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.