Wednesday, November 17, 2010

fake show

there you are, in conversation, and get asked a question about something you mentioned. You begin to talk about this and try to create a complete concept, adding in some important information that will function as a backdrop to the main details. You tell of the bigger picture and try to recreate the atmosphere and situation, your mind tries to focus on the vital details that will bring it into sharpest focus, allowing the listener to grasp the full story.
In my memory the story is clear, but what have I recreated for the listener? Have I become a side show busker trying to sell my story?
The work revolves around these aspects and the notion of fakery and deception.... inadvertent deception. By emphasis I may have made the story more colourful or different.
The camera is a metaphor for recreating reality, albeit in a different medium and only containing certain visual information.
The pigeon holes are parts of stories, like treasured family photos, shared between two people.
I have been having fun with this piece... especially the camera. I made it from cardboard and glue and used a metal based paint to let it rust realistically. Also a small tip of the hat to Miroslav Tichy and his marvelous photos and fantastic cameras.
Its snowing and the sky is gray. Hoarknockle will be doing the barbeque tonight. A fine pinot noir from Oregon should warm the cockles tonight.

Monday, November 15, 2010

voy who?

making small talk and someone is talking about an occurrence, are we voyeurs in some small way? Are we intruding or peeping into an event that we had no part in? Why are we interested in what is being told? Many reasons....
To what extent do we beguile and seduce in the telling of a story? Do we colour and embellish to gain the attention of the listeners? Do we facilitate their voyeurism?
What kind of thrill do we provide by the recounting of a story? Is it like finding a fresh motor car accident along the highway of catching a glimpse of exposed skin in a crowd?
Do we play this game intentionally or is it a subconscious reaction to hold the listeners attention?
Imagine opening a box of possessions and lifting out objects one by one...things you know nothing about...they enthrall you and there is a frisson of discovery... Why? What is it we get excited about?
In the work I am doing right now, I am playing off different images and trying to confront the viewer with images that may trigger predictable reactions and then contrasting the imagery with something unexpected.
Here are two views of two different pieces. The upper is a glimpse of a figure through a small window and the lower image is ons of the "magic" boxes with the various sliding panels and dead end storage spaces. They are both only aspects of the entire work and are still in process.

Friday, November 5, 2010


subtlety, a hint... a whisper, they all conjure something mysterious and secretive. In the collection of work I am making for the exhibition, I have a few boxes which were purpose made for me and have various sliding panels which protrude from the sides and a hinged lid which opens to a very shallow depth. The idea is similar to the old Russian doll concept of magical unexpected opening parts, my version of the "Transformer" toys children play with.
The boxes are made in such a way that you cannot see all of the pictures at any time. You have to choose by opening or sliding some out which in turn obscure others behind it. These boxes require a number of individual works and a lot of time... making it a collection of pieces in one. I hope buyers will understand why I will ask a fair chunk for them....
These boxes allude to the way we tell stories and relate events about ourselves. Some stories change narrative order and might obscure other information through emphasis or even omission. The boxes will each have a loose thematic concept.
The one I am working on right now, will explore the idea of voyeuristic eavesdropping. Thus some nudes and some suggestive imagery. Hoarknockle will have to be chained up while I work on this one. Or blindfolded (I cant be expected to get my own tea can I now?)
The image up here is a suggestion. I have long had a fascination with drapery and the way cloth folds and wrinkles. This rumpled cloth with be used inside the shallow box with a figure in the lid, seeming to look down at it when the lid is lifted.
There is work to be done.
Lady Sandra is occupied all weekend and I shall be working too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


oddly enough this comes just after Halloween... although this was not my intention. Happenstance.
In my piece titled "Mimesis" its a large panel with a rhino-horned self portrait which hinges apart in the center to reveal the dark inner section of the door panels and these small unsettling images of insects and skulls. A reference to the 17thC "vanitas" concept. I like the idea of having creepy scurrying things lurking in the crack, unseen whilst the main image is dominant.
I have drawn some of the images in silverpoint. Its an interesting change of feeling to graphite, the metal point has a different feeling...less creamy and slick than pencil, but it has a directness which is refreshing. It either seems to make a mark or not, unlike the wide range of tonal value graphite gives. I also thought the notion of drawing insects in silver was an interesting notion.
I have prepared some more small panels for silverpoint by applying a ground which accepts the metal. Most other surfaces dont make marks when using silver, although some house paints seem to have whichever the ingredient is that makes the silver leave marks.
Once drawn, the silver tarnishes a bit and loses its dark intensity and becomes a warm gray tone. I prefer to keep the darker tonality and use an acrylic varnish to prevent the tarnishing, by painting it on right after I finish. This seals it but also precludes any further work as the silver does not take on the varnish.
The silverpoint itself is an annealed silver wire, slightly softer than regular silver and clamped in a clutch pen. It wears fairly slowly.
I have sent Hoarknockle off to collect various different pieces from our collection of sterling silver flatware and I shall be trying these out to see what kind of effect they give. I shall have to try and see if they make marks on a starched table cloth...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


