Wednesday, December 30, 2009

marcel duchamp in barcelona

Christmas was wonderful. Lady Sandra gave me an old pair of gutta percha waders which belonged to Winston Churchill. Cigar burns all over it. They smell like only old rubber objects can.Toasted it with Taittinger.
What happens when a genuine Barcelona chair daydreams? What would it dream of?
For now I have the chair done and the dream/thought bubble. The shape and design of the bubble should be recognisable to disciples of Dada as the shape found in Duchamp's "Bride stripped bare.." It has a beautiful colonic sausage irregularity which I found hard to resist.
The premise for this image is the preciousness of interior design objects and how they have become icons of taste and elegant living. As beautiful as they may be and as often as I have coveted these things, just so I have my doubts about their credibility due to overexposure and gaining de riguer status as emblems of success. No matter.
Thus we see a Barcelona chair sitting happily in a well appointed space, daydreaming of other objects much as a teenager would do. It makes me wonder what kind or erotic thoughts a chair would have and which images would be erotic to a chair. Obviously this kind of thinking is couched in ironic reference to well known symbols and their meaning.
I dont want to give away the punchlines to this image too soon.. and will show it as it goes along.
Its fun.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

weather outside is frightful...

Sheets of horizontal snow, driven by a vigorous wind and numbing chill. I hold a mug of restorative tincture of sugar cane in an attempt to banish the dismal picture....and by Horace, it really works!
The jingle of merry festive bells can be heard over the unrelenting howl of the blizzard and I can see from the calendar that it is the season to be jolly although nary a sign of global warming to be welcomed.
I have been hammering at the tin picture and have been bumbling my way to a new version with more clutter and accessories.
I feel like a jolly old man giving gifts to this vacuous spring loaded girl. Boing! I wonder what she would really want if she could tell me? I have to guess and have come up with a few different heads that might be helpful in her quest for attention.
Have the sketch more or less sorted out and now to ink and then colour it up prettily.
The tractor is rumbling through the snowdrifts as it clears pathways and roads that Lady S and I may take our late afternoon sleigh ride through the estate, fortified with cognac and good cheer.
Jingle jingle.....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

tinny revisited

The snow looks like a storm of polka dots or a flurry of halftone spots, badly arranged. Once they hit the ground, they lose their individuality and become a beautifully smooth homogenous blanket that hides the unsightly drab of bare trees and brown foliage. Footprints are healed and like sand in a desert, the breeze sculpts soft undulating curves... poetic.
Hoarknockle has been looking after me, adding restorative extract to my tea.
I have decided to revisit the tin girl and bring more to her and her situation. She seemed too alone and without any motivation. She has been haunting me for a while (ghosts of Christmas passed out?) and I had to come back and see if I could help to complete her. Sketch added to the original and more to follow.
I was wondering about this girl...
I think she is typical of a species of girl named after foreign hotels. Lacking in nothing except for insides and mind. How desperate must this not be? How utterly lonely and empty. What do wind-up toys dream of? Can tin girls remove their underwear?
Who winds them up when they are run down?

The polka dots are intensifying, there is a winter storm warning out. I smell mutton stew from the kitchen.
Here comes Hoarknockle with some more restorative extract.

Monday, December 21, 2009

in a pear tree...

A slight change of pace in this festive season. The partridge flew off leaving me with some pears. Hoarknockle is about to do them in red wine for later tonight.
This is nothing huge or clever. Its just a piece because the pears were beautiful and I liked how they stood obediently in line. I wanted them to have some gravitas and to tip my hat at the 17th C still life artists who did such inspiring work. Plain and simple. No special effects, car chases or exploding spaceships.
The Christmas tree has gifts beneath it and a wonderful feeling of anticipation permeates the house. There is enough snow outdoors to make it look beautiful, without disrupting our lives.
I want to get back into the deep again soon and rework the tin chick image I made. I think it needs something to make it more convincing and add some layers of meaning to it. I may have been a little premature in finishing it. Okay, seduced me.
Here's to all my friends...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

website refreshed

My eponymous website ( is newly refreshed and refurbished with most recent work.
After some time of neglect while I slaved in the film and TV industry, I had to clean it up and make it pretty.

For the picture today it is a photo of the three books I did cover and inner illustrations for. I think they may only be available in Canada.

Its time to get more traffic through it and generate some interest.

Now I can get back to making some more art....after I have tea.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This is the return of an old friend, my collection of eyes from some time ago.It has brought me some joy!
The most esteemed publication, Creative Quartely, has chosen to offer me a Merit Award in the field of Professional Illustration.
SooJin Buzelli just destroyed the field, winning almost every conceivable prize, I thoroughly agree, her work is wonderful. I'm just thrilled to be in the mix.
The work will all be published in the CQ Journal in April 2010. A nice birthday gift.
Hoarknockle is in the cellar finding a suitable wine to go with a Merit Award.
I am trying to fake understatement and a deadpan expression.
No time for a bed of laurels. Tempus fugit.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Here is a shot of it framed, as I am about to walk it out of the house. Hoarknockle is all bundled up against the ...the ...the...the... I am at a loss for any word strong enough to describe this most malevolent and rapacious chill that sits outside the door in wait of some poor creature. I don't know how the squirrels do it.
I keep looking at this piece and wondering about that narrow line between the technical details of the plane and my artistic interpretation. I believe fellow artists will support my artistic rendition. Its all about who you ask. I have planed an interview with myself for later tonight. I hope to shed light on the exact thrust and thought of this concept and what I had hoped to achieve by it. I have a pad of paper and a few sharpened pencils and feeling quite unusually nervous about the interview. Not sure if I am more nervous about interviewing the artist about this recent work or nervous at being interviewed by a probing person wielding a notebook and sharpened pencil. Lady Sandra may be able to defuse the tension by sitting in on the interview in her red, skin tight leather suit. (I do believe I feel the tension dissipating as I write this)

There is a powerful aroma of mutton soup from the kitchen. Anything to battle the agony of this pernicious chill!

