Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tyre Shop- stage two; Forest and Swamp- stage four

The photo quality here leaves something to be desired. The problem of photographing oils is the reflectivity of the paint- this is especially a problem with wet and dark paint.

It has been delightful to return to these two paintings, which I feel I have managed to continue without losing some of their original energies. The essential difficulty is, I believe, that of finding the right balance between responding to the subject and responding to the painting of the subject.

In the initial, sketch, stage one responds rapidly and directly to the subject, scarcely paying much attention to the results on the canvas. In subsequent stages one tends to study the subject less, and the painting more. This is perhaps why the paintings risk becoming duller as they are worked upon- painting becomes an editorial act involving removal and ordering, not a response to the stimulus of a motif.

Ergo , my recurring fascination with rapid methods, that deny ready editing- monotype and pen and ink, as below.

As a means of depicting the sort of rubbishy architecture they construct along the roads here without the least shame paints are much better. This is because the buildings are so disorderly that using an uneditable medium to record them would lead to an impossible visual chaos on the page: contrawise paints allow one to do the editing needed to make sense of the Brazilian architectural landscape.

With ink I generally have been focusing on trees and nature things where precision isn't essential for the image to be comprehensible.


  1. Wonderful stuff. I've been enjoying your autobiographical postings and photos too. Feelgood's Drugstore - if you put that in a novel no one would believe it.

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  3. Thanks Gunter,

    I think in the USA a certain literalness may be more acceptable than in the Old World.

    I think suddenly of the funny conversation in Pulp Fiction about "Le Big Mac", which illustrates the wit to be found in that banality so beautifully:


  4. I'm looking at your painting again - I think you understand something about space that I don't understand - I think that's one of your artistic strengths.

  5. Thanks for that link. I make it an elitist habit to never watch popular movies, so I haven't seen "Pulp Fiction" but that dialogue was great! Also, when I worked for the D.A.'s Office in New Orleans, one of the prosecutors that was a jerk had a huge "Pulp Fiction" poster prominently displayed in his office, so..guilt by association as they say.

  6. One would probably be justfied in hating Pulp Fiction if one judged it by its fans, but I'd say it was the best of Travolta's films by miles, except for the marvellous "Grease", of course.

    Re space- you could do worse than to have a look at Poussin's work: he used wax models and little stage sets to better realise spacial and temporal depictions ( temporal because as in Landscape with a Man killed by a Snake, the same canvases often feature sequences of events

    It is remarkable how effective space is described within his paintings, and when you get the chance, I reccomend that you experiment with viewing them from different angles- i.e from the extreme sides of the canvas, the far left of the frame or the bottom as well as, conventionally straight on: you'll observe how curiously the figures seem to leap into three dimensions, as if one had truly moved round a real theatre.