two sisters painted. Tried to keep it light and loose and fun. Thank goodness for digital photography which allows me to shoot as many pictures as I can of children...they can be so fickle and difficult to get a good shot. In this case they were two angels and really worked hard to give a smile with mom coaching them off camera.
I used an oilpaint wash with turpentine which I rubbed off in places and gave a lovely tonal range. Lots of glaze as always.
Now back to the main work of getting my history story done.
Snow has fallen and I can more easily stay indoors and work. Less distractions.
Also working on my new website with the crew of They are helping me build a fine and refined new website which will host my blog and everything else. Now my illustration work will be side by side with my fine art stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


my friend Ivann asked me how I started each work and until that moment I had not quite realised how I went about it. For that moment he took me to his perspective and showed me myself from a different angle.
I had not sought it out and it was only when I had somehow stumbled into it, that I intuitively approached every new piece in this way. Like a swimmer standing on the starting block, smelling the chlorine and breathing in the pre start hush, feeling the jangling anticipation of the race... thats how I try to shape my mindset when I start each new work.
Its not easy, please let me dispel that thought. Its something that one needs to feed, like a yeast plant that can live from one bread to the next, but needs attention to live on and on. I feed it enthusiasm and thrill and in return it breeds more. I receive this with gratitude. Its a synergy.
There have been times where the horror of a blank surface has paralysed me. I have no guarantee that it wont happen again, but I do believe that the enthusiastic pursuit will have enough momentum to keep me rolling...trick is not to come to a halt.
I try to summon the feelings of triumph and the knowledge and experience of previous works to infuse me find that child-like thrill of starting something new, Dare I say it...its like the Force. I dare not ponder the negative possibles of anything I begin...Its a positive image that sucks me into it. The last three pieces have flowed from one to the next and drawn me in and taken me along...and I have to keep the momentum, carry the speed. Its rather like mountain biking over rolling terrain.
I have worked at so many dreadful things and for so many thoughtless people that I make a conscious effort to remember that and to feel the rush of working to the call of my own ideas. Its a great big thing of wonder.
I recently overheard someone saying that work was only for money. Its quite scary to hear someone say that...and to know that there are so many people who live like that. I have found work to be something that propels me and forms me. It gives a certain meaning to who I am as equally I give meaning to what it is I do. Even awful jobs have been like this. I have always tried (tried...not always succeeded) to make the work part of who I am...and not only for the money. For now, I work because it is what I do, its more like breathing and I know it is a very very special opportunity. I work because I feed off it beyond the money. My condolences to those who don't.
The triptych is a digital representation of the work I will print and mount in a frame of sorts...each piece will be around 12 by 18 inches and I will glaze and paint into them as well...
What are they about? Imagine that you are going through an old box with pictures and letters, you may or may not know whose they are, but you form some kind of idea or opinion on what all these differing bits mean. These images have some things that connect them, and also not. How do my stories relate to each other? Maybe they do, maybe not.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

creative journeys

the point of going on a voyage of discovery is not to decide beforehand what it is you will discover, you have to be open to whatever you find. I believe there is an ancient Zen concept of not arriving at a spring with a full cup since you already have a filled vessel, you cannot take away anything from the spring.
Its in this spirit that I try to voyage and find ideas. There is no point in censoring yourself before you even find anything. There is no point in forming a mental construct of anything until you have found and studied it. As artists its our job to look and find and amplify. Is there any difference to finding a beautiful (yes, define beauty?) butterfly in a rain forest or a scary looking fish in the crushing black depths of the Marianas trench? You can never tell which creature may have a bigger impact or surprise.
I try to explain my work to myself and I try to follow some kind of logic, but there are times when solutions present themselves and there is no going back or rational explanation to be made. Isnt it equally irrational to paint a bunch of flowers slashed from their natural surroundings and jammed into a vase (purely for our own pleasure) and then painted? Why not then make a still life of 20 rashers of bacon draped over a door handle? It all comes down to what we regard as the norm. There is little rational about this.
Is there anything really rational about classical music? It must be the ultimate in abstraction, yet we regard it with the utmost reverence and awe. Why should visual art be anything less? (well okay , I do find Jeff Koons and Tracy Emin rather silly)