I hear the baying of sled dogs and the crack of a whip. Seems like Hoarknockle is ready to go.
I do believe a bold libation of brandy is justified.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

plane threesome

Eventually, after some tough negotiating with myself, I got the threesome sorted out. The three planes drawn in fairly small format, almost more of a sketch and trial than anything major. The planes took center stage and the clouds a close second. I think its evident I had fun with them.
There is always the issue of detail and accuracy when dealing with technical objects like planes. They do so need to look like the real things and have sufficient number of parts...wings, tails, propellers (or not). I was trying to come up with satisfactory combinations of all the vital parts, in correct proportion and also using the right balance of artistic flair. The old content versus form issue.
To me these images firstly need to sing of flight and exhilaration, before the pundits can come and count the rivets and wrinkles. I wanted to create a poetic justice to these fabulous craft that do the impossible: Lift free of the earth and move into the air in almost any way they choose. To me THAT is still a magical thing. No matter the physics and the mechanics of how it is done, its still a marvelous impossibility that happens in front of my eyes. Rabbit from a hat, all over again. And again.
I have framed the three pieces, they are smallish, about 15cm square (thats 6 inches, more or less) in a long rectangular frame with three windows through which you can see the pictures.

Lady Sandra gave it her approval. Enough said. Hoarknockle has been plying me with Campari and orange since early today and I see a new bottle of untasted French Sauvignon Blanc chilling.
Tora! Tora! Tora!

Friday, December 11, 2009

hawk trainer jet

The problem with having different screens and printers is that they too often dont speak the same language or use the same reference on which colour is darker or more saturated. The images off my screen dont seem to have the same quality as those spewing from my printer. After some tweaking I think I have the prints the way I want them.
After some revision of the Hawk image and adding some more to it, the picture finished itself late last night. The clouds seemed happy and the slight background gave it just the right amount of depth. I discovered a small detail in Painter which has made work a little easier. Thanks to Don Seegmiller's book on Advanced Painter. Thats the shortcoming of teaching yourself a a software system, you might miss out on the basics you should know... and because you don't know it as you should... you don't teach yourself the stuff that will matter. This allows one to learn something even years after learning to use it the first time. Note to self: Remember to learn things properly before teaching yourself.
At least now I can still fall back on the old excuse of having had a stupid teacher. I should refrain from explaining who the teacher was.
Here's a toast to all gifted teachers who have the knowledge to teach and inspire. They are jewels to be treasured. To the awful teachers who leave scarred and bored students in their wake: "You suck!" (I am compiling a list with names of awful teachers)


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hawk trainer jet

I have been enjoying the process of the Hawk picture. As it progresses, I keep finding things to add and do to it. Wonderful.
Not often does a picture allow me to have all the fun, they can be cantankerous and difficult and wont allow me to have my way with it. Maybe this one realises I will respect it, no matter what.
I am working on the clouds and this is only a process image to show where its all going.
I have a final addition which I will be throwing into all three images after I complete this one.
Lady Sandra is having fun with her collection of snow shovels.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

jet whoosh in full digital appreciation

Sitting here with my feet wrapped in a warm blanket while Hoarknockle massages my shoulders, I can occasionally hear the planes rush overhead. Working on the delicate details of a Hawk jet trainer tailpipe, I dont always have all the detailed information I need to make sure it is anatomically correct.
In the past I would have had to dig out the trusty Nikon F, full manual 35mm camera and get myself out to the base and spend an entire afternoon trying to avoid frostbite and getting a decent photograph through the imperfect window of the Maybach. In all probability I would not have managed a perfect photo of the part I would need. After having the film processed and only two days later would I discover that I would have to go back and repeat the exercise. Thank goodness for digitality and the wonderful webbed world which will now bring the images to me in delightful crispness. My thanks to everyone who puts beautiful photos online. Although I would never dream of any possible plagiarising of such images, they are useful to confirm the existence of detail which my own photos may lack. Every darling little rivet is plain to see. (although how some racy pictures manage to find their way into my search for a Hawk trainer I cannot fathom. If I had searched "rivet"...well then maybe....)

What it is about the glistening surface of an aerodynamic object that appeals so powerfully, I cannot say. But there is a true visceral thrill about the nature of beautifully crafted objects. Michelangelo would be proud of some of these sleek shapes.

This Hawk will be the other bookend to the three craft triptych. Harvard, Snowbirds and Hawk. A quick sketchy image which I hope will capture the fast nature of these dart-like objects. All I have to do is complete the entire image far only the lone Hawk hanging expectantly in a undrawn vacuum. All I need now is a quick spurt of Instacloud from a spraycan. If only!

Lady Sandra is oiling her collection of snow shovels.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

flying cloud tag

The image I posted seemed rather wan and colourless alongside the richer one with the Snowbirds. I couldnt let it go.
Hoarknockle boiled up a cauldron of marshmallows and threw the sweet lava into the frigid air (minus 30C, minus 22F) and they solidified in a perfect towering mass, which I drew into the waiting image of the 3 Harvard trainers of yesterday.

