Monday, September 29, 2008

Conked Out

Another sunny morning so I went out to draw and take photos. I’d like to say “it was a good light” and things like that, to make me sound professional. But, to be honest, as long as it’s not pissing down I don’t really care. I just don’t like getting wet. Or cold. Or wet and cold.


I’ve still got a thing going about tree trunks. And there are some beauties in Llandaff Fields. Because I’ve only been there once before the trees and I don’t know each other, so we didn’t really chat. I just wandered around taking photos and making sketches … without so much as a by-your leave, I have to confess.

It’s the lines of the trees I like most. The elegance; the curves; the way they sometimes twist. In mythology and poetry the trees are inhabited by female personalities know as Dryads (

But trouble was brewing. Mr presence hadn’t gone unnoticed.

The trees started throwing conkers at me. Aiming for my head, they were. And a few of them hit me. Which REALLY hurt. Soon, they were raining them down on me. I literally had to run FROM cover into an open space.

It confirms to me that the trees are alive. And they are mean.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Half Awake

Many, MANY, years ago I was one half of a comedy double-act. Actually there were three in the duo, including our manager/producer. And various others who gave their time and energy. We were quite a gang.

We were The Sincere Brothers (later renamed as The Lean Two) and it was all a bit wild. We’d done straight theatre and street theatre. Then we wrote our own material and produced our own shows. We toured around different venues. We performed in small halls and big spaces; at concerts and festivals. We went into space; we split the atom. We jumped off ladders into buckets; we did escapology. We even did a nativity play … complete with camels. Oh, and we created life.

Naturally, the funniest bits were those that went wrong – losing our lines … losing my teeth … losing consciousness. Thunder-flashes, props, confetti canon, smoke and dry ice all took on a life of their own and threatened to overwhelm us. Sometimes they did.

Today I visited a big, modern art space. Talking about it with a friend later, I was asked “if you were given a space like that, would you know what to do with it?” The answer is, of course, “damn straight!”

I dream of spaces like that … of events and crowds; of collaboration and cross-fertilisation; of inspiration and impact. Of performance art.

It reminded me that some time ago my daughter, Jo, was looking at some of my plans and said “your plans are great … they’re just too small.”

I’m working on a 6 x 4 inch scale but I think I’m waking up … and I’m still dreaming. I’ll dream more when I’m fully awake.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Fool's Hope

When I was young, I would paint for hours. Then I would arrange all the pictures around my bedroom and invite my parents to come and see my ‘exhibition’. They had to pay a penny to come in.

Over the years, art remained my favourite thing and the hobby I turned to again and again. It’s only in recent years that I have been able to devote more or less all my time to it.

After a career in marketing, and a number of years working in the community and running my own business I am now a visual artist … sort of.

I say ‘sort of’ because, for me, being an artist means many different things. It’s about seeing behind and beyond things, and trying give some form of expression to that. I like to strip back what is seen on the surface to reveal something of what is going on behind. To get at the ‘spirit’ of things, if you will.

And this applies not just to nature, but also to people. We all present a picture to the world, but there is so much more to be seen if only we are prepared to reveal it. For some people, that might be a negative thing – but for me it’s very positive. I see potential, I see dreams and visions, I see hopes as well as fears, aspirations as well as disappointments. I like to think I see something of what we – and the world we live in – can be.

There is so much more than just that which we can see on the surface. There is so much more that can be revealed. Maybe the way we see ourselves, and the world we live in, can be changed.

I have the foolish hope that my art will go a little way towards doing that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hazel Dooney

I’ve come across the blog of a successful young Australian artist, Hazel Dooney. It’s worth taking time to read her many entries. She has strong views about – and has made a strategic response to – the gallery system. She is self-representing and works hard at it. It is also informative about her process of production and marketing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I've been doing 6 ins x 4 ins pictures again. It's obviously an on-going thing. Years ago I produced a series of 44 pictures on postcards; then another series of 12; then another series of 12 (I'll post pics of them sometime). It seems I like to work in series and in a 6 x 4 format ... judging by the evidence.

I think it works for me because I can have a few of them underway at any one time. They're also manageable.
I'm aiming to do loads more but I guess it will last as long as the mood and inspiration last. But while I'm doing so many, I am learning a lot as I go. My methodology is changing; I'm thinking more about what they mean and how I can better express that; the dimensions of the photos in the middle are changing. It's part of my 'new thing' of learning by doing.

Do you remember ages ago I said that I was keen to try working these kinds of pictures into a larger format? Well I did. I did two 10 ins by 14 ins. I think I need to experiment more with this because I found the results very dissatisfying. But then, I was just experimenting with the format so it's not a surprise that they lack any soul. They may look like the smaller ones but they lack any integrity as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Come in and take a look around ...