To me the camera is another way of telling a story. The old adage of: "The camera never lies" has somewhat faded with the arrival of Photoshop, yet there still is a tradition of looking through albums of photos as a kind of story telling. Even if it is a blurry image on a cellphone. This picture is part of my conversation about story telling. I think it will be the middle piece of a triptych, the one side being the fractured portrait in pigeon holes, the other being an image I am currently working on. It feels good. It doesn't make perfect sense, but there is some kind of kinship and connection among the images.
I am not discovering new worlds or continents, I am navigating the smaller fissures on and around them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

missive missile

if one had to visualise the emails and traffic of the internet as missiles, it would look like planetary intercontinental warfare, like a cloud of electrons blurring the nucleus of the globe. Its quite staggering to imagine. I thought of it this morning after the dog HAD to go out and I was waiting for some time and then my brain would NOT go back to sleep.
As an artist, visual stuff is so important. The whole notion of gathering visual fodder and looking at everything becomes such a focus of one's attention. I often forget that others around me don't share this ravenous gathering of images. Furthermore, many don't follow the way one often takes an idea for a walk and finds the strangest routes to explore... it happens. Without the very strange travels and diversions from the normal, it would all remain so predictable and ordinary. In order to find the new world one has to go forth and travel, to go boldly...
In my work I have been looking at how we communicate and how, when we do, we recycle stories and tales and connect them to one another according to the company and the situation. This means that ideas resurface in new and interesting ways. In just this way I am using digital images in my actual paintings by using a transfer film from Digital Art Studio Seminars, and also using photographs of my paintings in my digital work.
I am finding this very exciting and it allows the re-use of imagery and making interesting images.
In the included piece above, I have re-used part of the Sir Cornelis painting and incorporated into a digital work I was making. It extends the narrative I have been pursuing.
I am currently making a companion piece which should go next to it. Work in progress.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

look through

working on the billboard style "mimesis", I kept feeling as though I wanted something more on the main suggest that there would be more hidden elsewhere. I painted an eye looking through a hole where the right eye would be.
Meanwhile I have been working on the preparation of other pieces and experimenting with some technical ideas, adding digital imagery by using a transfer film and getting some smaller pieces covered in silver point ground for drawings.
Nothing much to show there...only the new eye which I thought was worth looking at.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

mimesis nemesis

mimesis, the old Greek concept of copying. The thought was that art was mimesis, it copied nature. Art could invent nothing. Its an old debate.
But in the stream of what I am working on, its a reference to the copying or almost miming of stories and history which one tells in social interactions. I "copy and paste" stories into a conversation from my memory.
When one is faced with explaining about yourself... telling about who you are and not just peripheral framework regarding yourself... one is faced with the rather large question about how you portray who you are. Do you under state in the belief that the cultural system of the audience is able to process understatement? Or do you inflate and colour the story for effect, knowing that the listeners will desaturate the story as with most media they come into contact with. (one hopes!)
The way one loads meaning into or onto the verbal picture you create is so easy to miscalculate and change the true nature of the point you are making.
In this image, a billboard style picture of myself,I present myself as a face one would find on a sideshow advert. Its the well worn sign board that is put out to attract the curious to come and see the freak show, the bearded lady, the tattooed man, the lizard creature. I have a single rhino horn growing from my forehead. Rhinos are pretty dangerous and lack good eyesight, they tend to rush in horn first, ready to gore any shadow, more bluff than lethal intent.
Its also a reference to the famous self portrait of Albrecht Durer in which he presents himself as a sophisticated gentleman, his long hair in carefully painted ringlets.
The halo.... so many people unconsciously want the artist to be fired into creativity by the Furor Divinus...divine madness... as though its a fragment of greatness or a touchstone of magical power. This is my worn and damaged and rather tacky halo which is worn on ceremonial occasions only. Hoarknockle dragged it out of the vault for this performance. Specially.
The whole surface of the image will be degraded and aged and faded to make it look old and worn. Rather a has been billboard.
The surprise will lie in the center of the work...which is in fact two narrow doors that hinge in the middle of the piece.
On the narrow faces of the two edges that meet when the hinges are closed, will be painstakingly painted insects against a dark background... once again a reference to the concept of Vanitas...the insects taken from 17th Century still lifes.
But thats still not there...for now its the billboard..getting older by the minute.. paint peeling and flaking off.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

pittsburgh entry

a brief flurry of urgency in the studio as I rushed to get this ready for shipping to the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators exhibition.
This is a work I originally created digitally to explore the concept of packing and unpacking as a metaphor for telling stories. The idea of blackbirds escaping from a baked pie is wonderful and has the magical and surprising quality I look for.
These birds are packed in boxes along with various other references to them and what they do.
I printed the piece on watercolour paper and pasted it to a thin sheet of plywood, sanding off the corners to emulate the way old photos are worn away, corners go missing and they develop all kinds of irregular shapes.
The frame is built to look like the top of an old box, now opened, showing some of the wooden slats that closed it and nails where the wood would have been broken away. Beneath the main picture are a few other old papers as though this would have been a box containing old memorabilia and now opened to reveal a picture of birds in boxes. The frame and wooden parts are made from old cedar fence boards al grey and broken down from years of being outdoors.
I took a brush to the digital print and added some darker areas and highlights and glazed it to add depth.
What I like and aim for is the contrast between the dry aged wood and the satiny glow from the picture inside it.
Like stories told, there are all kinds of unexpected revelations that emerge in the narrative. You find out things from places and people you often least expect it from. They have been packed away in boxes for years.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