All 3 the Harvards came over and thanked Hoarknockle for the beautiful marshmallows. He is a prince.
Obviously I had to use a little poetic license to change the marshmallows a bit, had they looked exactly like marshmallow, too many prints of this image would have been eaten by accident, and as we all know, Harvard trainers can cause serious indigestion if eaten with marshmallow. ( no ice cream was harmed during the making of these images!)

I have developed a lot of respect for artists who paint beautiful cloudscapes. They are pretty difficult to do well. I also suspect that my rendition of the Harvards dont have quite as many rivets as the real ones. (all aviation buffs please excuse this)

Next is a picture of a lone Hawk jet trainer. (I may draw another one to keep it company)
I am thinking of a new way to draw dramatic clouds for the background. Hmmmm, shaving foam?

jet trails

I came across the work of Brian Despain. What a wonderful surprise! Rich intense and beautiful. When someone does something that well, it inspires.
I took one look at what I was doing and immediately added "Instant Cloud" effect from my collection of clouds from a can. (part of the "Landscape from a can" collection) Just one spray and you are smiling.
The small red and white aircraft are the Canadian display team, the Snowbirds, who fly out of the airbase nearby. I had Hoarknockle carve each one from a rare hardwood, starting from a cubic meter of wood and ending up a small model about the size of my hand. They were painted and hung from invisible strings. (OBVIOUSLY!)
This image will be the centerpiece of the triptych I am working on. It has an apocalyptic glow to it.. an ominous golden resonance that I quite like.
Its rather cold out still. Axel the hound couldnt find his feet after going out for his early morning, backyard visit. He came galloping through the backdoor in a rather uncoordinated way. Thirty below zero in centigrade isn't funny.
Lady Sandra is using an electrically heated snow shovel in her daily shoveling adventures. Hoarknockle walks behind her, carrying the batteries.

Monday, December 7, 2009

flying around

In the spirit of flight, I decided to continue and make a three part image of planes taking off and landing at the airport. They will become three smaller panels framed together as separate images which all belong to the same idea.
On the one side will be three Harvard trainers, center will be the Canadian show team, the Snowbirds trailing smoke and on the right side will be a Hawk trainer.
I'm working from a series of photographs I took myself on a rather cold day when my fingers ceased to function effectively and refused to tell me when they pressed the shutter button.
I'm doing it in a loose style...sketchy and quick.
I occasionally hear the planes overhead although the current outdoor temperature of minus 26C (minus 15F) discourages me from running out to wave at them.
Hoarknockle has been forced to accompany the dog outdoors to prevent him from becoming frozen to the spot when he undertakes his communion with nature.
I very much want to get out and capture some different photos of the flying machines. Not in this chill .Hoarknockle is too busy polishing up the brass sleighbells to come out and keep me covered in electric blankets.
A parcel arrived today, addressed to Lady Sandra, which looks alarmingly like a Zonda sportscar.
Time to soothe my nerves with some tea....

Friday, December 4, 2009

flight of planes

After some time in process, the first 25 prints of the aeroplane arrived from Squareflo printing. What lovely prints they are. Done beautifully on watercolour paper.
A small issue was raised concerning copyright. Hmmmmm. Not something that fills me with unbounded joy, having to defend my right to make art of something in full view and of an object that my tax dollars fund. I guess they are just being careful about who and how imagery is used. But I do find dealing with burocracy tiresome. Even more so when it is something I know is within my rights and I dont need to defend it. The notion that I should be challenged on this is irritating. Raises blood pressure.
Anyhow, this is being processed at high level and I hope to get the green light (even though its my artistic right to make images!) to continue.
I have consulted with some established and renowned aviation artists on this issue and they have all chuckled at the challenge saying that this has been explored many times and the artist is within his rights doing just this. But it seems that the powers that be dont tire at this game. A game funded by tax dollars. Hmph!
Ah well.....
Lady Sandra has added another snow shovel to her fine collection and Hoarknockle is converting an old violin case to house her new high speed, low volume, front pathway shovel. We may have to add another storage room to the east wing of the manor.
Overnight temperature dropped to minus 26C and I am thankful that my wine collection is below ground in a thermally stable environment. I may go down and visit them in a while....just to chat and see how they are.
The wolf painting is being presented tonight at a dinner in honour of the recipients. I have wrapped it in purple velvet.
Lady Sandra has just called for me to attend tea in the drawing room.... I cant keep her waiting.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

last wolf howling and a jangle

Give it one last howl I say. Got the varnish coat on to protect the painting. After buying rather an expensive special artists varnish, I found it gave a rather dirty and smudgy finish... not at all what I had hoped from an expensive bottle of "special" varnish. It left my work looking as if someone had spilled a cup of tea on it. Not the kind of professional finish I strive for.
Ended up giving it the well proven polyurethane floor varnish with satin finish. It brings out amazing depth and clarity in a piece...even small brush strokes wake up and play.
As a final flourish I decided to give the banner at the top a small bit of fake flaking and cracking. No reason other than I wanted to give it something, a goodbye gift from me. Might be too subtle for people to notice as being fakery, but then that is also the whole idea behind the trickery, isn't it?
Also did all the boring stuff like screw in the hardware for hanging, so pedestrian after having fun. It gets I have a small list of administrative details to take care of... backing up files, tidying up and making sure I have my stuff all neat and tidy and up to date. I should get Gorefinch from the neighbours to send his niece over to be my filing clerk. If only to see how she drives Hoarknockle to distraction. Gratuitous distraction.
Lady Sandra is perfuming the manor with delightful baking scents. I imagine there will be something delicious with tea today. (apart from herself!) Tis the season to be jolly!
There is a generous layer of snow outside and I should get the carriage and horses out for a jingle jangle down to the village.
Alert the stables, Hoarknockle!
Aaaaaaaaah yes...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

