Thursday, November 4, 2010

Big Brother

Big Brother, acrylic on board, 60 x 90 cm

The fourth of my 'emotionally recollected family' series - my other brother, the eldest.

He will tell you that he never gets lost, always knows where is, even when he has driven his van up a dead-end street. He knows everything and you know nothing worth knowing. He pulls things apart to 'fix' them but they never seem to work the same again, though my boyhood memories picture him building boats with immaculately finished hulls and tuning his piano accordion.

He is devoted to his mum. He never married. He used the time to devise small businesses that never made much money but consumed endless hours of dedication and energy.

He will lean back at the table, hands behind his head, gut thrust into the room, and hold forth for hours on any subject. His endless tales of his exploits invariably end with yet another proof of his almost mystical powers, convinced he is an expert at bending others to his cunningly laid plans and worldly savvy. 

But I sit across the table and see someone open to exploitation through naivety.

He needs protecting. How do you protect a rhino in your parlor?

Without getting trampled?


  1. We've all known these types of men. I think what I like best about this painting is that you are back painting (#1), and the mysterious other in the background that is in green with a hawkish nose - maybe watching, maybe looking out for the brother without being trampled because he's standing behind him?

  2. actually sounds kind of like an extreme version of my brother

  3. and at a safe distance ... or is it Nemisis? ... thanks for those delicious thoughts, RH.

  4. maybe he is every eldest brother (just an extreme version), Christopher ... or maybe he is what it feels like to be looking up as a younger brother ... takes ya pick

  5. Creo que has expresado muy bien la personalidad de la persona retratada. Además, me gustan las gruesas y fuertes pinceladas de atrevidos colores, sin miedo.

  6. Hi Harry,
    I'm writing with a huge smile plastered across my face because it's so great to see you back doing what you do best.
    I have one of those, too. An older brother, I mean. But he's more of a salt o' the earth- type than yours. We haven't spoken in a few years and I've never tried to paint him. The outcome might be scary in two ways--the painting itself, as well as, the psychological issues it might reveal.
    Bingo! Thanks to your example, it may just be time for me to give it a go. If you don't mind my asking, do you have any particular way you begin such an emotionally-charged work? Do you approach it like any other painting?
    I have no idea what might cross my mind at the start of such a potentially gut-wrenching effort. I have a feeling it might begin with a long period of staring at the blank canvas as the years together growing up flash by. I also doubt I'd use a photo. It would have to be imagination exclusively to be honest.
    I'll shut-up now. Congratulations on yet another powerfully-expressive art work. Don't let my lack of analysis put you off. It's just that your words say plenty and I know there are lots more inside.

  7. your strength is incredible, makes me want to put to work immediately,
    it would be so nice see you at work, I could learn so much...
    love your art, you are the best

  8. Sounds a tad like my older brother, not the oldest, the one immediately below the oldest. He too is like a rhinocerous in need of protection.

    Fantastic image here and powerful words. Thanks, Harry.

  9. Harry,

    Yes, it is good to see that you are back to painting. I hope you are taking it easy as best you can.

    Your description paired with the work is as powerful as every and will give me something to ponder today.

    Take care, my friend,

  10. What is it with brothers. I haven't spoken to mine since my mother's funeral three years ago. This work looks how you feel about your brother and to me is a form of therapy. Maybe I should try one of mine, although I have almost forgotten what he looks like!

  11. Harry you are so inspiring. You venture into the scariest places. But I guess you have an advantage since your brother can't come charging into the room only in your head. You described many men in my family ha ha.

    I am the oldest in my family so I wonder if I'm a rhino to my siblings. However when the twins arrived I learned to shrink into the background. My Mother had her hands full and I was not to make trouble for her.

    I'm getting ready to do my next painting. I was planning to use Alison Lambert's technique and use charcoal on paper but I enjoyed the encaustic so much I want to use it again while the experience is fresh. You've given me some notions to work with.

    I agree with Laura, I would love to watch you work and learn.

    best wishes from the other side of the Pacific.

  12. When I read a bit about Yin and Yang the part that stuck with me most was that to have a big square jaw is "very Yang". Yang, of course, is the masculine, the warrior--physically a big jaw is manly. When I read about the differences between Yin and Yang (in people) I thought of anyone I know who has a big jaw and it does seem that the bigger the jaw the more brutish the man. Interesting.....isn't it?

  13. Bravo Harry, un retrato con mucha fuerza,muy bien descripto, muy bien ejecutado.
    A hug.

  14. Such power in the mouth and choice of colors. Not a pretty picture but a great painting.

  15. Do you care for your brother?

    Yes... the painting depicts a person like the one you described... Powerful painting.

  16. Harry,
    you described so well your the 'big brother' that seems to have known him for years!
    I can see in your painting, the expression and posture of his face, and I realize the profile 'complicated' personality.
    We all know someone like that!
    I imagine the energy and emotions that you had to do this painting!
    Bravo Harry! series that courageous!
    the picture is excellent!!
    a big hug!

  17. Gracias Manel. Es sólo una impresión áspera y rápida de un recuerdo de infancia. No es una obra hermosa, pero no captura un sentimiento y una percepción de que se han quedado conmigo.

  18. Thanks for welcome back, Gary. Well, i'm sort of back. I’m sorry it’s taken a few days to respond to your great comment but my writing, just like the painting, comes in bursts these days, hostage to how well i’m able to function.

    Interesting what you say about your brother. These were exactly my thoughts six months ago. Though I'm not sure if i can answer your question because i don't really know where my images come from and i don't want to talk this particular one up because in many ways it's a poor piece of work – more a sketch and an exercise than a serious portrait. And had (have) my doubts about even sharing it.

