Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Harry Kent self-portrait collage

ink and magazine clippings on paper, 38 x 56 cm

two weeks left of my semester break and i'm off to the big island just north of Tasmania for warmer weather but i will continue to add regular new posts to my photography blog, the crystal cornea  from assorted wi fi hot spots

because i can't have a post without some work in it, i've popped in a self-portrait collage i made a couple of years back into this post (to give you a break from all that drippy paint)

thanks everybody for all the wonderful support and encouragement you have given me since April - way beyond any expectation i had

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Harry, Invictus

Harry, Invictus, charcoal and oil on board, 56 x 74 cm

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

from Invictus, William Ernest Henley, 1875

Manel asked me how i combine charcoal with oil paint. So i thought i'd give an explanation here. (If anyone is really interested i can always make a short demo clip, post on Youtube and link it here).

an important discovery i made was to use a fine-grain foam roller for applying the white gesso, not a brush. This leaves a keyed surface (like the texture of shark-skin) that takes charcoal really well.

i first completed a tonal drawing in charcoal, lots of charcoal, leaving the surface dusty. I coulld take my time over this to get it just as i wanted it (well, as good as i could get it - am only really happy with eyelids in this one).

i then gave it all a light spray with turpentine to dampen it without disturbing the surface prior to actually painting into it. Then, using a soft watercolor brush and oil paint thinned with plenty of turps, i deftly work into it, not worrying too much about the runs but conscious i can quickly have the whole image oozing down the surface if not judiciously pacing myself.

One can't brush vigorously or revisit the same place too often or else it quickly turns into black cement. Frequent rinsing of the brush in clean turps, esp before starting on a new area, helps prevent turning everything into a grey monotone.

Once almost as i want it, i touch in some commercial medium, otherwise the turps will simply evaporate and leave the charcoal as raw dust again. The oil in the medium embeds the charcoal.

To finish, i sprayed the whole thing with workable fixative to stabalize any charcoal not touched by the medium. And i deliberately leave quite a bit of that for delicacy and variety of marks  because the medium intensifies but deadens tonal marks (after all, this blog is about my explorations in expressive mark-making).

Along the way I used a little titanium white to imply some form in totally dark areas like the throat, and some mere touches purple and green (complimentary colors for hidden internal pop) for skin and around hair.

I guess most visitors will just glance at the above image without clicking on it to enlarge, thinking that they have seen and understood the work. But this color aspect is not really visible unless one does see the enlarged version.

So there you have it. Work fast, work with a light touch, and watch the magic happen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Facing Autumn

Facing Autumn, oil on board, 51 x 60 cm

Oh it’s a long, long while
from May ‘till December
And the days grow short
When you reach September.

When the Autumn weather
turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time
For the waiting game.
For the days dwindle down
To a precious few...

from September Song composed Kurt Weill, lyrics Maxwell Anderson.

The acrid scents of autumn,
Reminiscent of slinking beasts, make me fear
Everything, tear-trembling stars of autumn
And the snore of the night in my ear.

For suddenly, flush-fallen,
All my life, in a rush
Of shedding away, has left me
Naked, exposed on the bush.

from Dolor of Autumn, D. H. Lawrence

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Emily for Julia Kay's Portrait Party

Emily, oil on polypropylene, 35 x 45 cm  SOLD

here is a portrait of Emily that i knocked off for Julia Kay's Portrait Party (my semester break fun) over the last couple of days.

The original photo supplied to JKPP by Emily can be seen here.

I painted onto white polyproylene panel knowing the brilliant white reflective surface would contribute a luminous quality to Emily's skin. The painting came out nothing much like an Alex Kanevsky (see my earlier post on his technique here). Seems my mark-making is just more restless and variegated than his calm and methodical layering.

Emily has amazing eyes  and skin, and i wanted to feature them by juxtaposing a finely worked face in a sea of painterly  marks.

Placing idealized features directly beside abstract expressionist fields of impasto alla prima color, where the clothing, hair and background are none realistic,  has the effect of bringing out the porcelain doll quality in her photos. Can one legitimately  mix styles in a painting?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Julie Kay's Portrait Party

the other day i kindly received an invitation to join Julie Kay's portrait painting group on Flickr.

the idea is that one sends in photos of oneself, and then paints and posts portraits of the others who have sent in their photos. The huge attraction for this blogger is that NO SELF-PORTRAITS ARE ALLOWED!

The whole thing is a lot of fun, with 231(last count)  talented members creating a constant stream of brilliant, clever, humorous, beautiful, dramatic, whimsical, insightful, inventive portraits in every imaginable style. Thanks Julia for organising it all.

yahooooo, a holiday for me, and for you, gentle reader, from morbid introspection (it is actually my semester break).

so here are some of the paintings and drawings i completed and posted on the Painters Party over the last few days. They are a mixed bag because i'm using the oppotunity to motivate me to revisit some of my older styles of working and to try out some new ones.

goat transforming, oil on black paper, 23 x 28 cm

Inma, watercolour on paper, 27 x 23 cm

Allan, reed pen and ink on paper, 26 x 34 cm

Herman, brush and ink on paper, 26 x 34 cm

FlickChick, Conte crayon on paper, 32 x 24 cm

Thursday, June 3, 2010

i will arise and go now

I Will Arise And Go Now, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

It is time to explain myself—Let us stand up.
What is known I strip away;
I launch all men and women forward with me into THE UNKNOWN.
I depart as air—I shake my white locks at the runaway sun;
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love;
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.

from Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
in Song of Myself: And Other Poems by Walt Whitman by Walt Whitman


I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet

My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

from Bob Dylan's  Mr Tambourine Man


I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
from Yeats,   The Lake Isle Of Innisfree


What is there in my name for you?
It will die away like the sad sound
Of a wave splashing on a far shore,
A noise in a deep wood at night

But in the day of sorrow, in silence,
Pronounce it longingly.
Say: There is a memory of me;
In the world there is a heart where I live.

from Pushkin in Poets of Modern Russia (Cambridge Studies in Russian Literature (p.9)

more intimations  of mortality
but low-key compared the previous emotive images with their expressive mark-making

unfortunately the photograph doesn't really capture the the three-dimensional relief of the heavy sculpted impasto of the coat and jeans

The bright yellow shoes, among other things, reference Whitman's boot-soles that will wander over our mortal remains, composting, carbon-captured in the municipal lawns.

But also Mr Tambourine Man's boot-heels as they dance Shiva's dance of creation and destruction ... the figure borrowing something from classic Indian sculpture of Shiva inside his aureole of flames, lifting his leg, extending his arm.

In the jingle jangle morning we all follow Death in the Danse Macabre, Danza Macabra, Dança da Morte, Totentanz.

i wanted some ambiguity between figure and ground.  i wanted the forms to beg the question about
what stays and what goes,
what is permanent and what is ephemeral,
what is substantial and what is fragile
what is solid and what is hollow,
what is lively and what is dead,
what is real and what is illusion.
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