Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ready to go!

Some essentials: carriers for pictures, a tube with brushes, a box of paints, card supports, some clothes and the camera battery re-charger.

Well, I'm off to the UK tomorrow so I'll be posting much less regularly for a few weeks. I'll be in London and in different parts of Scotland- touching base, revisiting places I know and discovering new ones. If the weather is nice then it should be a productive painting trip.

Love and Other Disasters (2006): review: 6.5/10

Led by a girl who works at Vogue, a crew of homosexuals and girly girls cavort in London in search of romantic bliss: Murphy wanders about prettily, sharing a flat with one of the homosexuals and dispensing advice. She has an ex-boyfriend: he is described unflatteringly: they occasionally meet for sexual congress. She likes an Argentinian photographic assistant who provides an anchor of seriousness among the trivia, flirtation and occasional humour provided by, among others, alcoholic woman- the British consider drunkeness to be essentially a comic -as opposted to pathetic- condition.

This is a slick bourgois romantic comedy which still has life despite, post crisis, feeling like a period piece: how much you like this film will depend on how much you like the environment and culture it depicts.

The Terminal (2004): review: 3/10

A man is stranded in a beaurocratic twilight zone when his fictitious East-European country has a revolution, and his passport is no longer accepted by the US. He lives in the airport which he is forbidden to leave. He has an ongoing conflict with the head of immigration at the airport, whose ends seem unclear.  He manages to find ways of earning money, make friends and begin a romantic liason with a women which lacks any discernable fizzle.

The film does not emphasis the inherant tragedy in the beaurocratic situation, it's strangeness and awfullness: it is too light. Hanks is as irritating as ever: with that ghastly, saggy mouth and piggy eyes and oily skin, and his horrible "folksy-method" acting style.

The joke is often the ridiculousness of foreigners, most notable the Indian floor-cleaner. Hanks is given a stupid accent and a silly walk There no parallel joke about the ridiculousness of Americans.

The film is considerably overlong and unpleasantly ingratiating.

Raising Helen (2004): review: 6/10

There are three sisters: Helen lives in New York and works for a fashion model agency: she is single and works a fair amount, at other times drinking. Her elder sister, who is considerably less attractive, has two children, a settled suburban lifestyle and a superiority complex. The third sister and husband die in a car accident: it is written in the Will that Helen is to take charge of the children, a boy and an adolescent girl, much to the chagrin of the elder sister and to the suprise of Helen herself.

Helen moves from Manhattan to Queens where she is befriended by a kind neighbour. She sends the children to a Lutheran school, where she meets a charming pastor. She has problems keeping up with her work commitments, and fulfilling some of the roles of parent, specifically when the adolescent girl becomes involved with an unpleasant young man who wears a baseball cap the wrong way round.

There's nothing really wrong with this film: it's ok, overlong, well intentioned, but unsurprising.

Little Black Book: review: 2/10

A girl works for a television company which produces Oprah-style confessional discussions, in which people complain about their partners, whom they meet in front of live televised studio audeinces. She starts to do research on her own partner, going through his posessions and interviewing and befriending his ex-girlfriends.

This film goes on and on: it is quite unclear what the message is: it lacks the clarity and simplicity of "Pandora's Box". The acting is very two-dimensional. It thinks it is funny when it isn't and it has an awful, lifeless slickness about it too.

The Break-up Artist (2009): review: 3/10

A girl runs an agency which helps young couples seperate. It suffers from competition from a rival agency and, losing clients, the heroine accepts a commission to re-connect a man with his ex. The man is an art teacher and is quite sensitive.

All this is narrated by a girl with one of those very squeaky nasal American accents.

Slick, somewhat charmless film, lacking the freshness of real life about it, and featuring many smug women: however I found it just about watchable.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994): review: 7/10

Road movie in which three transvestite performers drive from Sydney to Alice Springs, to perform at a hotel there.

The elder of the trio has had a sex change- operation, the next has a child and wife with whom he meets for the first time, the younger is of little real interest. At one point their bus breaks down: the elder begins an unlikely relationship with their car machanic whose Thai wife, famed in the community for shooting ping pong balls from her vagina has left him.