    I guess i didn't sit thinking through the years other than touch congealed childhood feelings and my recall of recent impressions. It is not a planned painting. No thumbnails and color swatches. On the contrary, it is predicated on working things out as i go and letting the groping for an image become an intrinsic attribute of the finished work. From the outset it went 'wrong'. I constantly wanted to stop and just scrap it. Maybe i should have. Even now i want to gesso it over and put a landscape on top. But i keep it as secondary 'supportive work' for my assessment portfolio and as a learning exercise.

    Like a number of other paintings, once i start and create the first rush of problems i press on in a kind of faith that something redeeming will 'happen'. All i need to do focus on a feeling and a few snatches of memory and let those energize my arm. Sometimes plugging on like this works. But mostly the paintings i believe in are those where i’m excited by what is emerging as i work, when it feels i’m ‘in the zone’ rather than grappling with a dark monster.

    Thanks for your encouragement, Gary.

  19. Hi Laura. Thanks for your belief in me because i have little in myself at the moment. Youre on quite a roll. Your lovely comment has given me courage to head out to the studio today.

    It's great to see the wonderful things youve been doing the last few months. You are an inspiration.

  20. Hi Elizabeth. Siblings. What do we do with them? Would we be without them?

  21. Don't worry Brian, i'm taking it way too easy and 'bugger all', as we say in Oz. Have a great weekend.

  22. Ditto, Carolann. Funerals and Christmas - excellent times for family dramas.

    And you've put your finger on it - this work is therapy. Problem is i'm not sure that theraputic exercises make good art. Thay can raw and provocative but lack the depth of treatment a good painting pehaps needs to have. Maybe the problem stems from fundamentals - art is a communication with an audience to make culture while therapy is a processing of oneself for oneself.

    Anyway, i can see a series coming up - you and Gary and all our other regulars who carry sibling-aggage whacking out crazed portraits as they venture into dark mental recesses.

    Let it happen!

  23. Hi Elizabeth. Like a vampire i've been feeding off your excitement and discovery in your stimulating studies. You're on fire.

    Your comment makes me think. Maybe we are all rhinos to somebody else. To a workmate or to the other customer trying to get served. Maybe rhinos are in the eye of the beholder.

    Nah, it takes two to tango. Big brother is BIG BROTHER, lol.

  24. Celeste, I recall reading that jaw size is a function of male hormone levels during the growing years. So yes, definitely lots of jock yang happenin’.

    Big brother actually has a substantial jaw and chin, but ive also accentuated them out of proportion because all my childhood was spent looking up to him, literally. He was always this looming jaw that barricaded off the possibility of more vulnerable facial territory.

  25. Gracias, Azuczena. En realidad es poco más que un ejercicio, pero me alegro de que encontró algo que le guste. Un abrazo.

  26. Hi Hallie. No, not a pretty picture. Well put. I had been nursing an ugly mood, lol. As Carolann spotted, this was therapy and yep, feeling better now. But glad it conveys something of an afront in its colour and composition. Thanks.

  27. Hi Marian. I guess human personality and human relationships are just deep and complicated things. Engaging in some hard-headed analysis in thought, words and paint should not be construed as antithetical to caring. On the contrary, i hope the text has also conveyed a protective sentiment. Though i did let rip with the portrait, didn't i, lol. Cheers.

  28. Thanks for that sensitive and understanding comment, Denise.

    Yes, he is complicated.

    He has at times in my life put himself out considerably for me. He is fiercely loyal to family. He is big-hearted and generous. And in many ways the things that i find exasperating in him are common enough in others, as you say.

    So my hope is that viewers can connect with that, see the one they know. And acknowledge the complexities, as you have.

    Warm wishes, h.

  29. HI Skizo. Thanks for dropping by.

  30. Harry, this brother seems to have so strong personality.I love the powerful colors you used. He takes all the place and loves it for sure.That's the way he exists. One day the parlor will explose and everything might be empty. Sometimes, we don't have the choice and also love people for his own default. Great to see your paintings again.Kind regards.

  31. The description you do about your older brother is known to me. I think it's a stereotype that somehow repeats itself between a family member or loved one and who suffers, and are difficult to help.
    I think the painting reflects very well what you describe us about him.
    I have read some comments from the previous post that you are sick, I regret that so and I hope you feel better.
    Yours faithfully.

  32. My friend Harry,
    This work has the strength the Harry Kent !
    Harry, here in Brazil I know people who do not know your family,
    children are abandoned, so they never, ever make any poderam
    comment about their siblings or parents.
    My friend I understand when you talk they your brother....
    but some people are naive, they think
    own the truth, perhaps even as a form of self defense,
    ETCC insecurity etc. .. ..
    But see privileged to know where we came from, who we are
    like in the movie Blad Huner, where the photo of the family defined if the person was or was not
    Harry I've followed several works that you talk about your family
    and I think that's cool, Harry has good memories of their relatives.
    Thank you for sharing these memories.

  33. What a wise thing to say, Olivia. Sometimes we don't have a choice. Sometimes we love a person for their faults. Thank you.

  34. Hi Lozzano. Yes, i expect this pattern is repeated in many families. And i guess if he were a painter he too would have a portrait to paint about me, from his perspective. Thanks for your good wishes, amigo.

  35. A sobering thought, Paulo - the children who have no bothers or families even. We should be grateful for what we have. My immediate having emmigrated from Europe when i was a child meant that i grew up without other close relatives. So i know from experience the truth of what you say about identity. And yes, much of his bravado is a defense and a cover for insecurities. Which is one of the things that makes him vulnerable because he believes totally in his own bravado. Thanks Paulo for your insights and understanding.

  36. Hi Harry , I saw the painting , and I thought : "FORTE" ( in Italian means also cool) , then I read the text and I thought :"FORTE" (:

    U really R very Expc.Painter !!
    big hug