Friday, August 29, 2014

Flowers (Winter 2014); buying work from this site


Flowers (Winter 2014), oil on card, 16 x 14 cm  SOLD

One of the recent flower series.I am especially happy with this one: the colours are lively and the effect is joyful.


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flowers (Hollow Hills), oil on card, 16 x 17 cm

Painted to the accomaniment of Bauhaus`s splendid Hollow Hills, which appeard on their second LP, Mask:

Ancient Earth work fort and barrow 

Discreetly hide their secret abodes 
The most fearful hide deep inside 
And venture not there upon Yuletide 
For invasion of their hollow hills 
The music hold and Oberon fill 
Is surely recommended not 
For fear of death in fear of rot 

Hollow hills 
Hollow hills 
Hollow hills 
Hollow hills 

Baleful sounds and wild voices ignored 
In luck disaster the one reward 
Violated sanctity of supermen's hills 
So sad love lies there still 

So sad 
So sad 

Hollow hills 
Hollow hills 

Witches too and goblin too and speckled sills 
Lament repent oh mortal you 

So sad 
So sad 

In the right dosage, the gothic is truly a delight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flowers (Ziggy Stardust)


Flowers (Ziggy Stardust), oil on card, 16.5 x 14 cm

I am trying to incorporate, and have been for some time, some ideas from Japanese and Chinese art about leaving aspects of surface plain, the play between mark and non-mark, void and presence. And I also want to developing, from Eastern painting, an attitude in which I accept unintentional events on the picture field as as possibilities, instead of necessarily "correcting" them to suit an a priori schema.

Today`s music was by Bauhaus: their fine cover of Bowie`s Ziggy Stardust never fails to delight:

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo

The kid was just crass, he was the nazz
With God given ass

He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar

Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind

Like a leper messiah

When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band.

As ever, I bow before the greatness of Fantin-Latour.


Monday, August 25, 2014

A sun-filled valley; Parana

 Trees in sunshine, oil on card, 15.5 x 17 cm

Painted in a valley a few miles into the state. I have used oil pastels, which lend a greater variety of textures. 


It occurs to me that a drive up to Parana is in order. 

I am especially interested in the regions bordering middle Santa Catarina, Perhaps I will cross the border with Santa Catarina near Porto União then follow the road to São Mateus do Sul, and on to Lapa, before winding back to Floripa, all in a leisurely 5 days.

Digital entry to the Society of Scottish Artists annual open exhibition

Ponte Sisto, oil on card, 12 x 14 cm   SOLD

An afternoon in the park with the gardener and the psychotherapist, oil on card, 14 x 13 cm

Heath, near Praia Moçambique, oil on card, 13 x 13 cm    SOLD

These have been submitted to as digital images for the Society of Scottish Artists, for their Annual Open Exhibition, in the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.

 Let`s see how if they are accepted or not: last year they took two pictures.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bolivian charm sweets - Pachymama sugar tiles

The inverted perspective here is quite magnificent.

Bolivian sweets, bought in a Juju shop in Potosi, where they sold all manner of bizarre items, including dried lama calves. These are made of sugar and are about 2.5 cm across.

I don`t know how they are used, and I called them Charm Sweets for want of a better description. Please let me know if you do. And also what the last tile represents?

 My Bolivian friend, Solidad Villalta, replies:

 Bolivia is a country of many traditions, and the figures that you show me are very used by the persons who believe in the "pachamama" that she is the mother land, and the persons offer as offering these figures accompanied of incense on the pachamama, every figure has a meaning and they symbolize love, money, business, prosperity, health, it depends on what the person wants.

The persons buy the figuras accompanied of incense and put on fire. The persons drink alcohol and do as a small celebration for the pachamama. Much depends the occasion, and the dates.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Journey to Bolivia: part 4: La Paz; general impressions; self-criticism


My first impressions of la Paz were one of squalor and brokenness: good painting territory, therefore, especially given its hilliness.

 I wouldn`t recommend visiting it for any other reason, however: the churches are not as interesting as in Sucre or Potosi, the museums seem reluctant to open, the city is dirty and almost all the buildings in the centre need restoration, or at least significant maintenance work.


I am happy with this picture (below), in which i have (unconsciously) reproduced the elevated perspectives of Hiroshige. It`s fairly unusual for me to work by first delineating the pictorial components, then filling them in, a technique I usually find restrictive as it forces one to work in a series of irreversible stages.

La Paz, street with newspaper kiosk and card, oil on card, 13.5 x 16 cm

Roads, oil on card, 14 x 16 cm

Again (above), there are definite Germanic tendencies, not least in the Gothicising flattened spacial description.

I am very happy with this picture (below). I like the extremely bright colours that Latin Americans use on their very square shop fronts, as if bright colours offer clarity amid the general mayhem.

