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

Sold a painting on New Blood Art

I recently sold this piece on New Blood Art. It was painted in 2007, but I have only shown it once briefly, in a recent group show (Stomach#2, at Hoxton Arches). It’s a favourite of mine, and it’s nice to know that it will finally be on display somewhere.

Relationships Series No. 1
Relationships Series No. 1

Newbloodart.com was founded in in 2004, and is an online contemporary art gallery that sells original work by selected emerging artists. I have only had my work on there for a short while, and any difficulties I have had with this site are, funnily enough, a direct result of it’s main strength. Although new artists are advised to “take ownership” of their portfolio page, and keep their bios and statements up to date; actually trying to do this can turn into a frustrating process. Every aspect of the site is curated by the owner, Sarah Ryan. She has to approve every addition or amendment to your portfolio details, and selects which of the work submitted is shown.
A quick look at the website will demonstrate why this is a good thing. The artwork on offer is generally of a good standard, and artist’s details are presented clearly, and in a consistent manner, making it easier to browse through the portfolios. I might have found it difficult adapting to no longer having full control over how my work is presented, but that will be the case with any artist/gallery relationship, and the same applies to my relationship with The South Galleries, a bricks-and-mortar gallery. New Blood Art has a proven track record, and clearly has more experience and expertise than myself at finding buyers for Art……. Still, it is hard not being in control.

 

Works in progress, working methods and the creative process.

I often wonder about the the creative process. and how best to optimise my working methods. I have tried to identify the most favourable environmental conditions – the best breakfast , the most suitable background music-  and the most effective working practices; but the abandoned and incomplete canvases scattered around my studio are testament to the fact that my methods are neither efficient nor productive.

painting1 work in progress
painting1 work in progress

At any one time, I will usually be working on two or three paintings, and will have at least a dozen half-finished paintings leaning against the walls. What happens is that I have no problems working through the preliminary stages – finalising the composition and setting the tonal values – and then I hit a brick wall. I will set the painting up on the easel as usual, but for some reason my mind will go blank. No amount of staring, or not staring, drinking tea or walking the dog will remedy the situation. I will have no ideas about where to start working on the painting, and it will look to me like the work of another artist. No matter what I do,  I can’t avoid this artist’s block. Instead, I just have to regard it as another stage in the creative process – a time for pause, for reflection.
The three paintings that I am working on now are a perfect illustration of how this problem affects my execution of a painting. Painting 1 is my most recent canvas. It’s based on drawings and photos from a sitting some nine months ago. I was pleased with how the painting was developing. I’m reasonably happy with the composition, and I think the poses are interesting to paint. However, when I sat it on my easel yesterday, I felt nothing. I felt no connection with this painting, and was at a loss about where to go with it. It’s facing the wall now. I will take a look at it in a month, and hope I will see it differently.

painting2 work in progress
painting2 work in progress

My time working on painting 2 has been a long hard slog. From a promising start, when I felt very enthusiastic about the poses and composition, I managed to spoil the painting with the finishing glazes. I ended up removing the offending glazes and sanding down the paint surface in order to start afresh. I’m now in the process of applying those final glazes again, but I’m happier with the effect this time around.

painting3 work in progress
painting3 work in progress

Painting 3 is a puzzle. It had become quite tedious working on the figures, and I was very unhappy with the composition. I abandoned this painting months ago, seeing no redeeming features in it. When I stumbled upon it yesterday, whilst looking for another painting, I saw it with fresh eyes, and a genuine enthusiasm. I like the poses, and can’t wait to start working on it again.

Producing a painting, recreating one’s vision upon the canvas, can be a difficult process, involving a real battle with the medium. Although often frustrating, these same challenges are the main attraction of painting. If it were easy and predictable, I don’t think I would want to do it every day.

Sick and Evil

relationships series - beth and nina. oil on linen, 80cmx80cm, study of two female nudes
Just completed in time for Cultivate Evolved

Well, that’s how one of my paintings has been described. Sean Worrall, gallerist and artist at Cultivate Evolved, had to endure an early morning tirade by an angry visitor as he opened up shop on Thursday. This is what Sean posted on his Facebook page:

Well it would appear that Peter’s fine painting up there is “sick” and “evil” painting I (for it was me, Sean, who had to listen to the rather forceful abuse when I opened the gallery this morning) am an “evil sick satanic bringer of bad things” and I should be ashamed to bringing such unchristian lesbian sickness to the eyes of good people etc etc…. Do like a reaction, but he’s not really been paying attention if that one offends him so much….

As an artist who specialises in painting the human figure, I have occasionally encountered some conservatism towards the subject of the nude, and it has limited my opportunities to show my work at some venues. I have also encountered the odd wry smile or grin when I’ve observed people viewing my work, but I have never encountered an angry reaction to my work. In an age when the mass media is filled with sexualised imagery, I find it genuinely surprising that this painting could provoke such a response. Just glad I wasn’t there.