gun again

just a short posting.
Mostly finished the two pieces I have been working on and have been doing a lot of glazing and over glazing...slow going.
There are so many things that rob one of time to paint.
Its interesting to me that my grandfather, Johannes B Wessels, had to sign a paper promising allegiance to the British Crown after the cessation of Boer War hostilities. In becoming a Canadian citizen I too had to pledge allegiance to the British Crown. After all these years!
The rifle barrel is the front end of the rifle trigger...the more business-like end of the tool. I have often wondered at whom it may have been pointed and if it ever found its mark. Sobering thought.
These pictures have had numerous layers of over glazes to develop the depth of darkness and colour I was striving for. Its slow going but it certainly does achieve results.
The other pieces I am working on are all in such an early phase that it seems pointless to show a bare piece of wood.

Friday, September 17, 2010

empty space

rather like waking from a coma, and not quite knowing where you are in space and time. Having just arrived back from installing my youngest son in university, a week of preparation and driving and making sure he is okay.
I walk back into the studio and feel like I have suffered a brief spell of amnesia, the pictures look familiar but I feel I need to re-establish my connection with them, slightly awkward.
Hoarknockle (Why did I want to call him Horseradish?) is away visiting his sick auntie (I suspect there is a comely niece or cousin once divided, erm I mean removed, who may be hovering there). This means that I am currently living a life devoid of ethanolic joys as I cannot seem to find the wine cellar. Lets call it amnesia.
This has allowed me a giant stride in my work. I have taken up the brush again, a heroic moment. Now if only I can remember what one does with it.
My eldest son has returned from hunting tigers...or whatever it is the young men do nowadays. He is thin as a rake and has an extraordinary preoccupation with bicycles and Belgium. He intends to go peddling in Tobago... not quite sure what he'll be peddling. As long as he isnt trying to sell off the cars..... or my wine collection. Oh correction... pedaling.
Here are the most recent iterations of my work too.
The large painting featuring Sir Cornelis is almost done.I added parts of a rifle to it The red phone is coming along and is part of something more. The Cuca refers to a Portugese beer "Cuca" which was sold in Angola and after which illegal drinking places were named during the South African Angolan war. I found the bottle cap during a sojourn in Angola.

Friday, August 27, 2010


times when one manages to complete things in a satisfactory way... one always seems to remember those breakthroughs rather than the long slog to get to the point where you decorate the whole things with a final cherry on the top.
The large piece with Sir Cornelis is getting closer to completion and I finished a smaller panel that will be added to the large piece, a very satisfactory moment.
This trigger is an actual rifle part from an old .303 rifle that came into my grandfather's possession toward the later part of the Boer War. There is quite a long story behind it. Its a wonderful metaphorical component to the image.
Positive, very positive.

Monday, August 23, 2010


just what do people imagine one to be when they discover that you are an artist? Is it registered as a kind of condition, much like being blonde or flat footed? Could it be that because there are so many people who claim to be artists that it has lost any kind of meaning? There are those who have bought a pad of paper and a set of pencil crayons and have the urge to draw.... but dont. They claim to be artists.
Its time they regulated this title. Not that many fakers claim to be doctors or space scientists.
It leaves me dumbfounded when people see my work and utter "I never realised you did that..." I make art...I paint...I am not sure what they imagined. If I were a wine maker...would people be surprised if I produced a bottle of wine?..."I would never have imagined that you ACTUALLY make wine...fancy that!"
I rest my case.
Meanwhile I have been making art. Much to everyone's surprise. I know.... "and for my next trick..."
Sir Cornelis continues...gets darker and partially disappears. There are other things happening to that piece you cannot see. Its a surprise. I am doing something using paint. Completely unexpected.
I also began work on a red telephone. It may cause people to lose consciousness when they find out. Please show it around responsibly.
Hoarknockle is back and I suspect that he may have become contaminated by liberal ideas from his visit to Lord Pfaff.
Lady Sandra is packing the Maybach in anticipation of sending our boy off to university.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

where from?

where do ideas come from? I have no idea. Really. Thats why the relationship with the muses is so important. One does not want the muses to cut off your ideas. Ever.
Ive often worked on pieces which have not cooperated ... resisted my best efforts and seemed to have a mind of its own. And then, without warning something will happen...Ive seen this a lot... and I can tell when its happened, but never how to make it happen. An elusive thing it is. Its a thrilling feeling to suddenly see it come to life.
Here is a close up of part of the picture... its the image of Sir Cornelis fractured and inside small square spaces. Its still in process...but close enough for it to look like something.
The progress is positive.