Shops, oil on card, 13.5 x 12.5 cm   SOLD

Street stall, oil on card, 13.5 x 16 cm


Bolivia: general impressions

The trip was mostly exhausting. I thought it might be when I looked at my itinerary before leaving and I was right. The problem with getting to Bolivia from this part of Brazil is that flights from Brazil (even from Campo Grande to Santa Cruz) are extremely expensive. So, to save money, I flew to Campo Grande, then got a bus to the border city of Corumba then a taxi to the crossing, then past Passport control over to Quijarro then another taxi to the bus station then a bus to Santa Cruz.   So there were logistical factors that lent themselves to my tiredness.

 There was also the fact that most of the places where I stayed were high up in the Andes, and the air is very thin. I think this depleted my energies a bit. I never suffered altitude sickness like some I met, but I got a slight buzzing headache at times.

The third factor, is psychological. Bolivia is not a difficult place like Egypt, where you are mercilessly pestered by salespeople, and I never felt fear of crime as I do in Brazil at times. But it isn`t as friendly as all that. I am not saying that I didn`t meet pleasant people, but in general I had the feeling that Bolivians were circumspect, wanting to maintain a distance from foreigners. I speculate that this is related to centuries of foreign oppression, and that this oppression was especially felt by indigenous populations, and consequently that Bolivians suspicious of whites. My observations were confirmed by several other travelers.

 I also observed that in terms of other social niceties they are not especially charming and dealings with Bolivians were slow and rarely fun, with few of the courtesies, and the sense of delight in interaction, that is commonplace in Brazil, for instance. The Bolivians rarely seemed to take pleasure in serving in restaurants, where they were gloomy faced and inefficient. They did not ask where one came from or much enjoy making small talk. Taxi drivers were brusque and seemed reluctant to state their prices (though, to be fair, taxi drivers are a dependably deplorable example of human behavior almost everywhere). In bus stations they stand in public areas, often with their children  blocking ready access to shops or corridors. Salespeople from the bus companies stand and shout out their destinations in the public areas of the bus stations making a horrible racket, and obstructing everyone else.

Blocking public space is commonplace and Bolivians do something that I haven`t seen anywhere else: they will walk down a narrow pavement, sometimes in a rank of three people and not step aside or allow the person coming in the opposite direction space to pass, so that the on-comer has to step onto the road, or squeeze against a wall. My Japanese friend confirmed this observation and said that he had discussed it with a Bolivian friend, who had responded that this occurred because Bolivians were selfish. Certainly, they do not seem to have an reluctance to arrive at the cinema a good twenty minutes after the programme has begun.

Bolivians rarely speak English, even in hostels, museums hotels and obvious touristic points. At many museums you will be compelled to suffer a guide who will frogmarch you through the galleries and force you to endure their tedious spiel, robotically delivered in battered English.

Kitsch power ballads are popular, as is Andean pipe music. These are played as often as possible, and at great volume on buses, in restaurants, cafes and bars: unfortunately. Brass bands, performing oomph-ah music, and accompanied by cheerleaders or dancers in lampshade dresses roam the streets looking for victims: this is more fun.

I suspect violence is common in Bolivian society. I watched an excellent film called, Voices of El Alto A tent had been set up in the Andean town and Bolivians of various ages, though most often adolescents, came to describe life experiences. I do not know to what extent the producer edited or encouraged the participants to speak particularly of such miseries, but the proportion who spoke about domestic violence, family exclusion, rape, poverty and misery, was very striking. There are large murals on some walls painted to campaign against domestic violence.

There are also murals featuring Evo Morales, and his magnificent achievements, and I got the feeling that Bolivians are rather patriotic. I wish they had better dental care.

Food is mediocre, featuring as many different carbohydrates as possible on the same plate: potato chips, spaghetti, rice, why not throw them all together! Coffee is sometimes very good, certainly compared to Brazil (though that is truly setting the bar low, for sure). But sometimes you receive Nescafe, often sweetened, or some imitation instead of real coffee.

Other travelers offer little respite. Nerdism has triumphed.  WIFI has effectively killed normal social interaction in a many places, so that in hotel receptions, cafes or bars, foreigners now, now spend their time huddled over their little screens exchanging inanities with distant  "friends" instead of engaging with those around them.

I emphasize that these observations are general, and that I experienced exceptions. It is necessarily a mistake to come to sure generalizations following just a month in a country.


Paintings from Bolivia: reflections, self criticism

I am a little dubious about some of the pictures I painted on this trip. But I am uncertain whether this is because of the pictures themselves, or rather simply how I feel about them. I suppose there are good, and bad as on any trip and the worst are probably not as bad as I imagine and the best not so superior. It takes time to gain the distance necessary to judge ones own work. It`s better to put them aside and see  in a month how I feel.

I attempted through the month to work more freely, to allow drawing errors, should the correction of those errors mar the freshness of brush-marks. I attempted to work as responsively as I could, without starting with too much of a clear final idea: sketching.