wolf painting

There are times when an artwork takes on a life of its own and wont happily submit. This one was a fighter.
I think this one is done. Maybe one or two small tweaks.
Unfortunately my photo was a little fuzzy... it is sharp in reality.
We had snow overnight and I have been doing some recreational snow shoveling as well as having to go out and buy another shovel. Lady Sandra is a connoisseur of shovels and has one for every possible kind of snow, all kept in velvet lined oak cases next to her collection of medieval truth extraction devices. I bought her a rosewood shafted, titanium bladed, left handed, wet snow shovel to celebrate this new fall of whiteness. A thing of beauty.
Hoarknockle is building her a storage case for the new addition to her collection. The scent of freshly milled oak!
NO tea.

Monday, November 30, 2009

cold water

I thought to post the obvious in a note on the painting. In a style befitting the litigious obsession of the average north american consumer who has to be warned against any and every possible threat, many miles or hours ahead of time. Even the most obvious dangers require shouted warnings to discourage any possible chance of accident. Ever.
I wonder when the mountains are going to be painted with health warnings? I shall let this remain here, rather than pursue the rich vein of irony and stupidity that it offers.
In this painting which recounts the adventures of a married couple into the wilds of northern Canada. They shunned the warm safety of suburban life and the comforts of retirement age, to leap into the unknown wilderness where wolves and other WILD and DANGEROUS creatures have no hazard labels. Neither do the rivers or cliffs. Irresponsible!
I enjoyed the focus of fussing with the demands of a small patch of paint masquerading as something else.
Only part still to do is the hummingbird.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

woodpecker effort

Fussing with details in different parts of the painting often bring progression and no great feelings of doing much. Incremental change is visible but nothing dramatic. Its so much nicer to get a part or a piece to a level which gives a satisfying feeling of achievement. A milestone.
This little woodpecker is from my very own garden. He has drilled a hole into a Russian Olive tree and I have seen him there quite often. I managed to fire off a few photographs of him sticking his head out as he is here. I can't quite determine if he (she?) lives there, but do see it around the yard pecking away at suet I put out. I'm quite stunned that a little beak like that can drill such a perfect hole into that hard wood.
This smaller part of the wolf adventure painting is in recognition of the bird watching the couple does. On the other side of this work is a hummingbird to balance the woodpecker. The hand with the scalpel is in a box between them.
I have about a week to complete this work which has become quite a bit more complicated and time consuming than I originally thought. Lots of fine and detailed work. Although if I woodpecker can excavate such a beautiful hole and cavity from hard wood, I too, should persevere. (quiet moment of profound consideration)
Quiet day. Hoarknockle is reading somewhere.
May have to make tea for myself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

into the fray... unafraid or unfrayed?

The flu shot has hurt my left arm a bit. Lets hope I dont get the flu, although having had it in spring, I may be immune anyway.
The wolf painting seems to be finding its sweet spot. Sometimes one just has to knuckle down and do it properly with a small brush and a lot of intense concentration. No fakery.
After leaving the piece last night, it has several areas of need right now. Some of those look intimidating and I know are going to require some deft brushery.
When in doubt put on a glaze layer. I have. Then get back in there and work on some highlights.

I often doubt my own methods, using photos to refer to and taking numbers of photos to use as I build the images. I saw a book on photos taken my the master Norman Rockwell. He used photos extensively. He had people pose in exact poses for him. People who looked just like the characters he needed for his illustrations.
And there I was thinking that the great ones just drew from quick reference sketches or memory.... This is a small relief. Even Vermeer drew with a camera obscura device. Rembrandt occasionally used a grid system to assist composition.
Even with all these devices...and I have a clever computer to aid me, I still cannot find a method to fake genius. But I am working on it.

Hoarknockle will be so glad he can take off the wolf fur suit now that I am using photos of a wolf. He is doubly pleased with this new development, I was planning on a rotund female nude next and he was quaking at the idea of having to dress up as a naked woman.

Thank goodness for digital photography. My father spent many many hours inside his darkroom getting black and white prints done. Hours developing films.
Im consciously thankful every time I unplug the flash card from my camera and download the images in seconds. Here's to you , Pa, I often wish you could see what I'm getting up to.

Time to put paint to canvas. Here's Hoarknockle with the tea.

Friday, November 27, 2009

actual paint and panic stuff

Sometimes I get lulled into a comfortable haze and forget to panic at the beginning of a new piece. Sure enough the panic will be there, if only a little later when nothing wants to work out. The brushes go on strike and the paints all become chameleons and wont stay true to to the names on the tubes.
Fortunately panic restores normality to function and I reset to default levels.
The wolf adventure piece I am working on lulled me into thinking that it would be quick and easy. It was supposed to be. It isn't supposed to be a magnum opus... evidently the work itself has other ideas on this matter.
None of the usual tricks and devices want to work. I think its called a learning curve. Just when I thought I was done with curves.
It has become more of a collection of small individual images knitted together like a group of friends who look out for one another. I get the feeling they will gang up on me as I add to their number. I may need Hoarknockle to be in close attendance at all times to spot me, much like a weightlifter has. Just in case they become belligerent. Can't have that.
The surgeon's hand goes into the little box at the bottom of the work. Cannot allow work to intrude on adventure, which is why the door can close and lock.
The woodpecker is almost done. The hummingbird, the fish and the warning note need some urgent attention.
Time for my five minute, pre-tea, panic.
Hoarknockle is wearing his rubber leggings today.
Lady Sandra is on the prowl.
Swine flu shot later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

cottage, small, lake side.