Monday, August 16, 2010

insurrection and paint

A friend and fellow artist called me from one of the old colonies, the United States, in fact. He has been having some awful trouble with his servants who seem to have formed a union and refuse to work. Seems they are under the impression that they have rights of some kind!
I immediately got Hoarknockle to pack emergency relief supplies and commandeer his friend Alphonse Gorefinch to travel to the distant land and offer my help. They have packed cases of claret and some of my burgundy and a collection of fine hunting WW Greener matching pair as well.(I do hope they remembered to pack some foie gras for dear Kurt)

I havent heard back from them as yet. They set off a day or two ago in the Maybach.

Meanwhile I have been working like a trojan, doing everything myself. I have even discovered the kitchen, but did draw the line at making anything myself. I now have a scullery maid who waits on me.. she carries a small portable radio device from which I dispense orders for her to comply with. Not quite dear Hoarknockle...but she will do for now.

Here is some actual painting I managed to do. Its Great Grandfather, Sir Cornelis. (Lady Sandra says I look just like him..without the beard of course.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

crackle...etc etc

the studio is full of pieces in differing stages of work.
Bad paint flaked off a large panel and there was some swearing and scraping. New primer turned out to be a solvent based paint and is a reminder that spectacles should be worn when buying paint, even when the can is among others of the acrylic persuasion.
The image of crackled paint is something I did... its not actually old.
Household enamel paint is horrid stuff. I'm not perturbed by the's due to consistency and stickyness and its unique ability to hold a static charge and flick off the brush and land in places its not wanted.
On the conceptual front there has been steady progress and ideas keep turning up and knocking on the door. Who knows where they come from? Right now I dont care, as long as they keep coming.
Its going well.
I quite like the look of the Diana Dors 1949 Type 175 S Delahaye going on the block soon. I am tempted. It would look quite lovely if it were covered in paisley design....Its such a beautiful car... Lady Sandra would just love it...I can see her in it, her blonde hair blowing in the wind....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

lots of white

it takes time to layer on enough paint to approximate the kind of build up found on indoor surfaces that takes years and constant abuse. Old enamel paint used to drip and dribble and leave marks and then eventually dry to a glassy finish which cracked or splintered and chipped to reveal ghastly older colours beneath.
This is all part of the concept I am working on for my exhibition.
Imagine arriving in a different culture and trying to explain yourself. Even if you get the language right, you struggle to convey ideas because there are many small obstacles like words having subtle differences and accents which have all kinds of meaning inside them.
If you come from a different culture, even simple things dont necessarily hold the same meaning or value. The ability to use a verbal shorthand is lost because the whole construct of understanding is based on very different values and historical knowledge.
My work deals with the issues and obstacles of telling my history story. Every time I am in a situation where I need to explain or tell about who I am, I figuratively unpack all the boxes I travelled with. Sometimes the stories follow a different order and different things are emphasised and there are subtle differences in meaning from one occasion to the next. The configuration changes although the essential truth of it all remains the same...but the constant reconstruction of the larger story allows the nature of it to change.
My works revolve around this "telling of history story"
To show this I am working in and on boxes...painting objects which will go into boxes, painting onto actual boxes and special boxes which have been purpose built to show many ideas, but the panels obstruct each other. Other works will be built from collections of loose bits, rather like a quilt. (no...not a quilt!!) There will be repetition of imagery and sly trompe l'oeil trickery to add a confusing element.
Right now I am in the process of making and preparing the various objects and surfaces onto which I want to paint. The want to look old and used and I am going back to my recent career as scenic artist in film and TV to use techniques of breakdown and aging which will make everything look used and well travelled.
It is taking some time... be patient....Hoarknockle is trying his level best.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

paler shade of white

its takes time to build a good layer of paint thick enough to look like years of paint build up. Hoarknockle has been faithfully working away at layer after layer, day after day.
The image of the squares with the surfaces set into them are a box with pigeon holes into which I have set small pieces of card and layered on thick paint which has now cracked rather delicately and beautifully. Onto the smaller card surfaces I will paint an image which will collectively become one picture. The pigeon hole box will be mounted on a larger wooden panel which I have also been working on.
The other image is an old piece of board with a door cut into it...and this piece is also currently undergoing the layered paint treatment. There will be an image on this board and another, possibly contradictory image inside when the door is opened.
I have also been working on sketches and concepts and more priming of boxes with mysterious hidden panels.
The preparation is tedious but allows much time for thought and making of plans. Working on a number of pieces at the same time also avoids time spent watching paint dry.
Lady Sandra and I took the yacht out on the lake last night, sipping a delicate Gosset champagne while watching the sun set . Most soothing. I highly recommend it.

