Friday, May 14, 2010

looking to the future

            Looking to the Future, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm

this is the latest, wet off the presses ... still needs some tweaking but will need to wait till tomorrow when some of the medium has evaporated and the surface is more 'leathery'. Timing is everything, i sometimes think.

the theme remains 'the emotions of aging' but moving on from the horrific realization of one's mortality to the slightly more positive and complex 'coping mechanisms'.

the real problem i have is that i don't know where to go with this painting. It is not the style i set out to use, not the marks i intended to make. I got impatient with the underpainting etc and in my exasperation fell back on fast alla prima. I'm just comfortable in the chaos when too many things are happening and they're all happening simultaneously. I get so many gifts from the paint in the panic - not to mention the adrenaline rush.

OK, next one i promise to be methodical and disciplined and to eat up my veggies. (meanwhile, i'll just keep surreptitiously replacing this image with fresh ones till i'm satisfied i can do no more. Fortunately there is a severe limit as to much i can fiddle with this kind of painting before it starts looking tortured to death).

the bits that have some satisfying bits (for me):-


  1. Interesting work, Harry! So vibrant exciting.

  2. thank you, Jenny, glad you found something of interest. Hope you didn't get any paint on yourself - this paint is so fresh i have to wear a gas mask just thinking about it. Youre welcome here any time. Cheers, h

  3. It's good that you comment your feelings and the process while you are painting. The next time, be methodical and disciplined if you want, but from time to time leave us an alla prima like this. I love those emotional and quick brush strokes, really.
    Te felicito.

  4. I think this is terrific, it has enormous energy.

    I love reading about your process on getting there.

    Be careful what you do next. You seem to be in danger of overworking it from what you write here. It looks fine as it is, to me and my untrained eye.

  5. Harry, I like the eyes and their gaze in this one. I wonder what vision they may have? I appreciate the close ups too. Thank you!

    A good weekend to you!

  6. thank you Manel. i'm beginning to think it's all i can do, which is bad because my research project is aimed at exploring mark-making and still has nearly three years to go!

  7. i appreciate your comments, Elizabeth. I think my biggest danger is i getting too excited by what paint does. Every painting is actually a collaboration between many persons, and is not simply the work of an 'artist'. The farmers and workers of China who grew, manufactured and assembled the canvas, the paint manufacturers, and the electricity companies that powered their machines, and so on. But also the materials themselves.

    Art theorists talk of 'co-responsibility' in painting, meaning that the paint (how it behaves) contributes a lot of the work, and i particularly rely on the flow of liquids, the movement of pigments and the work of gravity.

    But an absolutely essential partner in the realisation of a painting is you, gentle viewer. The image in a painting does not actually exist on the canvas. It only exists in your head. Which is why different people see the same painting differently. There are as many versions of a painting as there are viewers (the same principle as reader response in literature).

    So when you speak of your "untrained eye", Elizabeth, be respectful of it. It is the only eye you have. And with it you have created a whole universe of art-works.

    So thanks you for coming by once again and collaborating with me in making a painting.

  8. hi Brian, yes that's the big question, what is the vision? A dangerous question to ask someone painting self-portraits.

    It disconcertingly puts me in mind of a line from Shakespeare:

    "My Oberon! what visions have I seen!
    Methought I was enamoured of an ass".

  9. my first impressions without reading your post were: a powerful portrait; after reading your post, my thoughts had not changed except i hoped you would leave it as it is:)

  10. i need to hear that, thanks rahina ... maybe one shouldn't be too violent about wanting to change, not force things that don't come naturally, in their own time ... OK, i'll leave it totally alone, put it up on the rack, come back to it in 6 months time ... thanks for the help

  11. Harry, painting is a sufferin sometimes, if you cannot translate on the canvas that you have in your mind. But is an addictive suffering .
    You can come back to the same paint one and once again, until it is such a Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' job, it's matter of time, but, at least in my case, if I paint one day, and other one the same work loses interest.
    I think than the excitement moment and adrenalina that you speak is when you enjoy with the job, trying to find the shortest way,and synthesizing and achiving the best result. It's a journey without end. The important is to enjoy during the trip. By the way, I love your painting. Take care.

