The Feast of Venus

Peter Paul Rubens The Feast of Venus
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.
layout for feast of venusWhat 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!

sketches for the feast of venus

New Studio, New Work…, a new start

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.
new studio and works in progressI 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.
drawings, sketches
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.
work in progressNot 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.
work in progressWhen 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.
view at end of road

Figure and Portrait

Figure & Portrait exhibition

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.

Work in progress – Evolution of a Painting

I have had a number of life drawing sittings with the same model, Kaya, over the past few weeks. It’s strange how my original plans for what I wanted to achieve from these sittings were abandoned one by one, and new ideas have slowly evolved from the results of each sitting. Here’s Kaya standing next to some of the drawings from these sessions, along with the newly started painting, which will (if ever finished) be the end product of these past four sittings.
kaya1f90003
The top most drawings in the photo above are preparatory sketches for another composition. I had discussed with Kaya how I wanted to paint figures wearing masks, to explore to what extent the masks affect how we perceive the model’s identity or personality. Having recently studied on a course in physical theatre, Kaya was helpfully able to bring along a wonderful white mask for the past couple of sittings, and so this vague idea for a painting is now taking shape.
I commenced this series of sittings working with Kaya,  with what I thought was a very clear idea of my objectives. None of those original goals has been achieved, either because of failures on my part, or by happy accidents occurring in the meantime. Instead, this process has taken me in a completely different, and unexpected direction. And I have no idea yet if the end product will have made it all worthwhile.

Pastels

pastel figure

This is a pastel drawing I made during yesterday’s sitting with the life model Kaya. It has been years since I have used pastels, and I must admit to finding them quite a challenge, requiring a very different approach. From the drawings I was left with at the end of the session, I was most pleased with this one – probably on account of the lovely pose. I’m considering using the same pose in my next painting; a possible layout is shown in the quick sketch below.

rough layout for painting

Life drawing, preparatory sketches

life drawings in charcoalHere are some sketches from this week’s life drawing session. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been struggling with the flat light in my studio space, as is evident in the top most drawings. I made sure that I had set up my studio lights for the second part of this sitting.

The purpose of this exercise, apart from exploring the lighting in my new studio. was to prepare poses that I can use for future sittings where I shall be painting directly from life. My plans have been brought forward somewhat by the imminent departure of this model to California. Oh well.

km5

This pose looked nice enough, but a bit too linear. So for the next pose (shown below) I chose a more elevated viewpoint and tried to introduce some diagonals into the model’s position.

It was difficult enough trying to do a quick charcoal study while standing on a chair in order to get the right view, so I imagine that it might be quite a challenge spending four or so hours in that position while I’m painting from life.

km2

Pure Painting

PurepaintingI have just learned that I have had the latest painting from my Relationship Series accepted for inclusion in the Pure Painting exhibition – a show organised by Brent Artist Resource.

Brent Artist’s Resource is an artist led voluntary organization founded in 1984. We aim to: serve the cultural needs of the people of Brent and North West London, and provide a supportive environment for artists in their professional development.

Relationships Series - beth and Nina No.3
Relationships Series – beth and Nina No.3

Sold paintings

I sold four paintings in January via New Blood Art, which took me by surprise, as I always considered January a quiet month for sales. I had informed Sarah Ryan, the site’s owner and founder, that I wanted to withdraw my paintings for sale from her site. I don’t have a problem with her site – I just didn’t think it was the right place to promote my work at the moment, as I have been finding more opportunities to show my work in traditional galleries (edit: like The South Galleries, who have just told me that they sold one of my Relationships Series last week). She was very understanding, and just suggested that she inform her client base via a newsletter of my intentions. The result was that I very quickly received confirmation of these four sales. Ordinarily, I’d be absolutely delighted, but my only regret is that three of these paintings have never been exhibited anywhere. The painting below, “Woman Bathing”, had only just been finished.

woman bathing, oil on linenI had been planning on showing all three of these pieces in the next few months, so now I’ll be denied that particular sense of satisfaction; when my work is on the wall in some gallery, and the occasional visitor might actually spend a minute or two to have a look at it. Oh well. I can only hope that they are on the wall in someone’s home, and not being kept in storage.

 

Works in progress, a crucifixion and looking for a male model

crucifixionWith the New Year looming, I’m already planning the composition of some paintings for next year. One of the compositions will have a crucified male figure in background, with a female figure in foreground. I’ve already worked on preliminary poses for the female figure with my regular model, so I’m just in need of a male model for the crucified figure. I will be looking for someone of slim/athletic build under thirty, who is prepared to work for very low artist rates. I may have to avoid mentioning the crucified bit in any advert.

This past couple of weeks I have been working on some old, unfinished or abandoned paintings. One of them dating from 2010. Although I try to be methodical in my approach to work, it’s always a mystery how a painting will evolve. I might labour without success on what I thought was a straightforward composition, while more ambitious works might just emerge on the canvas, seemingly under their own volition.
Sometimes I just lose my nerve. I might have worked on a painting over a period of a couple of months, which will be the culmination of work started months earlier with a model posing in my studio; so I often feel quite nervous when applying the final glazes to a piece. I am aware that if I get it seriously wrong, I could ruin the painting. That is why I found it so relaxing working on these “abandoned” pieces. I had already given up on them, and had expected to paint over most of them. Although I haven’t finished them, I’m generally pleased with the results.

works in progress
works in progress

Works in Progress – Three Graces

I’m working on a couple of paintings at the moment that are a slight departure from my recent work. My Relationships Series of paintings generally had a narrative content, either implied, or conferred on them by the viewer. With these new works, I have removed the narrative content, by using the same model for each of the poses. In so doing, the viewer is free to study the relationships of the separate figures on the canvas.
The larger size of one of the canvases has presented a few challenges. Although I worked  through each pose with drawings in previous sittings, I also sketched directly on the canvas whilst working with the model. The canvas is 1.2m tall, and I had quite an elevated viewpoint – standing on a chair. It entailed lots of stretching up and bending down; I can’t recall a painting session that was so physically demanding.

work in progress maxine
work in progress – maxine

The second painting is more modest in size – 80cmx80cm – and is based on The Three Graces.

work in progress three graces
work in progress – three graces