Friday, July 30, 2010


the work before starting on the actual painting is less romantic and just requires a brush and paint applied to a surface to prepare the surface. This gives me time to reflect on the concepts and techniques I want to use and refine the imagery I have in my head.
As I sit here watching Hoarknockle scrape and paint the boxes and boards I will use, I can sip a beautiful wine and marvel at the tenacity of the human body as it works to paint and sand, a tedious and exhausting cycle of steps that will allow me to work on a velvety smooth substrate.
I am also using an old scenic painting trick of painting acrylic onto PVC plastic in layers and then peeling it off and then sticking it to a board or other surface... this gives the effect of thick old paint which can be peeled back or cracked and splintered off, giving wonderful textural effects. I also plan on using chips and sheets of this paint to draw on in silverpoint.
I havent really thought this whole thing through properly... now that Hoarknockle is painting, I have no one to minister to my demands for libationary sustenance....and I cant seem to remember any of the other servants names, how do I call for anyone?
I wonder if Lady Sandra knows?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

...and once again...from the top...

back from the land of chocolate and wild yeast beers...and the famous Fabrique Nationale weapons factory! Yes Belgium.
Hoarknockle is holding me steady as I plunge recklessly into my HISTORY STORY project. (Although the title may change depending on my mood and whim)
The grant I received from the Saskatchewan Arts Board will allow me to work almost exclusively on this project which will deal with the notion that I have to explain my background to the people I get to know in the country I now call homeland. Because I was born on a different continent and have boxes full of real and metaphorical stuff to share and explain, my work will deal with the concept/metaphor of boxes and the contents.
The white boxes shown in the photo were custom made for this project and have all kinds of wonderful hidden, sliding panels on which I can paint. So far its all priming and getting them ready...quite a lot of preparation before one can get to the juicy stuff.
I now have red and white wine piped to taps in my studio, a large supply of cripplingly expensive cigars and a new collection of artistic cravats and berets to wear while I paint.
Lady Sandra is out tending to the poorly as she usually does. The boy wonders are individually either flying a kite or riding a bicycle very quickly.
Rather exhilarating!
Its about time for my snack of crepes and melted Belgian chocolate...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Rather like finding a lifetime supply of champagne hidden in a dark part of the wine cellar. The Saskatchewan Arts Board was generous enough to offer me a grant (a fistful of dollars in real terms) and this will allow me to pursue more personal work without concern for commercial return.
It will also mean that Hoarknockle will be able to devote his full attention to my every need while I paint for every waking hour.
I shall be pursuing work for an exhibition themed around the idea of how we explain ourselves and how stories are re-used and retold and how they can change and vary and suffer changes in narrative order. How does this affect the verity of the story?
This is a wonderful thanks to the Arts Board!
And now... entering from stage left is Hoarknockle, resplendent in a black velvet and leather ensemble, bearing libations for the long suffering artisanal gin I believe? Life can be demanding!

Monday, July 5, 2010

live from a screen

an interview done recently.
The cat image is visible during the creation of the art .
Hoarknockle managed to stay off camera.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

is that the sound of antonio banderas?

I suddenly hear the voice of Antonio Banderas and it strikes fear in my veins... and this image looks like one of those sad eyed cat pictures sold in furniture stores. But the real cat looks like this... I may need to retire for a massage and a stiff gin and overnight rest before looking at this again.
Hoarknockle likes it. Lady Sandra has not yet seen it in this most recent state.
What will the dogs think of me if they find out I have been drawing a sad eyed cat?

Friday, June 25, 2010

growing kitty

sometimes the work just seems to grow from its own volition. Its like catching a perfect wave and holding on as you surf it, unsure if you'll manage to ride it all the way. Occasionally a work does this and you are left slightly breathless by how it propels itself along and you only seem to be sitting by watching.
This cat drawing is going that way..... so far.
I have been putting down washes and working into them to model the forms and its been working well. Often even simple tasks will seem to be thwarted by inane little details and irritations, but on other days things seem to flow without impediment. This sounds so terribly Jedi.
I am having fun with this.
Hoarknockle has a TV interview with a local network this morning to cast some light on life on the estate and working for us. He has dutifully dusted off some inconsequential paintings he has done, hoping that they may ask him about them. I'll try not to interrupt the interview by calling for tea....athough, then again........

