Sunday, 31 January 2010

Hope, Prisoners and Painting and Statues

It was suggested to me the other day that I, “It seems to may you may have lost hope”. Now what do we mean by hope? Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

I remember at the age of four or five. I was out on my tricycle with my mother. A friend who she was talking to me asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied, “I want to be a statue”. What I think I meant was that I wanted to be well enough known that I would be remembered. Well if that was my hope, I suspect that I may have missed it. But I have lived a full and very fruitful life in the missing of it. A long story and not for a blog but looking back I can most certainly say I have effected and maybe even changed the lives of a number of people, many of whom still make contact. Of course I have changed the direction of some lives in the decisions I made as a magistrate, minister , chaplain and teacher.

But have I lost hope in my life. Not at all. I will never be a statue that is for sure. But ever day I awake in the hope and belief that I might one day paint something that brings joy to others. That I might help others to capture some of the beauty of the world. That I might make the somebody think deeper thoughts.

Try as we might we do not always succeed. I remember a young man who the courts had decided deserved a term of imprisonment. As an alternative he was ordered to do a number of hours useful labour in the community. I organised for him to do this in and around the church where I was minister. The first day he arrived there had been a considerable snow fall. I asked him to clear the path from the road to the church doorway. After a short time he said he was not prepared for this and packed himself off home. The outcome of his action was he was told he would do the time in prison as his alternative. Two days later I was visiting the prison as Chaplain. What was he doing? He was cleaning the snow from the prison yard. As I passed I whispered to him. “Hope the food and comfortable bed is better than you had removing my snow.” On the other hand over the period we had some excellent work done by people on this scheme and many of their lives were turned around.

As life goes on I wonder, I think, but I have never lost hope in the sense that no matter the age of a person we can still effect the lives of others. My hope is that I can continue to do so and at the same time find peace and joy in my life.

I suspect the barstool philosopher is taking over this morning. On a lighter note, I often warned some pupils that if they did not mend their ways I would see them in court. Some I did. But before leaving that part of the country I remember the lad who came over to my wife and I one evening, his pals in tow, and openly said, “Lads meet the man who changed my life. I never forgot the day he took me aside and warned me.” It warms my heart to know that hope is never lost.

Friday, 29 January 2010

New Painting a Work in Progess Looking for Comments

This is a painting I have been working on for the biggest part of today. I am kind of at a loss about what might be my next step with it. If you read this blog and have any comments I would be most grateful.

I was surprised by the number of friends who took the time to get in touch with me about yesterdays work in progress. The general opinion seemed to be that I should leave well alone and know when to stop. Strange that I had given just this advice to somebody else yesterday and here I am today reporting that I listened and in my usual way decided just to make a couple of small additions. I added some highlights in lemon yellow and some darker areas hinting at stamens. I am not a great lover of paintings of flowers yet I find myself doing them from time to time. I have thing about poppies also so find myself captivated by flowers that get caught in the breeze. I added a clear glaze and then decided to just darken the lemon yellow in one or two spots. I am sure those who have been good enough to comment will say I have gone the step too far.

For those interested, and I am always surprised to find out how many seem to be, the painting is on a box canvas measuring 16”x20”. The “stems” were made with cut up pieces of string , the “heads” with modelling paste. The painting was then covered in colour using wet hands and left to dry. A clear acrylic gel glaze was then put on again using hands, a messy job but a feeling of involvement. Once dry another glaze this time of white with a hint of yellow was applied and washed back off some of the areas. A further gel glaze was added and left to dry. the “brush” a the bottom was put in with burnt umber and a hint of purple. Then the highlights were added and in some areas the petals darkened.