  12. This is without doubt a good job!
    Phrase Picasso!
    What bothers me most when I'm painting is that painting got its own life,
    and I start painting a theme and when I finished the job as
    it turned into something totally different than I wanted.!
    See I'm not sure if Picasso said this, but that is how it happens for me :))))
    Best regards

  13. hi Lozzano. Thanks for the understanding and wise comments. And as you say, it's all about enjoying the process, even if at times we can't see a way forward and either seem suck in one place or can't stay in the one place long enough to get it right! Ciao, amigo.

  14. hi Paulo, thanks for coming by and your vote of confidence. And i think your right, a painting does seem to have a mind of its own! Its not simply the caused of limited technical skill but very much by the materials themselves and our hands which seem to have their own ideas about what they should be doing. My hands constantly surprise me by what they come up with. As you say, it's not always quite what was in the head. Happy painting!

  15. Beautiful brushstrokes and the use of colour. A great portrait.

  16. Just discovered your blog! I love All the colors and texture of your paintings. Excellent work! I am a big fan of COLOR! Still trying to find my rhythm with it all. Very excited to follow you.

  17. hi Liz. Thanks for finding me and leaving your generous comment. Your feedback helps me make stronger, more confident marks, in future.

  18. hi there, Tam. And i am sure glad you did find your way here. I often work with a restricted pallette, close to monochrome, for atmosphere, unity of composition and discipline with brush work, but that just means when i do get into color, i like to break out. Knowing you're dropping by will encourage me to break out more regularly!

  19. Thanks harry, for giving us insight into your thought process. I often get myself worked up in similar way and it's nice to see I'm not alone. The theme of aging and time passing is one we can all relate to as well. I have never heard of the term "expressive mark making", that's an interesting way of phrasing that. I think that term would sum up my own work.

  20. hi Teri. I expect ours is a familiar story in many studios.

    When i first came accross the term 'mark-making' i thought it was just pretentious academic jargon for 'painting'. But as i thought about it, i saw it reduced painting and drawing to their absolute basics - grabbing something that leaves a trace, finding a surface somewhere, and makingyour mark.

    It's what our ancestors did in their ice-age caves, what Tasmanian aboriginal people did 40,000 years ago, what Leonardo, Vincent and Picasso did in their studios. When you and i do it, we keep company with all these who have gone before us.

    In my case, i search to make expressive, truthful marks with authority and integrity, from the heart. Difficult, because the more i think about it, the more contrived the mark is and looks. How to do skilful, purposeful marks that are spontaneous and fresh, that is the question.

    So thanks for coming by and making me think further about what i'm doing. All the best with your own journey in mark-making.

  21. I thank for your good reasons for my work. I am glad when artists comment my work. Your work am very beautiful and I like the intense colours that are used!!!

  22. Gracias, Joan. Y un abrazo para ti también.

  23. Ioanna, sorry i could not thank you for visiting my blog earlier but i have been away in Melbourne (i will post some photos on 'crystal cornea' shortly).

    I was so delighted by your compositions, the curving lines, and the subtle color. You are welcome here any time.

  24. Wow, the tortured artist returns for another self portrait. All that angst about mortality and ageing is really coming throo here - something I have shied away from - quite scary and very brave. Compositions and colour very emotive.

  25. ha ha, yes, i enjoy a good bit of torture, Carolann. Thanks for finding something to like despite a theme that is not innately appealing to you. You'll probably need a good strong cuppa after this ;)

  26. checked out your blog after you left a comment on mine.... wonderful, love your thought process and discussion. will follow you in the future
    great connection. Love your discussion about self portraiture, the model who is always available and so different at every sitting.
    I can so relate to your theme.
    thanks for visiting me, it encourages me to post more often.

  27. thanks so much for coming by, Beth. It means a great deal to me when someone as experienced, inventive and gifted as yourself finds something of interest in my work.

    i enjoy writing about my art practice but recently seem to have fallen back into my old trade of psychology. I really wanted, and still want, my paintings to do the talking, but the comments people leave are so enriching and have a way of getting me going, lol.

    my chief interest is the exploration of the Renaissance adage "every painter paints himself". Consequently i am mapping my own expressive mark-making, and simply using portraiture as a vessel for that. The self-portraiture is here chiefly for logistical reaseons. But once in, then the introspection starts and before you know it we have wailing and nashing of teeth.

    Please do post more often. Your work is an inspiration, your focus and evident delight in drawing a tonic for the soul. I have put up a link to your blog so regulars here can discover and enjoy your work too.