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Journey to Bolivia: part 3: Sucre


Sucre, the capital, is a restored city of green squares and fine, white, often Beaux-Arts styled buildings.

 I found it difficult to work in the centre of town, however, where everything is a little too "finished" to suit my interests, and took to the outskirts.

 A boy in a street, oil on card, 12.5 x 14.5 cm

 These, above and below, are rather Japanese influenced.

The city cemetery is very good: well kept and planted and most serene.

 A garden in a cemetery, oil on card, 16 x 15.5 cm

It was the Bolivian National day, or perhaps rather week, given the extent of celebrations, with flags hanging all over and no end of brass bands parading the streets. As in other Bolivian cities, there are sellers everywhere. But I felt the general economic level to be generally higher than elsewhere. 

I went above the city and worked there:

 Garages, oil on card, 12.5 x 17 cm

This, above, is the sort of collection of broken down buildings and Tom Waits-ian junk that I like, set in a dramatic and unfriendly landscape. Prettier places don`t work so well for me. I think its like seeing the inside of a mechanical clock: so much more interesting, and so much more revealing of the clock`s functioning than the bland finished exterior.

Trees on a mountainside, oil on card, 10.5 x 14.5 cm

 Farms and smallholdings, the Andes, oil on card, 12.5 x 15.5 cm


A Journey to Bolivia: part 2: Potosi


These are from Potosi, the extraordinary city high up in the Andes, famous for silver mining, and dominated by a strikingly triangular mountain. The air is thin and the light is sharp and the colours are bright: excellent for painting.

 It`s freezing at night. My Japanese friend became very ill after the twelve hour night bus journey here from Cochabamba, because there was no heating on the bus.

View, oil on card, 13 x 12.5 cm

Arch, oil on card, 14.5 x 19 cm   SOLD

As always, it`s enjoyable to wander out to the edges to cities. The centre has been elegantly restored and is given over mainly to tourism and services. The fringes are developing, fairly rapidly, with dense housing, some of it rather basic.

Periphery, oil on card, 10.5 x 15.5 cm

 The Andes seen through a street, oil on card, 15.5 x 18 cm

These last two are from the centre, the first very much like Utrillo, I think:

 A street, oil on card, 15.5 x 17.5 cm

 A view showing the barracks, oil on card, 17 x 16.5 cm    SOLD

This last is among the best of the trip.

I`m often seeking a balance between spontaneity of paint application and exactitude, and not always finding it. Sometimes the pictures become overworked, at other times they appear unfinished, or incomplete. I think here I achieve this balance.

These subjective critical qualities are very difficult to put into words. There`s very much a you know you`ve got it right when you feel it`s right aspect to them.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Journey to Bolivia: part 1: Santa Cruz and Cochabamba


I have just returned from a painting trip to Bolivia, a fairly exhausting experience, which took me from Campo Grande in Brazil, across the border at Coumba, then by bus to Santa Cruz and then to Cochabamba, then to Potosi, Sucre and La Paz

Campo Grande is one of the most tedious cities I have ever been too, being more or less flat, extremely spread out, with a highly unimaginative grid plan  and, like a US city, utterly devoted to car users. I did not see a single building of architectural note. 

Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is  better, though it has equally few natural features of interest. It does have, however (as does everywhere I went in Bolivia) innumerable people selling things n the street: food, tissues, drinks, magazines, whatever.  They sometimes have little trolleys, though often they simply squat on the street with their wares laid out in front. Quite how they manage to make enough to survive is beyond me.

 Santa Cruz, street sellers, oil on card, 12 x 15 cm

There is also some distinctive old Spanish architecture, notably one or two storey buildings with eaves that extend onto the street, supported by columns, creating arcades. These provide protection from the elements, and have a certain grace. These buildings have courtyards, some of which, such as the excellent Hostal Colonial, have little gardens.

 Cochabamba, an entry point into the Andes from the East of the country is considerably more fun, with a vast, unruly, street market, a handsome central square and fine Baroque churches.

These next was painted from the Colina San Sebastian, looking towards the Bus Terminal:

A view of Cochabamba, oil on card, 16 x 17.5 cm    SOLD

Entrance to a street, Cochabamba, oil on card, 16.5 x 17 cm

Houses, Cochabamba, oil on card, 13 x 16 cm

 A mountain, on which stands a concrete Jesus, overlooks the city:

 Cochabamba, hillside 3, oil on card, 15 x 13.5 cm

Cochabamba, hillside 2, 17.5 x 17 cm

Here is a section of the elegant square, looking North:

Central Square, Cochabamba, oil on card, 15 x 17.5 cm

And finally, a tree, painted near Cochabamba`s rather dismal little river:

Tree, Cochabamba, oil on card, 14 x 15.5 cm


Thanks to Cristina, Brazillian Medical student for help crossing the border.