I wonder have I ruined it or have I finished it? We can but wait and see. Might I thank all those that have commented. both here and privately.
It was pointed out to me that I was correct in being concerned about the amount of litter generated at school lunch times and on the way to and from school. But said the person we must lay the blame where it belongs with those who teach them that such behaviour is acceptable. Point taken. On my way home I was delayed by work on the road. Another of those notices telling us to beware there is a new road layout ahead. Now there is a form of unnecessary litter. Those who travel the road will have seen the changes taking place so are not requiring to be warned. Those new to the road will not be aware of the new layout anyway it will all be new. So up they go theses signs. When is it not longer a new layout and the sign can be taken down? Never it would seem. I run past one such sign daily that has been there so long it can hardly be read because of all the moss growing on it. Those of us who paint landscapes are also aware of the growth in health and safety notices all over the place. Beware of deep water, and when you look over to see it is a trickling brook. Or the most famous on an electricity pole, “Do not climb electrical power,” not just on the first pole but every single pole in bright yellow. Health and safety gone mad. The Fear of the culture of a suing society.

Takes me back to another incident when I was working in the butchery trade. One day I was waiting for a customer to decide which meat I was to slice. I was passing my knife from one hand to the other and back. The knife slipped and made a small cut on the finger of the customer. I apologised profusely and went to get the first aid box to apply a bandage. I did this as neatly as I could and tied it off with a beautiful reef knot. As I took the two ends to trim them off I cut the customers thumb. We joked about it for months afterwards, how she would rather I laid the knife down before serving her. In today’s society this incident would have cost us a small fortune, and maybe rightly so.

Anyway the bottom line is this, it is not only young people who are responsible for ruining the beauty of our environment.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Websites for Artists

There seems to be a growing number of websites dedicated to the display of art not all for sale. There are those that seem to have no limits to the numbers that they permit to show on the site others that have a strict number and they adhere to that. Some websites allow you to post you work for sale others it is merely a way of getting your work seen. Some are very easy to use others have very complicated means to get you art on display. The numer of such site seems to grow by the day if not by the hour. How successful are they?

First a personal website. I have had two such websites the first going down the cheaper route of signing up witha  company and having to do the build myself with alittle help from them. A lot of work but the cost was bearable and was paid for by one of the very few sales I had from there. The second site I have is my present one. Built for me at a greater cost, able to take paypal buttons and maintained for me. This site is fairly easy to put work onto and keep up to date. This site gets me more exposure than the other but to date has not really paind for itself.

Now to some of those other sites. There is one I think all artists know about, going by the numbers that subscribe to it. Has anyone ever sold from it? I suppose there may have been but I have never ever met any of them. Some of the stuff posted on such sites is questionable in terms of art, I saw on the best known of those sites a picture of a young girls arm with the word know tattooed on it. I as the question honestly is this art? If it is whose art is it? Then there are those who know how to work the system on such sites they comment on almost every post always in glowing terms and so frequently they themselves have, "Pic of the Day". This site now adds featured artist on "Twitter". How I wonder, out of all those artists do they make a choice?  And the question should they when all are paying a fee.

I subscribe to two art magazines and both have sites where it is possible to post art. I have no complaints at all about these sites, they do what they say they do, they allow you exposure. My only one concern with them is that they do so in pages the latest uploads getting the front page. How often I have put an painting on there and within a very short time it is no longer on the front page because someone else has posted six paintings in one day. When this does not happen and you do indeed get exposure the comments and feedback are frequently helpful honest and constructive.

I post also on a commercial site that has a limited number of artists. It is operated by a very helpful person. This site tries very very hard to give all artist the same opporuinity to have front page exposure. This site has led to two sales for me and a number of visits to my own site that have resulted in either a sale or a commission.

Recently I have found, or did they find me, a site operated by Cathy Savels a very very helpful lady. I found this one through Facebook. It is very easy to upload paintings and artwork onto. At present it does not have too many artists  but I have a slight worry it may go down that road purely because of the generousity of Cathy. It also features slected artists and this is done by Cathy on the basis of those artists who are using the site most frequently, this sounds like a very fair way and  nobody is paying a fee. As I have already said Cathy is a very helpful  person and I am sure she has the well being of artists at heart.I wish this site well. I have already had a couple of feedback comments from this but it is very early days and as I say and I wish them well.