The film contains many one-liners- these are rarely funny. The film's principle energies come from the contrast between generally unsophisticated mining communities and the performers. The male dominated bars are essentiallly chauvenistic institutions, and predicatably, their cleintele are provoked by the performers. In the film, transvestitism is a creative liberation from the limitations of  masculinity: both the rough masculinity of the miners, and the middle class suburban masculinity of the suburbs- as depicted in flashbacks. The characterisation is not very deep, but it is deep enough to sustain the film.

The Australian landscapes are thrilling.

Dont Say a Word (2001): review: 2.5/10

A psychiatrist lives in a large apartment in New York with a small girl and a woman with a broken leg which is in plaster. The other leg is bare. She lies on the beg and he gives her bare leg a sponge bath, presumably as a prelude to some sort of sexual activity. The bare leg is nice to see and, happily, features a lot in the film.

The small girl likes to play hiding games. But one day the shrink cannot find the girl: this is because she has been kidnapped as part of a complex scheme run by an unpleasant but cleverly calculating cold-hearted Englishman (probably from Yorkshire): his goal is to obtain detail of how to find a big ruby from a patient at the psychiatrist's hospital and to get the pyschiatrist to extract the information from the patient.The Englishman uses bad language and is threatening and even violent. He seems to be able to watch people all the time His coherts are unloveable too. Luckily one of the characters is a female police officer with beautiful long hair. She is very efficient. Eventually she will catch up with the baddies in a graveyard at night!

It starts off promisingly, but the plot is too convoluted and the characters not well fleshed out enough to garmer sympathy: it goes on forever

None of the acting is quite convincing- Murphy is totally out of her depth and, like everyone else, is just trying too hard. Douglas goes about being gruffly self assured and husky- as ever. The sound score is unsubtle.  The film requires more humour.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two recent pochades with coins for scale; painting pochades

Two recent pochades with coins for scale: a Brazillian centavo, a British penny, a US quarter and a Euro.

The size below has become roughly my standard- a little smaller than a postcard. The paintings are completed in about an hour, which is a good length of time to paint plein air here in Brazil, giving the speed of changing atmospheric conditions (in the UK it is might be less), and it allows me to produce a "finished" looking picture on this size. I sometimes work a little larger, and as above, sometimes smaller- though I find this somewhat fiddly.

I like working quickly, and in a burst: I find it exciting, in a way that is analagous to being a live performer. Instead  of making a studio recording: it stands or fails as I make it, there's no secondary editing process. I produce a good number of duds, at least 10%.

A certain number of duds are a certainty at any scale: that's a necessary collorary to being at all experimental, but at least I don't spend weeks and much money producing them. It is difficult for me to know immediately whether a picture is a dud or not and sometimes I am decieved, only realising later that a picture is poor. But it is very hard for me to find guiding principles: the jugement is subjective and falls outside words. This is one of the things that animates me to make art: the simple difficulty in knowing for sure which guiding principles- outside mere technical judgements- will produce good pictures.

The paintings can be easily stored and posted, and are accessable to people on lower incomes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Blue Balloon

The Blue Balloon, oil on card, 10 x 10.5 cm   NOT FOR SALE

Painted on Beiramar Avenue: a dense afternoon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Preparations for a painting journey

Ninety one prepared card supports for painting in the UK, where I shall be for a few weeks, in London and Scotland. I calculate of painting between one and three pictures a day.

I like to have a variety of differently coloured supports. A medium tonality is most flexible: but sometimes it's interesting to work with- or against- bright colours or even black. backgrounds. If the support colour is too dark it can lend an unhappy heaviness to the picture.

