Well, my word, has all this time passed already? I don’t actually notice time passing other than the fact that my beard keeps getting whiter, Poirot’s mustache changed shape, foodstuffs go in and out of season and, most of all, Kate shouts at me to produce another post…so here we go.
As you read last time, the year started with the most amazing trips West, East, South and back North again. Commissions started to arrive and painters worked in the Studio. Now after a few weeks of looking at two thousand photographs, planning, drawing and blocking in, I’m starting the fine art stage as I begin to work on the details of nine large oils. I’m using Griffen Alkyds made by Winsor and Newton, cos I love the way they are touch dry so quickly enabling me to blend and work colours constantly. A while ago somebody said that they would like to see some visible brush strokes in my work…er…I don’t want visible brush strokes, thank you so I’ll continue to blend and work with glaze after glaze.
I really do hate the early stages of blocking in especially when it’s bloody ripples … I hate ripples, they’re boring, blocking in is boring and I’m doing nine, NINE…Oh, cor, crumbs, nine.
Okay. I’ve worked and worked and taught and demonstrated and painted and painted, so this is how far I’ve got with the South Georgia collection. One of the good things about producing a large collection is that I can rotate them on the easel.
I do say to students that there are three times to stop; the first is obviously when you’re tired ‘cos you’ll make mistakes, next is when you’re bored ‘cos you’ll rush it and, guess what, you’ll make mistakes and lastly but most importantly when you can’t do it YET. The YET really is vital to any painter. We don’t do it right each time. Everybody can have a bad day when the paint just won’t do what you want it to do, so if it is going wrong or you just don’t know how to spread the stuff…then stop. Prop it up in plain view, keep looking and thinking and the moment that you think you know HOW, take the painting down and work on it.
So I did that wIth these, I went so far, then worked a bit on the next. You see, when you sit for days and days over a hot easel you don’t see the mistakes so when you come back to it fresh you either see what’s wrong or (hopefully) it looks a darn site better than you thought it did.
Now then, you chaps who are reading this will recognize the scenario I’m about to lay out before you all. You’re sitting at the dinner table chatting, being sophisticated, urbane and almost Wildian and just as you’re wishing that you had recorded the whole scintillating performance your wife nudges you painfully and stage whispers, ” for God’s sake stop waffling , just tell the bloody story.”
Alright then I’m going to do what I do best and I’ll wander through a few different “arty” subjects and waffle.
I’ve mentioned our friend Patrick Shelley before – he shuffled off this mortal coil over a year ago and I still miss him and his rants about the art world. One of his constant gripes was his insistence that so much of the art on show in museums were fakes.
How did he know?
He told me an interesting story about his early days in Paris when he’d been working in a small Left Bank Studio. He learned how a certain painter worked by copying their work, quite normal, painters have been doing that for hundreds of years. But his was an exceptional version of a ___. Into the studio came “Mr. Richman” who looked at everything then stopped in front of the ___ and indicated that he would like to buy it for a stunningly high price which Shelley (then a poor painter) accepted with the speed of a striking clapper in Notre Dame. Mr. Richman asked Shelley to sign the painting but he refused saying that he never put his name on any of his work. Not your name, the buyer said, his. Sooooo, he signed Mr.Richman’s name on the oil with watercolour and everybody was happy. Time went by and Mr. Richman died. When Shelley heard that his collection was to be auctioned off, he wandered into the saleroom to be amazed to see that his version of the ___ was catalogued with an enormous guide price. He checked out the painting and saw that somebody had gone over his watercolour signature with oil paint. It sold and somebody now owns a Shelley/___ Simples.
To the right are Holbeins, well, no, of course it’s not, it’s “After Holbein “ by McEwen. I was commissioned some time ago to paint four “Holbeins” by a lady who was restoring a Tudor house so I researched, read books and articles, looked at photos. It took a while prepare and longer to put that prep into operation. An old wood panel was gessoed, painted with correct pigments and then aged with special varnish which cracked, dirt, dust and candle wax was rubbed into the surface.
But…just in case anyone tried to sell it as an original Holbein/School of Holbein — I under painted them with acrylic self-portraits flipping a finger at the Art World…well, anything else would have been wrong …(clearing throat).
Pip, pip until the next time.