I have you will notice not named any of the sites I have mentioned but I am sure if you are in the world of art you will have your own knowledge of some of the above. The routes to finding them well I have hinted. I would love to hear from others with similar of other experiences in trying to get your art out there.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Haggis, Burns and the Haggis Boiler.

So Haggis Neaps and Tatties it was last night for myself and so many others. For those who need that translated it is haggis turnips and mashed potatoes a traditional meal in Scotland on the 25th of January the Birth date of Robert Burns Scotland's national bard. The day when the BBC make some small token gestures to notice that the English National Bard might not be the British Bard.

I always reflect on his life at this time although i have only once in my life ever attended a Burns Supper Night. Once was enough, the listening again to all the well known poems of Burns and the drinking of two much whiskey. It has always amused me how so many members of the church and many ministers of the church that I know well can always come up with an appropriate "coothie saying" from a Burns poem to sum up or give further meaning to many everyday events. They can do this when you might expect them to quote from the holy book of their religion. Then some of them have almost made a religion of Rabbie Burns which is strange when you consider his views on the subject.

In my early years of work, having been asked to leave school at 15, wasting my time staying on, I had reason to make haggis by the barrow load. Twice a week I made a huge boiler ( something that was normally used to boil clothes, heated by a coal fire underneath) of the glorious food of Scotland. Don't tell the English the first mention of it is to be found in English literature. My fondest memory of haggis was the day the young apprentice, not the brightest penny in the shilling, was told to go and put a shovel of coal on the haggis. he did literally that. I can remember all the large lumps being spooned from it and the haggis that week having a slightly sooty flavour. Can you ever imagine that happening now.

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Wonders of Porridge

Now having posted my blog a friend contacted me to remind me of the days of cod liver oil orange juice and porridge. Now there is a thing Porridge the emotions that word stirs. How is it best made? Well now you can buy porridge that can be made in 2mins let me tell you that does not sound at all like porridge and I doubt if it ever will be. Then there is the ready .... kind of porridge even faster to make. This one I do know does not taste one bit like porridge, more like eating the packet it is sold in. Porridge made with real oats takes time, some people leave it overnight on a very very low heat, others make it on heat but stirring it constantlyeither way it tastes good to me when ready. But then there comes the way to eat it. With sugar or salt? With a spoonful of jam or syrup or my real favourite with a bit of real black treacle. Delicious, and it stops you feeling hungry for ages.

As a struggling student it was my staple diet. I had it for breakfast, cooked enough to leave to firm up and slice with a bit of jam later in the day like a sandwhich and the last of it fried and eaten with chips at night. I would not recomend the latter as healthy eating but after having it healthy twice it seemed ok to indulge. Once fried salt and pepper and it was not all that far away from haggis. Now haggis that is for another blog even although today is burns night and maybe I should have started with the haggis.

Food Litter and Painting

When I am not thinking of painting I can become so easily one of your Grumpy Old Men. I do not mean to it just seems to happen. Caught an item on the news this morning about overweight children. They had rolled in the "experts" to advise parents on how to feed children, how to give them a healthy diet with no junk food. Instructions on how to read the packaging on prepared food to get the best option. I then headed off to have a morning swim and there they were the council employees doing their daily clean of the local play area, two of them. Marvellous you might say, but then later in the day they move along to the shopping area to clean up all the litter off dicarded chips wrappings and pies from the bakery and the McDonalds packaging. Every day this goes on. Seems to me these two items are linked but I will leave you to make the link. Funny how when we paint seascapes and landscapes we never include all the litter that besoils some much of the beauty. I remember having painted a seascape and missed out my usual seagulls a friend commented. My reply was to tell him it was painted at 1pm. He looked bemused. I said at that time all the seagulls head up to the high street to get the pickings from all the discarded rubbish of school pupils high quality lunches. From this you will see that the painters block seems to be ongoing so instead I am having my dailly gripe.