I am anxious about the journey, though in truth there is little that is likely to go wrong: I have a certain "what if x happens tendency" which leads me to imagine endless difficulties unnecessarily.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My condominium

My condominium, oil on card, 10 x 12.2 cm  NOT  FOR SALE

The condominium is largs and quite extensive. The place is quite well cared for. My picture looks somehow 1950s, I think.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Red roofs

Red roofs, oil on card, 12.2 x 10.2 cm

A view of a hillside in Agronomica.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Driveway to my condominium

Driveway to my condominium, oil on card, 9.5 x 7.5 cm

This is a sort of companion piece to mid-February's Houses and yards seen through a gap between blocks, both describing perhaps the almost exaggerated neatness of the condo area. It is neat, but at the same time everything is slightly wonky.

I am very happy with this picture. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tree and billboard, Corrego Grande

Tree and billboard, Corrego Grande, oil on card, 11 x 8.5 cm

Another painting looking at the modern landscape: I don't especially like it, but it is interesting.

A friend of mine lives in Trindade in an apartment overlooking the bus station and highway: Ballardian at night, and very alienating. I think I will ask him if I can come and paint it one evening.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Winter's afternoon Florianopolis (the panic attack)

Winter's afternoon Florianopolis (the panic attack), oil on card, 9.2 x 11 cm

Beautiful sun filled afternoons here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Residential buildings near the hospital, Agronomica

Residential buildings near a hospital, Agronomica, oil on card, 10.5 x 10.2 cm  SOLD

A lovely sunny winter's day. Painted near a hospital. I like working there- I like seeing the backs of buildings, their private faces.

I've always loved the sight of the backs of houses and their gardens as seen from the trains that cut into the centre of London.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Uptown Girls (2003): review: 8/10

No longer wealthy, a charming but unworldly girl loses her apartment. She moves in with a friend and has to change her attitudes to life and money.

She is also forced to take a job as the nanny to a spoiled, unhappy girl with strict, joyless attitudes; and whose father is in a coma, and whose mother is distant.

All the while she pursues an English guitar singer for romantic ends.

As a nanny, Murphy succeeds in bringing out gentler and warmer attitudes from her charge.

This is a sweet-tempered and intelligent film sustained by Murphy's charm and the well-directed central relationship between nanny and child.

The Rebound (2009): review: 6/10

An attractive suburban brunette discovers her husband is having an affair: she decamps with her two small children to New York, where she rents an apartment above a coffee shop. She begins a successful career in TV.

The fellow running the coffee shop is an insipid mommy's boy, the ill-dressed, unhaven going-nowhere son of a wealthy, charmless Upper West Side family. His accent is hatefully nasal, and he quite vomit-inducingly, a-sexually nice. His best friend, who aspires to a career on the stage, is a sleazy loser, and a rotten actor.

However, being quite immature, coffee-shop boy gets on well with the children: mother finds this quality sufficient to inspire copulation.

It is dreadful to think that women might really go for men like this.

Entertaining drivel; might be good to watch on a long flight.

Rob Roy (1995): review: 7/10

Rob Roy lives in a little house with his wifie Mary and three children, much like any regular suburban couple. His hair is unkempt and somewhat greasy and he is very down to earth and a super with a claymore. Though he's a fighter he's a sensitive guy too and loves his children and has a new-man style relationship with Mary, the red-headed wifie.

He also has capitalistic leanings and so he borrows some money from a local lord to make a cattle deal, but sadly this money is stolen by a vicious, camp wig-wearer (who, despite his sword-fighting abilities turns out to be a really bad egg,: if not bisexual, certainly effeminate with highly dubious taste for wigs and lilac, a rapist, and a liar and and Englishman), who is quite nasty like all the nobs except for the guy from whom he borrowed the money for the cows who is merely supid.

Anyway, after this robbery, and appalled by the general skulduggery around him, Rob turns into a rebel. The film ends with an excellent swordfight.

A poker-faced swashbuckler, the film takes itself rather seriously. The camp fellow does not quite provide light relief tha a good villian should , being wicked in ways which are too vile for amusement and though well made, one does wonder who the film really is for.

The Squid and the Whale (2005) : review: 10/10

A New York couple, both writers and fundamentally selfish, divorce: they have two boys. The film is a blow by blow account of the separation, as the younger boy stays with his mother and the elder goes with his father.  The elder carries forward the resentment and hostility of the father, whose behaviour is often childish and hostile.

