I have always enjoyed drawing people. I think that because finding sitters is not always easy and when found they do not always stay put, it can be better to go out and draw them in their own enviroment, at some place where they are already occupied.
I have a number of venues that fit the bill so it’s hard to say what my favourite is but it is hard to beat a concert for the excitement and stimulation it offers. I wonder if the music occupies the conscious mind leaving the unconscious mind in charge of drawing. This is an idea that came to me after reading The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
The idea is that the unconscious mind is the creative side and can really get going unhindered by the uptight over thinking usual of its other half … well I havn’t decided if this train of thought is going anywhere but it’s is an interesting thought nonetheless. I certainly feel fully engaged when drawing in concerts. Emersed in the music, the performers and the place and it greatly enhances my enjoyment.
Imagine my distress on hearing from a friend that my wife had written to Dear Mary in The Spectator Magazine complaining about me drawing.
Dear Mary 18th February 2017.
In general, people take a great interest in what I have drawn. Sometimes I even give the performer the drawing and they are thrilled. I have only ever had 2 complaints in the past.
Clutch pencil and lead pointer
A fine round and a short fat tombow eraser.
Some loose sheets of Ingres paper in a leather wallet of which I have a variety of fairly similar
Just a quick mention that I will be taking part in Pintar Rapido, London this year. It takes place over two days; on Saturday 11th July we go out and paint our pictures and on Sunday they are put up for sale in an exhibition at Chelsea Town Hall in the Kings Road. The show opens at 12pm and closes at 5.30.
There are going to be a lot of artists painting views of London, up to about 500 and I think it will be great fun. It is actually a competition but I haven’t as much experience in one day painting as many of my fellow painters so will be painting one of the smaller pictures there in the hope of finishing in time to hand in my canvas before the end of the day.
If you are artist and you see this in time, why not join me on the Saturday?
I wrote a blog post in March 2014 about my trip to Barbados and my plan to try and speed up my painting rate by doing some pochades.
Although I haven’t moved over entirely to the one day or en premier coup style, I have done a number of one day sketches since then. I feel that a lot that has come out of this newer way of working was already in me or informed by the work I have done in the past decades. Some of my new work however has been just that; new and also has more energy and vitality.
This year, like last and a number before, we spent a couple of weeks of February in Barbados. The climate is wonderful, especially after the long dark and cold winter of the UK. Ok the US got it very bad this year but it was grim all the same and I do feel very motivated when I arrive in the Caribbean and am greeted by a blast of heat and the suddenly intense light. A couple of years ago I went for some whistle lessons on the tin whistle and my teacher, Bill Guilding. He is a Bristol based artist and musician and he told me that when he goes to a hot country his fingers move more freely and that he can play whistle with more fluidity, a definite advantage when playing the irish whistle or penny whistle as it is also known. This ease of movement is a real advantage in sketching.
During my trip I managed about a painting a day which I feel is close to my limit at the moment. I can do two but feel somewhat drained if I persist. On this trip I did what I consider to be one of my most successful sketches to date over two afternoons. It is of the front of Heron Bay through some trees. Painting pictures of houses is great and Heron Bay is very beautiful so should make a good subject anyway but very straight lines carry the eye too fast and don’t give enough detail to sustain interest. Breaking the shapes up with trees is a solution to this dilemma but reminds me of the row that erupted when the artist Tim Gibbs who was my uncle by marriage some time ago was painting the house of the writer Anthony Powell, a literary hero of mine. Tim claimed that the house was hideous and said that the only way to solve the problem for the painting was to paint it from behind some trees and a pond. Anthony Powell, however was quite proud of the house and had commissioned the painting of it, so felt somewhat justifiably that Tim had not carried out the commission he has given him. I don’t quite remember how this was resolved financially but I think a deposit was involved. I slightly see both sides of the argument, the difference between the artistic needs of the painting and the fact that it was supposed to be primarily about the house. Which trumps which?
I managed three portraits while I was there. I find that painting people gives me a rush of adrenalin in a way that I imagine similar to a young man taking a bungee jump. The danger awakens my senses so that I begin to feel really alive. On this occasion I managed to remain fairly relaxed because I intended them really to be quick sketches.
The first is of the very charming Nick Peto. We were staying in the same house party together so I suggested that he sat for me. His very lovely wife Zoe died not long ago and I think that sort of thing makes you feel it a good thing to leave behind a record of your existence so he kindly agreed and we did a sketch taking three or four hours it total over 3 mornings. He is that thing that some people find surprising; every bit a gent, Eton then Sandhurst, achieving the rank of captain in the 9th and 12th Lancers and a regular in the field’s top shot list, combined with a wild sense of humour. It was a very enjoyable time that we spent together. Incidently, he wrote a book a couple of years ago which contains some of his very funny stories and although out of print it can still be got.
The following week I painted a picture of Bongo, the foot massage man who was on the beach at Sandy Lane. Bongo is a Rasta and something of a legend having sat for the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood a few times. I am not in competition with Ronnie Wood, he is a somewhat different Artist so I was free to paint Bongo as I found him, A peaceful gentle soul who twisted my arm for quite a large sitting fee. We were in the middle of negotiations while I was painting and a lady we both knew came up and said “I hope that he is paying you well for sitting there”. Of course at this point I lost all bargaining power.
