Sunday, May 2, 2010

self-portraits of a gargoyle in a Claude Mirror

Blue gargoyle, oil on polypropylene panel, 44 x 60 cm

Finally gotten round to playing with my reflections in my ‘Claude mirror’ (here). I wanted to see if they had any capacity to reveal something truthful about the mirror-gazer (me, in this instance) that an ordinary mirror could not. I also wanted to explore what kind of mark-making might be most suited to images of this type. I wanted to continue with polypropylene sheet rather than canvas, but didn’t want to just fall back on Kanevsky palette-knife and paint-mixing techniques. I want to develop my own voice, discover my own lexicon of mark-making.

And so after a little trial and error i found a kind of drybrush method that used paint directly from the tube. Being a latter-day Fauvist, i like working directly from the tube, keeping the colour as pure and intense as i can. I am not troubled by monochrome painting in the least. On the contrary, it imposes a kind of rigor and discipline that i like to struggle against.

So this is today’s effort – self-portrait of a blue gargoyle. I intend to produce two more, a gargoyle trilogy, in order to become quite familiar with this technique. My intention is to then choose one of the three gargoyle paintings and produce a fourth, larger portrait from it but using palette knives instead of dry brush.

Gargoyle No 2 - a bit more gentle humour in this one. If the No 1 betrays my melancholic disposition, then this more candied image hints at my loopy side.

Purple gargoyle, oil on polypropylene panel, 44 x 60 cm

And, No3. In this third and final gargoyle i have paid closer attention to the direction or 'grain' of the brush marks in an attempt not only to suggest a more naturalistic contouring of the facial features, but at the same time create a greater sense of abstract 'swirl' or movement in the work.

Green gargoyle, oil on polypropylene sheet, 44 x 60 cm

plus, some detail and fun with a camera which suggests you don't need a Claude Mirror, just a camera with a wide-angle macro lens capability to 're-configure' your own art into more surreal forms.


  1. i like the way you have worked the skin !
    blue-black-white many people thinks it is a good way to deal with the image , but is very tricky .
    you got very well .

  2. thanks Caio - you do skin so expressively ... i'll do another couple - try some other colours (though i prefer Prussian blue) - then move on to something else

  3. At last a really different blog, exciting to look at and really expressive both in content and artwork. Congratulations, I will visit again. Excellent.

  4. thank you so much, Carolann. Coming from one whose painting is so filled with vitality and celebration, this comment is encouragement indeed.

  5. Your method has given excellent results, I love this job ... it've a tremendous force.
    Lately monochrome painting also have attracted me and I have decided to practice with a series of double portraits in which I am still.
    I love visiting your blog, and by the by, there are very interesting reflections in the previous post: you are also a wonderful writer.
    See you soon.

  6. ah, thank you so much, Lozzano ... from someone who understands so much about painting like you do, this is encouragement indeeed ... i'm more confident now about posting the purple gargoyle which will be ready in the morning ... ciao amigo

  7. Harry,

    Your blues are vivid and haunting at the same time. I'm just as guilty of working straight from the tube - mainly as a paint-saving measure.

    I also appreciate your description of process, and again, allowing me into your studio.

    Excellent, as always!

  8. thanks, IP. I can see why you work straight from the tube. For the optical effects to work as they do in your painting, getting that even geometric marix, you need absolute conrol over colour. And the effect is hypnotic.

    I did sneak in a dab of exploratory ultramarine under the bottom lip - a mistake but i left, and now call it my homage to Brett Whiteley, a much beloved Aussie painter.

  9. thank you, David ... welcome by any time.

  10. Harry, these are playful and ever so interesting. Talk about not taking yourself (portrait) seriously. Makes me think of how God might look variously at his image with concern and curiosity and even amusement.

  11. Thanks for dropping by, Regina (was getting agitated i might miss out on the stimulus of your observations). What you say is quite so. I did talk a playful approach. How you look at creation is maybe all a matter of perspective.

    And of course the huge advantage of self-portraiture is that one can push depiction to the limits with no one litigating. I mean, poor Cecil Beaton nearly died on the spot when Bacon unveiled his portrait of him and Bacon subsequently destroyed it. So i get to be as wry, corny, cruel, analytical, comedic, ironic, caricaturing, bombastic, and depressive as i like! But just to show i haven't really lightened up too much, tomorrow's tale of horror should make amends.

    As to what God might see when he looks at us, now there's a mega-post coming up! (hmm, thought i had been painting that all along). But maybe the Almighty just sees a lot of bacteria since there are more microbial cells in our bodies then our own?. Opps, here i go already. OK, rain check, I'll think on it (or maybe just keep painting it).

    cheers, h

  12. fascinating blog! polypropylene sheet? you mean a large piece of plastic? i have already picked up many ideas rom your blog but this one has thrown me. explain, please. and great work on the portraits.

  13. hi rahiana. Yes, it's plastic sheet. But plastics come in many varieties. The most inert, often used for archival purposes by museums, is polyethelene (PET). It comes in clear rolls and bags. It also comes in solid sheets. A similar product, also highly inert and non-reactive, is polypropylene (PP). It's used for purposes like containers for petrol (jerry cans). It is also naturally a clear substance.

    Where i live it is readily available in 60 x 120cm 3 mm thick sheets, manufacted in pure white. They are sold as white boards because pen rubs off very easily. However a film of oil paint seems to cling quite happily. But will wash off completely with turps. I find that quite useful, actually. Wporking with it is a bit like watercolour in that the brilliant white of the sheet shines through thinly spread oils to give them an extra glow.

    Have fun playing with it.

  14. I like the very last one....SOOOO expressive. That's the one you should use for your profile. :) Not that it matters a stitch what I think! ha!

  15. of course it matters, Tam. I'll give it a try, though i was thinking of using a close-up section of the really colourful one for a while (WITHOUT the artery dangling out!). Cheers.