The boys evolving sexual attitudes are described as they each find love objects: the attiude of the elder coloured by resentments towards his mother. The father finds a much younger girlfriend, and the mother comences an affair with the family tennis coach: ergo, further complicatons.

Excellently acted, well paced, painful and credible, with a black comic edge that keeps it entertaining.

The Winter Wind

The Winter Wind, oil on card, 10.9 x 8.7 cm

Painted from my window: rotten weather here.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Headland, oil on card, 13 x 8.6 cm 

Painted near Barra de Lagoa.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Glen or Glenda (1953): review: 10/10

Transvestitism and pseudo-hermaphroditism as seen in two cases. Dr Alton, psychiatrist, explains, Ed Wood acts. Bela Lugosi is a sort of insane alchemist, whose role is not entirely explained.

The case of Glen/Glenna takes up the major part of the film. Unkown to his fiancee, Glen delights in wearing woman's clothing- he worries about how his fiancee will react when he tells her.

As described, both conditions seem quite normal responses to the apparant joylessness of the male condition.  It is unclear how much of the humour is intentional  (a large part of it arises from the gleeful descriptions of men in women's underclothes) but as far as the film is comical, it is not so much at the expense of individuals portrayed- as the film is never mean-spirited- as the documentary genre itself, and that mental condition know as "political correctness".

This  film is magnificent- watch it for an antidote to the great wave of worthiness and joylessness that has swept across the film world. While the directorial techniques are often naive, even amateur, this happily adds to the charm of the piece.

Me You and Everone We Know (2005): review: 10/10

A shoe-seller is separated: he has two children and they move into a suburb. The children communicate on the internet with strangers. The shoe-seller becomes the love-object of  curly headed, kind hearted, frumpy artist. The artist sends her work to a severe woman who runs a contemporary art gallery: she is most amusingly portrayed. The characters evolve and cross.

The film contains many splendidly directed vignettes, tightly observed and often hovering strangely on an edge between comedy and pathos. They effectively describe a sort of boredom,  like a sense of strained anticipation that is familiar in suburbs. The characters are viewed with both compassion and humour: they are very nearly treated sentimentally, but there is a sense in the film throughout of the potential for violence and cruelty in human relationships that lends each scene vitality.

Please Give (2010): review: 5.5/10

A New York couple run a shop where they sell Scandinavian style furniture often bought cheaply in house clearance sales. They have a pimply charmless daughter; an elderly, cantakarous grandmother lives in an apartment opposite whom is occasionally visited by her grand-daughters.

The porcine husband, who is selfish and has an affair is contrasted with the wife who feels the need to give and do things for others; it also contrasts the two sisters, one who is a goody two shoes, the other who is rather harsh and unkind.

But it is hard to care: there seems so much hand wringing about the film, which lacks the least spark delight or spontanaity and, as a result, is rather boring despite reasonable performances all round.

Con Air (1997): review: 7/10

Convicts take over a plane which is taking them to some other prison: they behave badly except ex-soldier Cage, who probably shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place, and a friend of his, who has health issues.

He has a pretty wife whom he has seen and a small daughter whom he i hasn't: he is sentimental about both. Although Cage is terribly dour, he is decent. He also is capabale of extraordinary feats of courage, usually involving hitting other people: in short, he is a fine American. The others on the plane are also often given to acts of violence but seem more or less totally without any consciences whatsoever. Malkovich takes charge in his usual camp-psychopath style.

On the ground, various incompetants struggle first to locate, then to recapture the aircraft: smoothy-boy Cusak manages this eventually after a considerable number of explosions, and much shouting.

All this passes the time enjoyably enough.

Singles (1992): review: 5.5/10

A soap opera of a film: a number of single people in San Francisco, many of whom live in the same, somewhat cramped building, pursue and reflect on romantic relationships.

