slowly worked on, a process I have found very satisfying.
This first painting (top) seems to signal the beginning of a break with all the black that has dominated all my recent paintings, and was painted in a much more relaxed way over several weeks. It began with the pink sky over a red ground covering a previously failed painting, and went from there. Although I had a plan for it with a drawing, when I started adding the colour more unexpected things seemed to emerge with the artificial lighting in the scene (it is a transport depot, still at night, and the red rectangle is the back of a lorry cab) suggesting a mood to follow, and I enjoyed trying out different things with the paint application and the different brushes used. It’s really rough in parts with some things pretty undefined, but having a ‘rightness’ in my mind that I didn’t want to interfere with. I like it.
oil on canvas, 150 x 90cms, 2014
pastel on paper, 25 x 17cms approx
As well as being a noticeably bolder with the purple motorway column! After an initial long session on this one, I was unsure how to resolve the difficult middle of the painting with the railings overlapping the lorry (yes, these are two lorry cabs again at the same transport depot). Eventually I was inspired to keep things more abstract after chancing across some images on the net of Ad Reinhart’s early abstract paintings, which contain lots of overlapping shapes and forms. I think this abstraction creates a sense of dislocation in the image that I’m pleased with. My friend, artist Andrew Smith said that both paintings had a sci-fi feel too, with some of the details in the lamps and other forms, which I had also recognized, although this is accidental. It’s a happy accident though, as I’ve also been continuing to talk with artist Sian Stammers about developing the ‘By The Way’ project with a focus on the canals that link the West and East Midlands. In a proposal we have been working on, Sian discussed the idea of a return to the use of canals in a future ‘post-oil’ world, where motorways may lay desolate and empty. It planted a seed of thinking about these images of lorry cabs, of which I’ve now done three, where there is a sense of them being abandoned by the edge of these canals underneath the motorway, in a wider context or meaning such as this world envisaged by Sian. Andy also thought I should work more on the railings in this one. I think he’s right. He usually is.
'Shoulder To Shoulder', oil on canvas, 90 x 150cms, 2014
This final large painting has a slightly otherworldly quality too, but largely in the ‘reflected’ composition and the sense that the whole image is floating and mobile. It’s an image of a mountain-like collection of wooden palettes in a factory alongside the canal bank. I like the strangeness of the image, and the repetitive pattern made by the structure. I had imagined making something more expressive with this one, but it wasn’t where it wanted to seem to go, so it has ended up like this instead. I had thought it completed, but having since looked at the building-like structures in artist Viera De Silva’s paintings, I think I’m going to work on it further and try and be bolder with pushing the abstraction of the pattern. We'll see...
oil on canvas, 100 x 120cms, 2014
I’ve also been continually playing about with this painting too, which I’ve now flipped from a portrait to a landscape format and again, simplified things. This is the starkest, and certainly most abstract, thing I’ve done, and when I took it to this stage I didn’t think for a minute that it was finished. But since then I’ve been living with it around and I’m not so sure. I’m like it as it is just now, but things change. I certainly have no more ideas for it at the moment…As I reflect in this blog I can see how I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting of different kinds in the last few months, and with these recent paintings I feel like I’m beginning to push things on a bit more successfully and with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s hard though isn’t it? Creating stuff.
pastel on paper, 25 x 17cms approx
There seem to be a few key words to this blog: abstraction; simplification, experimentation, now that I’ve completed it, which reminds me of my how I talk to my students this last year in summing up our lessons, with an emphasis on promoting English in the classroom. It seems a bit sad really and a reminder how much I’ve had the Ofsted blues in the last year and the horrible pressures at work this has carried…Like so many in the profession, I really feel I’ve begun to lose my motivation and confidence with teaching lately.
This has been an uncharacteristically long blog, but it’s been a while…Kids and painting: that’s all I seem to do these days. Seems pretty good to me..