La contrainte, c’est la liberté !

A French friend once told me that ‘constraint is freedom’.  Well-travelled, she leads groups of artists on travel-sketching holidays.  She always sets constraints, such as : “you have 30 minutes, and you must choose a subject between here and the end of the street”.

Strange as it may seem, this sort of constraint is actually quite liberating.  The big decisions have been made, and the artist is now free to release his or her creativity and problem-solving skills on the subject, rather than spend all day wandering around a town or city trying to decide which is the ‘best’ scene to depict.  

I find myself in the fortunate position of working on corporate commissions (in the finance and hotel-and-leisure sectors). It is  liberating and will, I’m convinced, lead to my best work yet.   

The more I think about it, nearly all the creatives I admire, in all genres, produced oeuvres to commission:  Mozart, Vermeer, Shakespeare . . . . .

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Painting the Square Mile

When I’m painting something, be it a portrait, landscape, skyscape or cityscape, I like to ‘get under the skin’ and find out what’s going on. Why are those clouds the shape they are? Why do those bare twigs make the … Continue reading

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Just a sketch

John (graphite on paper)

John: artist and philosopher. A quick sketch before venturing out to the pub to put the world to rights.

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'Rainbow' - Pastel - 50cm x 40cm (click to view larger image)

I bought this rainbow trout this morning and couldn’t resist trying another quick still life.

Working with fresh fish I am obliged to work quicker than I usually do: artists can’t afford to to let food go off ! And working at speed can sometimes result in unexpected qualities that are pleasing. I have to admit I’m pleased with this one.

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An ambitious conservative artist

“Ambitious conservative artist” is a non sequitur some might say, and that ambitious artists should be radical and challenge the establishment. But in fact the ‘establishment’ has for a long time taught, encouraged, promoted and subsidised ostensibly radical art.

It’s almost impossible in most British towns and cities to find a publicly-owned gallery that exhibits representational painting and sculpture by contemporary artists: the type of artworks that most of us want to see. Instead we get ugly and spurious art forced upon us, so-called installation art and ready-mades, and what is worse, as tax payers we have to pay for it.

I find nearly all ‘modern’ art meaningless, unbeautiful and boring, hence I rarely visit public-gallery exhibitions, and I think I’m in the majority.

And so what do we do? Keep pecking away at the art establishment; our time will come. Paradoxically we conservatives are now the true radicals !

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Another experiment with ‘painterly realism’

Herring - Pastel 50cm x 40cm (click to view a larger image)

I worked rapidly on this painting – in fact the fish was still fresh enough to gut and bake after I’d painted sufficient information from these two herring.

I find wet fish at once beautiful and disturbing ! 

It’s back to high realism next week – a corporate commission which I look forward to posting here on completion.

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Latest Paintings

Portraits of Max and Lara

Latest Portraits (click to see larger image)

Here are my two latest paintings, a portrait of Max completed in December 2011, and a portrait of Lara completed this week.

The first has high detail, using the full range of pastels in the armoury, whereas the portrait of Lara is more painterly, using only the ‘big sticks’, i.e. soft pastels (leaving the conté pastels and the pastel pencils in their boxes).

The two paintings have set my course for 2012, in which I will fluctuate between high realism and painterliness. In fact, I think the Lara portrait might be described as ‘painterly realism’, although I have deviated a little from ‘real’ colour and tonal values to achieve the moody chiaroscuro effect.

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