The characters include a self-parodistic grunge rock singer, a nauseatingly self-satisfied town planner with a fixation with trains, and the heroine, who attempts to meet men by making a video. She is not that pretty, sadly, so it is all a bit of a strugglefor her.

All this is fairly slickly made, and not humourless, but it is all somehow unpleasant, mainly because the characters are all so unlikeable, possessing neither interesting nor virtuous characters, nor displaying good taste.

Mr Nobody (2009): review: 6.5/10

It's the future: the oldest man in the world is dying: the film consists mainly of his memories of childhood in the UK. Specifically, the painful esperience of his parents' seperation, then the experience of having the daughter of his mother's second husband as a lover, and his growing resentment of his mother.

These relationships are explored with depth of feeling though the film is considerably overlong, and the film style mannered as if inspired by pop videos or advertisments.

The "from the future" aspect, seems quite un-necessary, and I feel that there is a very good, simple film here trying to escape from some pretentious wrapping.

Say Anything...(1989): review: 7/10

In the final days of high school in the 80s, a nicey nicey super intelligent girl (who alas is something of a wet sock and who has an excessively close relationship with her widowed father) meets a smooth uninteresting kickboxer with limited intellectual capacity: after many exhausting conversations they fornicate in a motor car.

If the characters are dull, the film is not: Cusak has a certain charm, and portrays the nervousness of early adulthood in an intelligent, understated way.

The Young Lions (1958): review: 10/10

This is a complex film depicting the parallel careers of two pairs of soldiers. the first a German, occasionally troubled by his conscience, then another German officer who seemingly lacks an internal life at all, and who is primarily a cypher for German millitary will.

The second pair are Americans, one an entertainer, well built, though cowardly, who befriends and learns from the the second, a scrawny, nervous Jewish American conscript from New York. This second conscript is bullied by his unit, but he confrots his tormentors, going on to prove himself to be courageous, large spirited individual.

There are subplots involving women: while the callous German has a cold-hearted blonde wife, the Americans have supportive partners. The partner of the Jewish is of a old protestant family, and initially the father of the family is dubious about his daughter's consort, even though he is a loyal and loving companion. By contrast, the relationship of the entertainer is initially marked by  the entertainer's selfishness, self-pity and short-sightedness. These qualities which are overcome by the supportive criticisms of his partner.

The film ends, very effectively, with the liberation of a concentration camp.

The film succeeds in avoiding too an overt message- though one could argue that it makes clear  statements about unselfishness, pride and the need for courage and patriotism to be allied to conscience- but is exciting and psychologically involving. The acting is universally superb.

Nocturne: buildings opposite; paintings of cities in Britain

Nocturne: buildings opposite, oil on card, 9 x 11cm  SOLD

I started painting this in a pointellist style, then decided this was much too fiddley for the effects I wanted, and repainted it entirely in a broad strokes. Sometimes the best methods are obvious, but my instinct to fiddle- to seek to justify myself leads me astray.

On the other hand, however, it can be argued  that the initial phase was a necessary exploatory corollary to the latter, broader and rapid painting process.


Cities viewed depicted from above are a visual summary of a place: a speciality of T|urner and later ofKokoshka, both artists who travelled widely. It's nice to have this massive scale as a constrast to closer views. Of course it helps enormously if the city being portrayed has hills nearby, or, if the artist has access to high buildings.

I am thinking of trying to paint London from either Crystal Palace (where I have never been before), or from Parlianment Hill. Then, Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat, Carlton Hill, from the Castle, or the Braid Hills, Glasgow from the Necropolis (well worth a visit in itself) and Aberdeen from either Kincorth Hill or, if I can get access, one of the high university buildings.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trees along a road

Trees along a road, oil on card, 11 x 8 cm

I included a figure- perhaps somewhat indistinct.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A tree against a wall; Soutine


A tree against a wall, oil on card, 10 x 7.7 cm

This seems to be the smallest scale I can happily work on. The small scale has the effect of exaggerating the importance of individual brush strokes.

I have been looking at Soutine's work online: I wish I could see more of his pictures in their originals: they seem extraordinary.