Just done a picture of a cottage on a lake nearby. The cottage exists no more and has been replaced by a larger one with more. More.
The picture will go into the MORE house as a nostalgic reminder of less. I believe there is a wonderful irony hidden in that. Rather like when I think back to my days in the army while I drink a fine Sancerre and miss being slim and strong. Its all about contrast and setting. Nothing exists happily in a vacuum. Except maybe the particles in the Large Hadron Super Collider. Although none of those have been granted interviews to express their feelings.
The wolf adventure picture is next. Rather like a good desert after a meal and I'm looking forward to it. There is a lot to be done and the deadline is in sight.
On top of that there is a possibility of a large animation job full of challenges and a very steep learning curve. The Mont Ventoux of my craft.
I am plagued by lower back ache and the thought of standing in front of the easel is better than sitting at a table with a computer.
Lets hope Hoarknockle may have something in his arsenal of pharmacological delicacies.

Monday, November 23, 2009


A week away from home whilst M skated on the old Olympic Oval, such pristine ice bearing the memories of powerful skaters and their blades. Lady Sandra and I visited temples of commerce and fashion while she recuperated after her surgical modifications. She is doing well.

The time away was to have been entirely without work, but I was tracked down by work and had to busk some images in very unsatisfactory conditions, thankfully I was able to cobble together some technology and fashion some drawings for a hasty presentation to a client. Maybe it will pan out and bring an avalanche of work in this lead up to the festive season. Fingers crossed!

Back home finds me at the drawing board again, this time making an image of a lake side cottage, a quick piece that has to be done in a day. As is often the case, its from an old photo bearing insufficient visual information, so inventiveness is a key element. Lets hope I dont get overly inventive beyond the reality of the structure. As is also often the case, this structure no longer exists, but in the minds of those who lived and visited there. Those memories are so often coloured by events rather than fact. One could get quite philosophical about this. I shall resist it.

The portrait set I made was well received, even by the girls whose faces it features... always a good sign. The ongoing wolf adventure painting is sitting quietly for now, tomorrow will be its turn again.
Thank goodness for technology and tea. Hoarknockle approaches.

Friday, November 13, 2009

portrait peek

Nothing like spending a good part of the day dealing with the vagaries of digital printing and the inability of a machine to render colours accurately. Or is it the machine? Could it be the machine operator who may not have told the printer what it had to do? This could be a long debate.
It did remind me how much more fun it is to mix paint and apply it to canvas and not have to deal with intermediaries like computer, printer or the printer operator in the case of having work printed elsewhere by people who "know better".
Time is running short and this portrait piece needs to get done, no later than tomorrow. There are currently two more paintings waiting... like planes waiting to land at Heathrow airport in London... circling around patiently waiting to get all clear from the tower.
Lots of layers of glaze and more adjustments.... and taking care not to overwork it... although I believe I may have already. My inner critic is a mean person who is never happy with the work I do....Enter dear Hoarknockle with gin and tonic which always quietens the critic down a lot. Either that or G&T makes me deaf. Who knows?
I have added a last trompe l'oeil effect in the form of a sticky note which seems to be attached to the painting. Rather like a fun dessert after a big meal, I'm enjoying this last little tweak. The critic within seems to have lost the battle temporarily.
The wolf painting is watching me from the other side of my studio table. Lots to be done and I shall be away for all of next week on a skating retreat with Michael who will be perfecting his technique of speed on long thin tongues of burnished steel, shimmering across 400 meters of flawlessly perfect Olympic ice from Games long gone.
Lady Sandra is recovering well.
Here is a tidbit of the portrait piece. Not wanting to show too much before I deliver it into the hands of T and D... the proud parents.
Hoarknockle is coming down the passageway to my studio and I can hear the surreptitious clink of glass and ice. Good Heavens! Its friday!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

wolf adventure

Lady Sandra is back from the surgeon in one piece and wont be racing the Bugatti this week.
Meanwhile I have been working on the wolf painting.
The thinking behind this piece is the recollections of an adventurous couple who have travelled and seen great many things. In this piece is an abbreviated catalogue of their adventures and in the lockable box at the bottom of it, a reminder of his career which has to be kept out of the times they spent away, not intruding as it would have in day to day life.
The wolf, the northern lights, the canoe and a big orange fish are all part of their peregrinations to distant places. On either side of the lockable box will be images of a hummingbird and a woodpecker, indicative of their energy and also her passion, birds.
This is still early in the development of the picture which is why the colours are still rather intense.
The four portraits which I have been working on wont be on display for a while as they recipient might be able to see them on the blog and would nullify my attempt at a surprise. But it will be shown sometime next week.
I have been reading Ben Shahn's book "The Shape of Content", a wonderful piece of work regarding visual art. Certainly most highly recommended. Thanks to my esteemed and talented colleague Ilene Lederer for suggesting it.
During Lady Sandra's absence (only a day, but things went downhill at a frightening rate without her steady hand on the tiller) we ran out of all manner of vital things and were reduced to eating caviar on toast. Hoarknockle is seeing a therapist.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

