I shall be showing a couple of paintings at the forthcoming 24WA Studio Show in Southend on Sea, which opens at the end of May. Being an Estuary Fringe event, it will be free, and there is sure to be some live entertainment for the opening night.
Since moving into my London studio, I’ve mainly been using the studios at 24WA for my life drawing sittings, as it’s more comfortable for the models than a draughty Fish Island warehouse. But I worked on these two paintings there over the Christmas period, when I first moved in. They were started over a year ago, and I think they mark a defining moment in my art, when I set out to explore different ideas in my compositions, and introduced some classical elements into a few of them. The photos below just show details.
The 24WA Studio Show is an Estuary Fringe event.
“The Estuary Fringe was created with the aim of taking art back from the pretentious art elites who have somehow insinuated themselves into the borough, and hand it back to the local community, to everyone, where it belongs.
The first festival in June 2013 was incredibly successful. Organised in just 7 weeks with no money and no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, we were blown away by just how well it all went, so we have decided to keep doing it.”
So, I’ve been working with glazes this morning on one of my current paintings. When I finished, I thought that, instead of throwing away the leftover glaze and cleaning my palette, I would use it to try and finish this painting that has been lying around the studio for a long time now (I think I had the original sittings with the models in July 2013).
I do have a problem working on these older pieces. The sittings are usually from so long ago, that I can’t recall exactly what I had in mind as I directed the model. But most importantly, this painting belongs to a body of work that I was working on over a year ago. It’s only natural that my compositions and also my technique will have changed during this time.
At the moment, I have in my studio a collection of unfinished paintings; some of them started well over a year ago. Although anxious to resume work on my “Feast of Venus” project, I shall try and finish some of these pieces first. They are all important to me, and are only unfinished because of the wretched time I’ve had this past year in finding a suitable studio.
I will be showing my painting “Maxine – The Three Graces” at the upcoming exhibition “Hand Maid”, which will be held at Hoxton Arches, London E2 8HD, from 5th-9th March. This exhibition has been organised by Sweet ‘Art, and is in aid of International Women’s Day.
‘Hand Maid’ will take place at the Hoxton Arches Gallery in Shoreditch and will showcase the work of local and international artists exploring the themes of femininity, feminine identity and women’s day. Works will celebrate, critique and reflect notions of femininity in our society and internationally, created by artists identifying as any gender.
For the past few weeks I have been working almost exclusively on my interpretation of The Feast of Venus. I am getting to the stage where I can define the figures, and set them in space. I’ve made some adjustments along the way, and am happy with all the poses, bar one. The third figure from the left – the figure bending over and looking back over their shoulder – has been a nightmare. My last two sittings ended with the life models getting quite fed up with my instructions to “bend forward and curve your back!” Human anatomy being what it is, their backs just would not bend so, which leaves me with a compositional problem. That curve is essential for the composition, and at the same time the pose has to look mildly erotic. I think I may need to hire a contortionist.
I have just finished a third sitting with life models in preparation for my “Feast of Venus”. It went quite well, and I think I have finalised most of the poses. There’s one pose that has presented some problems, and I may still need to organise another sitting just for this one figure. I imagine it’s a problem that Rubens often had, where actual human anatomy did not conform with his designs. I’m sure he also heard his models complain that their backs wouldn’t bend like that, or they couldn’t twist their bodies so.
I had my first sitting in preparation for my “Feast of Venus” piece. I have ten female figures in total in this painting. I’ve reserved the “erotic” poses on the left of the painting for a model who’s more experienced at glamour work. Today I worked through the poses for the central three figures (with Venus in the middle), and the two figures in the top right, which were the least defined of all the poses.
I’m very happy with how the sitting went, and quickly defined the poses for the top right figures. I’m undecided about whether I need to hire an additional model for any of these poses. I’m happy with how all these poses have turned out, but it might make for a more interesting painting if there was more variety in body-shape.
I’ve settled on a provisional layout for my Feast of Venus painting. Most of the figures are quite well defined for this early stage, but there are a few unresolved areas. I will have to make some decisions about the background in the top right, and the tree behind the central figure of Venus. So today I went out with my camera, photographing trees. I must confess that I’ve not spent much time looking at trees in the past, and to begin with I was amazed by the huge variety in form and texture….. After four hours, they all started to look pretty much the same.