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The debate over genetic engineering is often mere hysteria. Occasionally there are things that give me pause to consider why they exist. Rather like the BMX X6. Fainting goats. Chihuahuas and miniature Dobermans. Hairless cats.
Its rather as though some person was bored and decided to push the limits of sanity. "Hmmmm lets see if we can cross breed a blind mole with a horse?"
IN this case it seems as though the cat was cross bred with the skin of an elbow. (Anyone familiar with Billy Connolly's elbow skin joke?) Its an interesting animal but I'm not sure its a very good idea. This is not the kind of thing nature would have come up with without some hallucinogenic intervention.
No matter.
The cat exists and its a challenge to draw the millions of little carunculated little folds of skin. Hairless is still okay...but the wrinkled skin is not a characteristic I would have added. But as an artist, the thrill of drawing it is huge fun.
I wonder what would happen if you rubbed Oil of Olay Anti-Wrinkle on it?
The image is still in early stages, so watch this space. It will improve.
I have my very own opera ensemble warming up for their performance of the Ring Cycle while I work. I do believe its an opera about the Tour de France. ALLEZ!
Hoarknockle is shaking his head at me.
Lady Sandra is sunbathing in her Lady Godiva outfit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

baked in a pie... er, box

The birds are all in...done, cooked.
I wish I could see this image from the outside... as a person who stumbles upon it without having made or thought about it.
I have contacted artist's representatives and over a long time have done so many times... and never had anyone show interest.
Is it too far off the main road...that well travelled path which feeds popular culture the pre-digested pulp they so desire. Fast food of the mind and soul, the crippling addiction to mediocrity.
OKay...what's next?
Lady Sandra took the yacht out to get the mail. Have I mentioned how much rain we have been getting? I do believe I have seen a submarine at the local airport.
Hoarknockle is getting moldy...either that, or he is wearing a green velvet suit.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

tin bird too?

this image is begging for some kind of explanation...I think. I shall abstain from stating the obvious.
As the rains continue... or has it ceased? (it has!)
Farmers were exchanging their tractors for submarines.
I have continued my exploration of this flying creature in my picture as his kin tug fat earthworms from my sodden lawn. I think I was first drawn to draw them after seeing a pelican covered in iridescent black BP spilled Gulf oil. The poor bird so entirely coated in blackness was a powerful graphic image... unsettling and inky wet. Maybe it reminds me of Mickey Mouse's foe from many years ago...The Blot! (yes...a very long time ago)
This picture is possibly a rather surreal collection of ideas... but then I do wish to avoid the obvious and easily digested literal "smack you in the face with a baseball bat" kind of concept. Or so I hope.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

tin bird

Legerdemain ... trickery!
Yes... its not a real bird. Hoarknockle was aghast!
The story of the grackles continues with this rusty impostor pretending to be a bird.
After the rain the handcrafted tin cutout just had to rust...even digitally.
At least the cool weather and moisture is good for the wines in my cellar.
Red wine is a fine antidote to the damp chill.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It keeps going. The rain confines me to my studio rather than getting outside and riding with the hounds on my bicycle.
Lady Sandra has been driving indoors lest her car gets rained upon.
The grackles are behaving in their boxes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

baked in a pie... this case put in boxes, not pies.
I have laid the base of boxes in this digital drawing and am adding the birds. Its part discovery process as I look at the birds on my lawn and see how they move and act, then try and find something about them that is interesting and use in each bird in its box.
Its like carrying memories of events of experiences or people in your mind, there often seems to be some illogical memory hidden amongst the categories of things... and I often wonder how this particular memory may have become lodged in a specific group of dissimilar recollections.
This is progress thus far. No birds were injured during the making of this image. Hoarknockle was subjected to repeated tea-making.
This image still has a way to go yet. I'm curious as to where it will go. Fingers crossed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

early birds

The rain had blackbirds hunting earthworms trying to escape the soggy soil and brought the proverb, "Early bird gets the worm", to mind. Followed quickly by "opening a can of worms".
The blackbirds have quite an ominous stalking stride and their graphic yellow eyes with black centers give them a very evil look as they poke around the lawn in search of worms. Like some avian opera without singing. Equally incomprehensible story line.
Possibly the best word to explain the feeling is ominous.
Either that or I would have to say they remind me of Hoarknockle skulking around the corridors with a hangover.
These are all going into boxes I have drawn. Lots of textural patina and atmospheric marks.
Lady Sandra has been baking peasant bread. There is a certain irony in this. The house smells delicious. I need to investigate.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

just a house

just a house this time. A house from the past where memories were made.
No afterburners or the smell of jet fuel.
Its for a friend who will give it as a gift to the person who lived there for a long time. I wanted it to have a feel of something well worn and well known. There are a few birds and a squirrel near the tree. There is an old push lawnmower rusting quietly.
Nothing grandiose. A peaceful drawing.
I should ease up on the relaxing herbal tea and have an espresso. Maybe give Hoarknockle a whipping.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