adventure painting

Recording the adventures of explorers isnt easy.
To better capture the atmosphere of frigid northern exploration, I have had Hoarknockle dress in furs and sit in a large freezer, pretending to be fishing for pike through the ice.
He has brought a number of stuffed animals into the studio to add to the ambience... although in his eagerness he brought a few unsuitable species which my ancestors brought back from all over the world. I dont think tigers of ostriches are endemic to the northern tundra. I didnt have the heart to order him to return them to the storerooms. They look quite heavy....oh yes... just occurred to me, the elephant must have been difficult for one man to manage.
I want the painting to recreate the feeling of exploration and the hardships associated with it. Textures and colours too.
In that spirit, I am painting onto an old piece of faded wood, planks boarded together to form a surface and on top of that I have placed some other smaller pieces.... sounds complicated, just look at the accompanying picture.
The lower center piece is a small box, an old mailbox with a rusty door and a small window.
I could tell what I am planning on painting onto the various panels... but thats a story for another day.
The atmosphere in the studio is wonderful...I hear the stentorian bellowing of the bull moose.... oh no, its Hoarknockle calling from inside the freezer! Time to let him out, he needs to serve tea.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

state of studio

The studio has a life of its own. (or maybe its Hoarknockle who adds his personal touch overnight?)
During the making of work, things get used and put down, often not touched again and left to stand where is came to rest. Work will sometimes move to another part of the studio and the table will be left as it was for some time. It becomes rather like an archeological dig...layers of things telling a story of something that took place, offering clues but nothing certain.
I'm back at the studio table and easel again, working on the portraits and another piece which has been commissioned for a couple as a memoir of their adventures. How does one really capture many and diverse experiences into one piece without making less of an important moment or diminishing the intensity?
This couple have been exploring the length and breadth of Canada, especially the great outdoors and far off and desolate places few human feet have walked. (which is why they often took a canoe... not many feet get to walk on water)
I'm considering painting elements like a canoe, a wolf, a fish and birds... many different elements and objects which will allude to their travels and experiences....and avoid making an image which might end up looking like a bad collage of holiday pictures.
Hoarknockle has been sent to find the ingredients for peyote infused tea. I'm hoping that a cup of that will bring on visions of what I need to do. The regular Earl Grey has not been of much use.
Ah!...I hear his well modulated footsteps, he aproaches! Hmmmm Tea!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

soaring above

I think Ive got it!
Some more tweaking and fine adjustments and I do believe its almost done.

flying off the paper

The smell of jet fuel in the morning. It wafts off my drawing board all warm and fragrant. The little aeroplane that could...and does...and will!
Its still not complete and requires some delicate tuning, but its on track.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

chick chick wind up

It went right to the line. Thank goodness for email submission. (although I have no idea how a pile of pressed tin plate fits through those little wires!)
Gisela Stolzfotse has left the building. (Although truth be told I still have her identical twin sister with me)
Hoarknockle had to apply warm poultices to my aching back as I slaved away. Regular infusions of cognac helped too.
I am riveting the aeroplane together next. After all the experience with tin toys, I think the aeroplane will be much easier. Its only tin riveted together...I think. Different paint job.
Lady S arrived back at the manor with a new Lamborghini Murcielago. I have no idea what she did with the Enzo. Hoarknockle is currently looking into that....after he gets me tea.

wind up and enjoy!

It has been a good day and the image developed well. Its a good day when a piece goes according to plan. An even better day when it goes according to its own whim and draws itself. Even better if I happen to like what the drawing board shows me.
Every new piece I start always brings the same kind of mild dread, a feeling of slight nausea and bewilderment. A feeling not unlike when you jack into the matrix and for brief moment have no idea where you are.
I have known where I wanted this image to go and what I wanted it to look like. Often the image wont cooperate and is intent on following its own direction.... and its hard to have to discipline it back onto the right path.
I really wanted this to look like an old tin that could have existed and something you might find in an antique store in Prague, a place only serious collectors would know of. Right there next to the wind up leather clothing and tin whips. The owner's eyes twinkling merrily behind his pince nez spectacles as he proudly shows you his special pieces.
You wind it up and let the key go. The motor inside whirrs and the figure moves her hips alluringly. Hand built by a toy specialist (Gunther Holzbanane) who lived in the old Weimar Republic and was forced to flee to America where he designed wind up dentures and hamburgers. His design for a wind-up politician (you could wind it up all you liked and it never did anything) never sold.
So...this is Gisela Stolzfotse, wind up dancer. She may have lost her head but she will always be a chick to me. Rest in peace Gunther H.
There is work to be done! Gisela is not finished yet.
Lady S and the Enzo are still out on the road. There have been forty hand delivered speeding tickets at my door so far. They make a good the tradesmans entrance.
Aaaaah yes...the delicate whirr of an old clockwork motor.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

tin toy chick

I love contrasting unexpected combinations of things.
An icon hiding in a toolbox.
An artwork painted inside a suitcase.
A sweet antique wind up, pressed tin toy with an adult twist. The antique toy market is a big thing and there are a large number of old children's toys for sale at inflated prices.
The idea of combining this innocent and simple concept with adult thinking brings all kinds of possibilities to mind. The removal of the original head and replacement with that of a chicken... isnt that what a lot of men do in their heads? Don't chickens mainly lay eggs and breed?
In this version some of the toy has come apart exposing the inner wind up spring mechanism.
So far so good. Nothing has broken so far.
Outside snow is falling and adds to my dedication to staying indoors at work while Hoarknockle feeds the fire and trickle feeds me some restorative Cognac to ward off chills.
Lady S is out driving the Ferrari to see if it still sticks to the snowy road as well as in the dry weather. Im not sure if its the sound of the engine howling in the distance or the wind.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