I now have a selection of poses that I’m happy with, which I can present to the model when she arrives for the first sitting. This first sitting will just enable me to work on the layout to a greater detail, so I can make decisions about how I want each figure to look; then I can start looking for suitable life models.
I recently came across an interesting project by the artist Inga Krymskaya, where she is inviting artists to contribute their own interpretations to her ongoing project: “3045 Variations on The Feast of Venus…..an ongoing project by the Dutch artist involving the adaptation and reinvention of the Flemish Baroque painting by Rubens entitled”. I usually have absolutely no interest in creating pieces specially for themed shows. The pace at which I work normally excludes me from any such activity. The generous deadline for this project, 26th February, 2016 (nearly four months from when I write this), is still a bit tight, and I don’t expect I can get anything worthwhile completed to my satisfaction in that time…, but still I keep thinking about it.
What started as a casual perusal of this particular Rubens painting, turned into a more detailed analysis of the composition, and the treatment by Rubens of this subject. And then I started to consider how I would approach the same subject. Well, the Cherubs would have to go, as would the Satyrs; they just don’t have the same meaning in our modern artistic vocabulary. But the underlying themes of the painting are just as valid today as when Rubens put brush to canvas. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d like to arrange the figures in my composition, and spent a few evenings working through endless compositions. Eventually I settled on a layout that borrowed enough from the original, whilst being a continuation of my current work, and able to convey a meaning to a modern audience. By now I realised that I was working on my next painting.
It has been a few days now since I first came across Inga Krymskaya’s project, and I have barely worked on anything else. I have arrived at an initial layout, with alternative poses for most of the figures. The background is rather less defined at present. I believe I can make do with as few as three different models, and have already arranged a sitting with one model for the preparatory work; in order to work through most of the poses, so that I’ll have drawings with which to start arranging the composition on the canvas. It is only then that I can settle on the composition. From there I might have a better idea which models will best suit each figure, and I can only hope that I will finalise the poses for their figures with one sitting each. That 26th of February deadline is beginning to look very close!
For various reasons, I’ve ended up having a very difficult nine months, work wise. I’ve barely finished anything, and paintings that I started over a year ago have been stuck in an artistic limbo. A studio move earlier in the year did not turn out as I had hoped, and so I was not exactly full of confidence when I set up a new studio space just over a month ago.
I need not have worried. The new space is large, bright and quiet. It’s taken me a few weeks to get into the right frame of mind and to dispel that sense of gloom that has been hanging over me for so long, but I really do feel that I have found somewhere that I can produce some work. It is a great help that it’s a large and uncluttered space, allowing me the luxury of being able to view my work at a healthy distance.
The drawings above date back quite some months. I had a vague idea for a painting, with my life model Maxine posing with her arms out while in the background stood a male figure, possibly in a crucified pose. The two sketches on the bottom left were from the first sitting, where I tried to develop the ideas. As is usually the case, my original ideas for poses just did not work. The three drawings at top left were from the next sitting, where we worked through alternative poses. I was much happier with these, and put them up on the wall as soon as I moved into my new studio. I was trying to decide which pose to use for my painting, when one day it suddenly struck me that I could use all three poses.
Not satisfied with starting my first new composition for many months, I even managed to make a start on a painting I had originally planned when working with the life model Kaya. She brought along some wonderful masks to the sittings, and so helped me develop an idea for a painting that I have had for a very long time.
When I was looking for a new studio space, I had concentrated my search in London, thinking it better to be closer to the main “art scene”. I viewed a number of places there, but none were quite suitable for my purposes. I was somewhat disappointed when I ended up renting my present place in Westcliff-on-Sea, more out of desperation; my studio had been packed away for months, and I was desperate to find somewhere, anywhere, that I could start working again.
Apart from having the main requirements of a studio – light, space and quiet – I am beginning to appreciate now just how important the location is. Below is the view just twenty yards from my front door. It might be professionally advantageous to be located in East London, but it’s certainly healthier and more enjoyable to have the big skies and sea breezes of the seaside.
I will be exhibiting three paintings at the upcoming “Figure & Portrait” exhibition at BAR gallery, from 12th-25th September.
The gallery says “This exhibition is dedicated to figure and portraiture. Showcasing work in a variety of mediums including painting, print, photography and sculpture. All work is for sale and affordably priced.”
More information about Brent Artist Resource and the events that they organise can be found on their website here.