Here is my picture of Bongo
and then one of Ronnie Woods.
I was going to paint a second one of Bongo but he had a lump of cash now and didn’t turn up for a couple of days so I turned to one of the golf caddies at the Sandy Lane Golf Club. He is called Elvis but also known as Spicer. The Art dealer Guy Morrison had been using Elvis as his caddy that week and he arranged things for me thus saving me any awkwardness over modeling fees. We had a very peaceable time together. I believe he is an excellent player. For the past couple of years I had wanted to paint a picture of the Seventh hole on the “Old Nine”, the name of the original Sandy Lane course. It was Robert Sangster’s favourite and a bench was placed above the tee there in memory of him. There is also a tournament held annually in his memory there. He was a very kind and generous man with a wicked sense of fun and I was fortunate enough to know him a bit.
So I used this as an opportunity to paint this view in the background. Elvis sat on a ledge of rock at the edge of the tournament or pro tee. I did get permission from Stefan Soroka, the Sandy Lane pro.
Incidentally, I had a lesson with him a couple of years ago and in just one lesson he pointed out a fault in my swing that no pro had been able to help me with before in spite of the the rather large number of lessons I had had with them.
I have seen a drawing of Elvis by Matthew Carr but can’t find any image of it. Here is a link to his page at Marlborough Fine Art, his dealers until his death in February 2011.
What a difference a year makes? I think my work has come on since the same time last year. My one day pictures feel more confident and are coming together more easily. My slower more detailed work has had a bit of vigor breathed into it.
This is the last painting for 2014, a small party blower sketch in oil on primed paper. If you suddenly have an impulse to do an oil sketch primed paper is wonderful; you can cut it to any size and proportion with just the snap of some scissors.
I posted it on Instagram and If you feel like following me my username is Willpaint.
I usually do a Christmas card to send out to our friends. I like to do our dogs and parrot in various Christmas situations but this year I had a cough at the critical moment when I should have been finishing the drawing and printing the card. Forgive my self pity but it made doing anything feel 10 times harder and I only got half way through drawing it before it became too late to send.
We had friends and children coming and I managed a couple of sketches of Shapes as gifts.
This one was for Joss, our friend Jonathon Bond’s black Labrador
These were for Iris, a blue, almost whippet, lurcher
For those unfamiliar with Shapes they are a kind of dog treat.
According to Pliny the Elder in 5th century BC Greece, the two artists Zeuxis and Parrhasius staged a contest to determine who was the greater. When Zeuxis unveiled his painting of grapes, they appeared so real that birds flew down to peck at them. But when Zeuxis asked Parrhasius to pull aside the curtain from his painting, the curtain itself turned out to be a painted illusion. Parrhasius won, and Zeuxis said, “I have deceived the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis.”
I tried my sketches on our dogs but sadly, as it turns out I have some way to go.
My son Lewis has been studying Mathematics for some years now , most recently at Manchester University. He completed his thesis nearly a year ago and has held a fellowship at UEA in Norwich since that time.
The actual awarding of his Doctorate took place last Thursday so his mother and I joined him there for the ceremony. I felt that I should mark the occasion so I packed my day bag with my smaller Pochade and a few things for the day. I set out from London in fairly overcast conditions and was a bit apprehensive as the weather is often warmer in the South East and Manchester is in the North West. My fears were groundless as when I got there it turned out to be a beautiful day. We had time to get a bowl of noodles in a Chinese restaurant beforehand. Manchester has a large Chinese population and it was a truly authentic place, food, customers, decor, the lot.
Then off to hire the gown and book the photograph and queue up to get in. Anticipating that I would get covered in paint, I wore a very cheap suit so I felt somewhat under dressed compared to my neighbours queuing behind me wearing in the most exquisite African robes
Once we had made it into the hall it was all pretty quick and the ceremony was all over in an hour. We arranged to meet up on a grassy area in front of the building where there was an ice cream van doing hardly any business so with no queuing Lewis and I had a cornet served by very a friendly ice cream man. The ice cream itself was definitely one of those that had been made of surplus lard from the meat industry, but what could one expect from one of the last bastions of the 50‘s?
Doctor of Cool
Next up was a small reception at the Alan Turing building where Lewis had had his office. They had laid on cream cakes and tea in the lobby and there were a couple of dozen people standing about in small groups, mostly degree graduates. I then went back to the grassy area in front of the old Victorian University building where the award ceremony had taken place and got out my paints. As I was just making the first few marks a couple of old dears came up and said “we’ve come to see if you are any good.”.
I would like to start a list of unanswerable remarks people have made as I work. The other people who came up were quite nice. The light was going behind the building and was catching my eyes so it was lucky I has a cap with me. I spend a disproportionate amount of time planing what to take painting as forgetting something like that can mess up the whole day.
The finished Sketch, oil on primed paper 5.5“ x 6“
I have mounted the painting on ply and I’ll send it to Lewis. We are really proud of what he has achieved and I’m only sad that of his four grandparents only one is still alive and he was too infirm to attend. They would have been thrilled.