tin chick

The portrait is simmering quietly while I attend to something that fell by the wayside for a moment. The aeroplane is also doing well.... out flexing its little wings and buzzing around happily.
Project of the day and next few will be an image of a wind up tin toy in the antique tradition, all suitably worn looking but also of a more adult nature, not at all the type of real toy that may have existed to amuse children. Queen Victoria would NOT have been amused at all.
The toy will be like the european pressed tin figurines topped with the chicken head shown.
The rest of the figure will gradually emerge as I draw it. I dont want to give it all away right now.
I have had a model posing for my drawing; Gorefinch of our neighbour, has a willing daughter who needs no winding up, and I had approached her to model poses for me. Hoarknockle seemed very interested in having her pose for me. However Lady Sandra didnt feel it quite proper for Hoarknockle to gaze upon her rosy flesh and has decided that she would pose instead. Hoarknockle has been banished from the studio wing whilst most fabulous Lady Sandra does her Lady Godiva.
All this means that I have to arrange drinks before Lady S goes into pose mode....although I may just forget to drink......

Monday, October 26, 2009

emerging aeroplane

Its happening at last! The digital birth of a delightful little aeroplane.
So far the propeller has emerged and seems to be swinging happily.
There is still quite a lot of work to be done... ultimately it will result in an 8 by 11 inch image.
I think the swarm of planes senses that this is happening and I heard a lot of them flying about today. I may go out and capture some more for other images.
D-Man showed me how to catch and handle these beauties. He has since left on a hunting trip to capture some rare twin rotating machines up north. Its migration season and he said he was optimistic about getting one.
The portrait is still going along nicely too. After some loud profanities today I managed to get the images closer to the quality I want. I dont know why I still try and paint without a large container of profanities ready and waiting. Lady Sandra feels that too much profanity can be bad for my health. Nothing like a finely applied profane-urethane glaze to bring out depth in a painting.
I hear Hoarknockle bringing the tea....

Sunday, October 25, 2009


After stumbling around without getting any results, I called in D-Man the aeroplane hunter.
He is a consummate professional who set traps scented with jet fuel and hung out sticky strips of fly paper. The very next day we had ourselves more than 300 aeroplanes! The work on the aviation pictures can begin!
I have been hard at work on the portrait piece. Lots of glazing and underpainting and lots of intent and patient gazing at the work in progress. (as it certainly behooves an artist to do)
I am still smitten with Van Dyke brown and Raw Umber.
The Bluthner grand piano seems to have been affected by damp and Hoarknocke had to invite Gorefinch over for a session of replacing the damp piano with the concert Bosendorfer, a fabulous deep black instrument with remarkable accoustical aesthetics. I think Murray Perahia is supposed to come by for a recital tomorrow. I shall have to remind Hoarknockle to chill a magnum of Taittinger for the occasion.
My list of pictures to start on has suddenly grown alarmingly and I may consider bringing in a suitable apprentice. I should start interviewing possible candidates.
Lady Sandra may be visiting a health retreat to refresh herself and I shall be without my inspiration for a while....or the Bugatti.
I think I need some tea to soothe my psyche.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

painting faces

The studio is filled with the scents of paint and tea again. Blissful to be back after hunting for aeroplanes which still have not been captured! RATS!
I am doing a double portrait, twice. This means four faces across a piece of canvas. So far got the drawings down and some first layers of glaze to give it some depth and also kill back the unbearable glare of white gesso. (yes one should tint the gesso beforehand, but why do it the easy way?) Glazes give a softer glow rather than a flat surface.
While the glazes soak quietly in the background I have Alfred Brendel playing Beethoven. Hoarknockle and his friend Gorefinch brought the big Bluthner grand into the studio for the occasion as I do find Beethoven very soothing. Brendel plays awfully well.
I am also designing some tin toys for adults. Rather more risque kind of wind up plaything. Strange what one thinks of whilst hunting aeroplanes!
Ah! Here is Hoarknockle with some Taittinger, just in time!

Friday, October 2, 2009

empty nets

So far the expedition to capture an aeroplane has not been successful. One pair of dragonfly wings and the skeleton of a magpie with a lot of feathers still attached, the only concrete results.
But the picture of dozens of people stalking around the clearings and woods with butterfly nets and more recently joined by relatives trailing fishing nets (the entanglements have been spectacular!) has been something to behold. Terry Gilliam is the only movie director who could pull this off.
The highlight of the hunt has been the Lady God Diva the third, running around naked with her butterfly net streaming behind her. The paparazzi have been out in force and not managed to snap their shutters on her pale form. The Pale Pimpernel? The rain we have been having brought out a fine crop of goosebumps.
Hoarknockle has been hard at work removing the seeds from a large bowl of fresh strawberries. They stick in my teeth and I dislike it rather.
For now I shall sit here staring at a blank canvas as I sip a Howling Bluff Pinot Noir.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

catching aeroplanes. literally

I think we may have brought the entire village to a standstill.
I was under the impression that the aeroplane would be brought to my studio in order that I might do my sketches in preparation for the images I wanted to create, but it turned out that the aeroplanes don't just come willingly, one has to capture them. (bugger!)
I have employed a number of local peasants along with my entire estate staff, to catch me an aeroplane. They have all been running around the woods and clearings brandishing butterfly nets in an optimistic manner. So far no aeroplanes caught.
To assist, I have been playing Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". Loudly.
I remain optimistic that we will soon have one for me to draw.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