Friday, 22 January 2010

So Completed But not What I Thought.

Sometimes you just have to go with the paint and the heart and forget what the head is sayin. It is finished not too sure but I am doing no more other than maybe a further coat of finish.

When is a Painting a Painting?

I was working on an abstract. I had added texture and the first layer of colour. This was most of day one. Then I had a converstation with a person about one of my very very early paintings. She liked it. I had already reused the canvas so that painting was no more. But that conversation influenced me and I found myself reusing the colours and the thoughts. The new work is not at layer four of paint and I am just not sure what I should do to complete it. I hope somenody today says something to me that makes me decide. I have included a rough picture of the present state will be interesting for me to be able to compare this with the end result.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

It Seems to Have Happened Again

Well I managed to complete the painting of the poppies as I said. I had been asked to paint these because somebody liked my previous poppy painting but wanted something more red than the other ones. I deserved it because having painted and sold so many poppy paintings in my first year I had made a new year resolution 2009 not to paint any poppies in the year. I go to October /Novemeber and gave in and painted a pastel of two poppies. This was the one that prompted the request for redder ones. Yesterday the person saw them and said she liked them but I notice she has not put in an offer for them. So here I am again trying to please others and ending up with a canvas I am not sure what to do with. I am really beginning to wonder if it is worthwhile trying to paint for others, Maybe I should just paint for myself.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Old Painting Finished New Friends Made

It is good when you at last manage to complete something that was become a bit of a nightmare. In fact I did not really finish it, more like I redid the thing. I had some doubts about it but on letting others see it I got a good number of comments about it and so the day ended on a bit of a high. One fellow artist went on to comment about some of my other art and this lifted the day on to another level altogether. I am hoping that the good feeling will lead me back to the production of some more art. If nothing else it looks as if I have found a couple of good friends through this painting. One lady, Ruby Lockett produces some beautiful art which can be seen on just search her name. The other says he is a metal worker who has began playing with acrylics and has painted some poppies similar to mine. Sounds like a fun person and I look forward to seeing his work. Jamie Carlin sounds like what he is trying might be really interesting.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Painters Block

Well I did nothing yesterday in terms of paint. I made a small effort and tidied up my painting area. I looked at some of my past artwork that I am no longer happy with and decided what I do with them So I have at least one canvas to be repainted. I began a painting on poppies a few days ago and it is sitting on my easel waithing for me to complete it. Is this what is causing the block I wonder. Maybe I should put that out of view for a bit. I do not feel at all sure about it and yet do not want to just white it out. I think this is all part of doing anything other than paint. WHY.

Still not got round to using my airbrushes keep making tentative approaches. I am wondering if this has anything to do with my reluctance to start. I wish somebody would help me get over this.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Haiti ,Art and the Questions of LIfe

MY art has been moving all over the place from one thing to another. I sold a painting of a Tiger Head on Friday evening so unexpected. The client who purchased it sat down to chat to me and we began to chat about art and religious symbols. Why did he buy a Tiger painting I wondered. But seascapes, landscapes and such are the bread and butter that buys the paint so why ask too many questions.

Still the reality is that the art I love to paint has more and more found me striving to find again the answers to big questions. What does art have to offer people in the search for meaning and purpose in life? MY latest work Samadhi was full of such symbolic meaning.

Then out of the blue a fellow artist says to me that it is wonderful how God saved the life of the child in Haiti after all those days buried. BANG. My head is spinning again. If god in his wisdom saved this child why did he not save all the others. So here we go again on the merry go round. What is it all about. I dread to think where this is going to take me when I head down to lift the next canvas and begin.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Another Venture

Another venture another attempt to get original art. This time I used all sorts of methods to add texture to the canvas then I worked on adding layers of glazes each one protected. The process was long but amazingly satisfying. The end result I am not at all sure about but there you go so it is with much of the work we produce.