Continuing with what seems to have become the project (of sorts) of painting from photographic sources, the latest product on/off the easel features an image of the artist and author Tove Jansson, another of the favoured cultural icons around these parts.
Again, the emphasis is primarily on the process, the materiality of the paint and its mark-making properties, the rendering of tone and tonal transitions, but the image-content, and some form of faithfulness to and resolution of, is of course ever-present.
‘Tove Jansson After a Photograph’
oil in canvas/20″ x 16″/November 2017
Following on from the recent photorealist ‘portrait’ of Samuel Beckett, the latest painting on and now, resolved, off the easel has been along similar lines, employing similar means, albeit on a reduced scale (having exhausted the existing stock of larger canvases: had one been available, it would have been utilised). This latter aspect proved itself to be less satisfying than the preceding endeavour – more cramped, less painterly, offering less scope for the brush strokes to just ‘be’, to be representative of the process of the ‘work’ of art, with, rather, virtually every mark having to be more descriptive in nature.
The portrait subject is Nick Cave, with the pose offering the bonus of describing the hands in addition to the head/face, the immediate object of reference being an A3 monochrome print of a colour photograph.
‘Nick Cave After a Photograph’
oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/October – November 2017
Ever since hearing The Birthday Party on the John Peel show, and catching the band live in 1981 (bottom of a bill supporting headliners Bauhaus with Vic Godard and Subway Sect between, at the Liverpool Royal Court), Nick Cave has loomed large on the personal cultural landscape, being a firm musical favourite as his career and repertoire has evolved, and it’s been a profoundly rewarding pleasure to listen, chronologically, to a good deal of Nick and the Bad Seeds’ back catalogue as an accompaniment to the painting process (providing the perfect excuse to indulge), if a bit strange to be looking so intently at an image of the artist as he performs.
Today marks the 13th anniversary of the passing of the mighty cultural ‘uncle’ that was (and remains) John Peel, whose influence lives on undimmed, indeed probably burning ever brighter in such times. In celebration, of the life, we’re listening to Captain Beefheart‘s ‘Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), just one of the many artistes and fine records to whom and which Peel provided an introduction – walking in to the day job this morning accompanied by the groove of ‘Tropical Hot Dog Night’ certainly helped make me feel more kindly disposed than is habitually the case.
Another The Fall ‘Imaginary Compilation Album’ (#3) been also posted on the essential The (new) Vinyl Villain – get on over and get listening, you know it makes sense and it’s what Peel would have wanted.
The luxury of four painting sessions over an extended weekend allowed the Samuel Beckett photorealist ‘portrait’, after a print of Jane Bown‘s original photograph, to arrive at some form of resolution, presented here below upon the easel in a state of repose and in various details.
Although I’d previously spent a couple of years, individually, on drawing-from-photographic-source projects (please refer to the 2008 and 2014 (actually March ’14 – February ’15) archives over at the Blogspot version of TOoT), developing technique between, I’d not worked in oil on canvas and on such a scale in such a manner (although the recentish series of ‘woodscapes’ referred to compositional photos in support of other empirical sources) – obviously there are many different stylistic precedents that one is aware of (even, to take such as Gerhard Richter or Chuck Close for example, within the work of a particular artist) and it became very much a matter of working towards interpreting the source image in a way that had integrity as ‘painterly material’ (and technique) for want of a better phrase, achieving that balance between painted mark as painted mark and a certain fidelity to the source as image, the former as ‘actively contemplated’ response to the latter, of course.
‘Samuel Beckett After Jane Bown Photograph’
oil on canvas/40″ x 30″/October 2017
Finally, here’s the painting in position as it was ‘processed’, alongside the source image.
The Samuel Beckett portrait (see previous entry) in its current state after a long session’s painting on Saturday afternoon and another hour on Tuesday morning: a long way still to go before any form of resolution is reached, and the scope/need for many a revision along that way.
‘Samuel Beckett’ oil on canvas/40″ x 30″ (in progress)
Currently, I’m attempting something in paint that I’ve not done previously, in transposing a photograph – and an iconic one, at that – in oils on a large scale, in response to what we shall term a domestic commission. The challenge, to begin, has proved itself to be exactly how one might go about such an endeavour, with a few false starts thrown in, before things have started to make some sort of visual sense and progress is being made, albeit in stately fashion.
The starting point, the subject, is of course a print (A3 and squared-up to be drawn on to the canvas) of Jane Bown’s famous and rather wonderful portrait of Samuel Beckett, taken in 1976 when Beckett would have been seventy years of age, delightfully craggily expressive of features. The good thing about such an enlarging is that it allows a freedom with the application of the paint, to make of a mechanical photographic print something hand-made and painterly – whether the result in any way does justice to the original and subject will be another matter.
In an act of what might be termed ‘method painting’, I’m currently reading Beckett’s novel ‘Molloy’ and will soon be taking up ‘Malone Dies’ in order to in some way ‘inhabit’ the author/subject and the world he creates – that this experience is a pleasurable one only enhances to the experience, the creative process.
‘Slavia Praha shirt’ pencil and watercolour/36 x 25cm
The challenge of the representation of drapery is, of course, as old as painting itself, and a recently-acquired football shirt suggested itself as being a suitable subject-object of study one afternoon last week, so out came the pencils and watercolours. Whilst the particular qualities of the contemporary somewhat shiny-surfaced sportswear fabric were perhaps the main motivating factor in getting to work in the active observation of, the allure of a jersey bearing a red star, particularly in the context of such a pleasing design, cannot be denied a certain significance too.
‘Three Pears with Geometric Shape’ oil on canvas/20″ x 16″
On a recent grocery shop, Anna picked up this trio of pears and then, once home, deposited them on a shelf in the conservatory/studio. A quick reorganisation and they were in place and ready to be actively contemplated and the findings represented on canvas. A brief ray of sunlight observed one morning before the day’s painting process began suggested the geometrical shape thus projected might be incorporated into the composition and thus it came to pass, as an additional element to the familiar and habitual.
As ever, one’s mind turns to the various pears painted by Euan Uglow, particularly with these objects displaying a combination of yellow and red skins as did examples studied by the master.
‘Yellow Submarine #2’ oil on canvas/20″ x 16″
Whatever it is about the back end of August, but last year I was minded to make a small oil study of the household’s ‘yellow submarine’ tea infuser at that particular time and this year I’ve been similarly tempted, so here it is, this time amidst a blue ground.