After a soothing drive north I am back to take down the little yellow chair and deliver it to the museum where the "Chairity" auction will be held.
Its been one of those pieces that took on a life of its own and grew organically. Lady Sandra suggested the little note about the fake chair at a time I was a little stumped about where the picture wanted to go. Her suggestion was pitch perfect and is one of my favourite parts of the painting.
I enjoyed playing with the contrast in real flaking paint vis-a-vis the painted fake flaking paint.(green flaking bits below are fake. The upper section with the word "Cheer" is an actual layer of paint glued to the canvas) The wooden frame panels on either side of the chair are painted wood. The paint layered onto the chair is just less than a centimeter thick. (between quarter and half an inch to medieval stalwarts)
Hoarknockle is grumbling because he has to tidy and clean the studio.
The painting is not stretched on a frame... so will be exhibited as a free hanging piece. Whoever buys it will be left to decide how they want to display it. I imagine a glass and stainless steel case filled with inert gas will be the best way, lit with low intensity light to increase archival preservation. I think I saw an buyer from the Louvre in town the other day. (He had a beret on and carried a baguette under his arm as he strolled along smoking a Gauloise, listening to accordion music on his iPod...a dead giveaway!)
Aviation art is next. Some images to be made of the Harvard trainer.
I have a team of engineers bringing a complete aircraft into my studio for preliminary drawings. They will all be wearing velvet slippers to minimise vibration. I won't have any vibration spoiling my collection of wines in the cellar.
Its tea time, I believe!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Warning: May be fake!

Alluding to the wonderful warnings posted on paper coffee cups, "Contents may be hot!" The complete and utter obsession with being safe from litigation by making the most obvious statements: a world focussed on sub mediocrity.
Hoarknockle would receive a tube of paint launched from my hand if he were to alert me to the fact that my tea might be slightly warmer than tepid.
"Awesome!"... such a nondescript and meaningless critique so thoughtlessly tossed out by well meaning people. Life reduced to small gobbets of undigested pabulum. The everyday, interpersonal version of "Warning contents may be hot!"
In this painting I attempt to play the trompe l'oeil card, several in fact, one on top of the other. Somehow all the cards are fake. Except, some of the flaking paint is real. A Ponzi scheme in paint.
Oh Dear! Look! ... the large view doesn't indicate where the little warning is, because the little warning note was painted after the larger view was photographed. Should I offer a warning about that?
It is evolving and developing. Such an unsettling situation for people who need warnings on coffee cups.
Thank goodness for Spode bone china, smoked duck breast on toast and Kolinsky sable brushes!
I have called for Hoarknockle to bring the Maybach around for an afternoon drive to soothe my frayed sensibilities.
Where is Peter Sellers when one needs him.......

Friday, September 25, 2009

yellow chair

Lady Sandra and I spent an evening discussing the work last night. Some fine Pouilly Fume on hand helped to lighten the tone somewhat. She suggested I not overdo the Beuys references and that some other elements might help the ideas along. Duly noted.
The upper part of the work is a piece of dry paint upon which I did some bad sign writing. The paint is initially done onto a sheet of plastic and then pulled free...the paint is thick enough to support itself... like a skin of latex. This was cracked and broken up somewhat before I glued it to the canvas.
To further play with the idea of fakery, I am going to be doing some trompe l'oeil trickery which will pretend to be more cracked and flaking paint. Some flakes of paint will be pencil lines only, obvious attempted fraud.
The little yellow chair has been loaded mercilessly with thick slatherings of yellow paint.
Makes me think of Devonshire clotted cream... maybe Hoarknockle should be despatched to whip me up some scones with cream and strawberry jam. This instant!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

little yellow chair

"Doping is sport's way of faking it", I said to Hoarknockle a moment ago, as he brought my afternoon tea. (yes he brought the Spode china all the bloody way to my studio! Lady Sandra will have a fainting spell)
I dont use drugs to enhance my performance, only finest brand acrylic paints from Golden. Oil paint is part of history.
This is a nod at faking a famous little yellow chair. Its been hopelessly done to shreds and couldn't stand another attempt, but I have anyway. How long will this little chair stand the weight of meaning stacked upon it? If it isn't yak fat its another fat hack taking a stab at the obvious.
Layers of meaning one upon the other. Heaped up like a paper plate at thanksgiving. More mash potatoes ruined with rutabega ?
This painting is to be auctioned off for charity. Ironic that the original, humble, little yellow chair would fetch a lot at auction. (believe me it did, I was bidding on it! Ended up buying a Beuys in stead)
A cheap little yellow chair done in expensive paints on a piece of canvas featured in an expensive film directed by Jeff Beesley, covered in cheap undercoat.

chair in making

Our local art museum and gallery has an annual charity event in which artists are asked to paint a chair or onto a chair for "chairity".
I want to paint a canvas backed chair... literally: a chair backed with canvas. Not that this is so devilishly clever, its a painting on canvas, of a chair, plain and simple.
I have started by using a piece of canvas used in the movie "Dolan's Cadillac". It was part of a visual gag where a section of tar road was replaced by painted canvas panels made to look exactly like the tar surface. (so beneath the paint we have fake tar!)
Over this came a thick layer of latex paint which has been allowed to drip wickedly along the bottom. (Hoarknockle nearly had a fit when he saw the floor!)
And on top of this first layer has been painted a pale pastel green, also dripping from below.
I think the chair will be in pale yellow. There will also be pink.
I have no firm idea of where this piece is going.
Hoarknockle bring me the gin!