roaring afterburners

I am still shaking the noise out of my ears. I had the good fortune to be next to the runway at the Maple Flag exercise when a whole lot of machines leapt off the ground. Miraculous I tell you! This new flying machine invention will change things a lot.
I don't get out of my studio enough, that is evident.
It was quite a thing to watch F16 and F18 planes rocket off the runway of Cold Lake air base. The sheer intensity of the subsonic shock is exhilarating. Lady Sandra was on hand to hold my camera bag (occasionaly) and also to snap some photos with another camera. She was also one of three ladies there and drew enough attention to cause a pilot to wave at her while he was taking off! She is the type of beauty who would have been painted onto war planes as a pinup girl. She has decided that her life wont be perfect until she buys and flies her very own F18 Hornet. Seems I will need to sell a few paintings.
There were quite a few planes from distant lands as well as their crews. Interesting to see and experience. Apart from the jets, there were also some transport Hercules and Transalls from Germany, France and New Zealand.
I have been at work on a digital piece that shows most of the planes I saw on the day. Its a collage of sorts
with a drawing as main image.
I have yet to devise a way to show the roar of the engines. Meanwhile Hoarknockle has been tasked to make jet noises in the background to inspire me. (Just between us...he isnt really succeeding)

Thursday, May 13, 2010


there is a lot of staring and pondering at times...and its not the kind of thing people should see. I mean.... its just the kind of thing that brings people to believe that artists stand around, doing nothing.
In spite of the problem, I do stand and squint at the work a lot...its my method.
This is the current state of the Snowbird painting.
To me, the reflection on the shiny skin of the plane is so seductive and the challenge of making a flat piece of canvas look like shiny metal is just too good to pass by.
The work is something of an abstract because its not immediately recognisable as a plane.It is a collection of colour planes (no not the aero-plane kind... this sounds too pun-like and not intended). Then hopefully it will lure the viewer in to look and see or be beguiled by the illusion of volume and reflection. In a perfect world it would.
Hoarknockle has been hard to work with...his simple mind sees nothing of this and his opinion has been of no use to me. He keeps asking when I am going to paint a nude. Suggesting that we call on Mr Gorefinch's niece to model. I see a pattern developing here. Fortunately for us both, Hoarknockle still possesses the ability to make tea and relieve my thirst with suitable libations.
This work is almost done... some last touches here and there after some intense staring.
Imagine a small plastic trumpet fanfare accompanying my announcement.

Friday, May 7, 2010

jet in abstract

My head is still ringing with jet sounds after going out to the local air force base to see the national display team, the Snowbirds, fly their official first display of the season.
They were great. I snapped hundreds of pictures. So far so good. I want to use the images for artworks.
I am currently working on a large painting, canvas stretched onto an old door. Normal size person door, not a Hollywood size portal.
I have taken an image from a photo and reduced it to something closer to abstraction than a pretty rendition of an aeroplane.A Snowbird display plane. It doest have any recognisable wings or engine...or pilot for that matter. What I am hoping to do it paint the sexy reflections on the highly polished paintwork and use the actual colours of the surfaces to take it to the edge of abstraction.
It involves some large scale brushwork and some fiddly smaller stuff...a good mix to prevent me from getting bored.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

caught in trap

The child portraits have been delivered. The parents like it. Nothing like painting a child portrait to bring out the utterly defenseless, insecure artist in erm...uh...Hoarknockle...yes..thats it...Hoarknockle! He was just so worried about the children looking perfectly as they should... I had to give him the afternoon off.
The idea of seeing children's faces on milk cartons is something distinctly unnerving. The thought that each photo is actually a person who is missing. Its so pathetic and desperate... the kind of situation one never believes yourself will ever have to face. It brings all kinds of horrors to mind. Lots of "what if?" questions.
When you read of dreadful persons keeping others captive in a dungeon or a cage... always makes me wonder about who might be in a situation like that right at this moment... one day we may see the story in a paper and try to recall what you were doing at that moment...and how horrid it must have been for the victim while we continued obliviously with our lives.
Milk cartons are so democratic. The lowest common denominator which we all seem to have in our homes. The milk carton is a symbol of the common place and the ordinary.
What if the concept was changed and what if...?
The longer I worked on this, the more creepy and disconcerting the wire cages around the corks became. The twisted, torqued wire suddenly had a whole new voice.
No wonder I had to give Hoarknockle the day off.
Now I'll have to go and mow the lawn myself. I often don't think things through so well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

wrestling with children

I do believe this one is done.
I am always ever so careful when I wrestle with young children. They are delicate and one has to use small brushes and a lot of glaze to achieve a good likeness.
I know there are some portrait painters who achieve the finish by using bold and powerful marks...but I really cant do it. I find the faces of children to be composed of most delicate shading and shape. I admire those who can capture it in fresh quick strokes... but since this is my style and my work.... "Aah, tea, why thank you Hoarknockle!"
All this one requires is a last coat of preserving varnish.
I wanted this painting to reflect the personalities of the children and to give some idea of who they are and what they do.
Its been a demanding time, and I'm happy with the results.
Now on to some digital drawing.