I'm always fascinated by work environments ... the places where people get things done. I have books about office design, layouts, studio spaces. I like to see how people work.

OK. So I'm nosey.

Anyway, I thought I might pander to your nosiness too. Although, in your case, I'm sure it's a genuine interest.

This is where I work.
I have four places that I rotate around (not literally, obviously ... that sounded a bit exorcist, didn't it?) during the course of the day.

I begin in bed. This is where I start and end my day. (Obviously). In the mornings I read - usually something interesting or motivational to get me kick-started into action. I look at my to-do list and maybe add a few things that occur to me.

(I plan a lot, but largely work spontaneously and intuitively.)

Then, most mornings I go to AJ's Coffee House. This is where I write in my journal. Here I reflect, plan and generally try to make some sense of things. The coffee's good and there are people around which brings me out of myself. Because I live and work in the same place - and on my own - I have to deliberately take myself out each day to be among people.

At home, I have a plan chest that I work at, standing up. This is where I make art. It ebbs and flows between being organised and tidy and being in a state of chaos with a number of projects and pieces of work all happening at the same time. It has a big working surface which suits me - I like surfaces. I like to spread things out so I can see them. With me it really is 'out of sight, out of mind'.

I also have a table with a PC and scanner/printer/ copier on it. This is where I do more left-brain kind of work. If I have marketing projects, I do them here. If I am researching on the net (or just web wandering) I do it here. I'm actually here, now, doing this (*waves). This is also where I chat to my friends on-line most evenings. It's a bit like going to the pub and catching up with everyone. Virtually.

And that's how my days generally pan out. These workstations form the skeleton of my day.

Oh, and I also have a comfy chair just for sitting in. But I don't have a photo of that.

So you see ... I could be anywhere.

Anyway, you've been nosey enough.

Now bugger off and mind your own business.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Size Matters

On Saturday I went to The Giant Vegetable Show at Llanharry Working Men’s Club.

What a life I lead.

And there were some whoppers. I mean bring-em-in-on-a-forklift truck whoppers.

It was like being in the Land Of The Giants … minus the Jolly Green Giant (unless he was hiding behind the pumpkin).

They take their veg very seriously in Llanharry. I was told that some feed their prize specimens on Guinness. Wouldn’t surprise me.

I guess it must be Nirvana for vegans. But I found it a bit scary. Some of the carrots, for instance, were way too knobbly to be attractive. And some things you couldn’t even tell what they were. We guessed at beetroot and artichoke but really they could have been alien life forms.

The winning pumpkin came in at 377.27 kg; the biggest leek at 6.2 kg; the cabbage weighed 26.4 kg; and the longest runner bean was 32 ins.

And they say that size doesn’t matter. Freud would have had a field day.

I don’t know what they do with them all after the show … maybe make the biggest stew in the world. Thus solving global hunger.

You have to be impressed that I’ve done this whole post without making any rude jokes.

So, is that a marrow in your pocket? Or are you just pleased to see me?


Saturday, September 13, 2008

How many???

Damien Hirst is putting 223 new works up for auction at Sotheby’s. The significance of this is that new art is usually sold by dealers in galleries, and only when it has been around the block a few times does it turn up again in the auction rooms, to be resold for a profit. That’s the way it’s ‘supposed’ to work.

At one time, anything newer than five years old was sold almost exclusively through dealers. Recently, however, as the big auction houses began deriving more of their income from contemporary art, the dealers found themselves being squeezed. First, the dealers’ window went from five to two years. Now, with this sale, it has been banished altogether.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing to stop any artist anywhere selling their work direct through the auction houses. But when they do, bang goes the dealer’s 50%.

It sounds good to me.

I like the idea of not having a fixed price for my work but of people setting their own value on it. If someone wants a picture by me because it ‘does something for them’, then I want them to have it. And I want the amount they pay to reflect the value they put on it. An auction simply pushes that process along.

But what has astonished me about this whole Damien Hirst thing, is that everything in this sale has been made specially in the past two years. That’s a hell of a lot of work.

Hirst runs six studios, divided between London, Devon and Gloucestershire, and each of them has been working like the clappers to produce this much art in these sorts of sizes in this kind of timescale. Not only is the huge selection of offerings the largest exhibition Sotheby’s has ever put on, it forms the largest Damien Hirst show there has ever been.

The idea of having a studio and employing people appeals to my desire for connection, conversation and collaboration. It would also mean that I could generate a lot more ideas and activities, knowing that the resources were there to make them happen. If it was possible to do that without spending too much time managing the people and the processes, then it would be great.

Damien Hirst seems to have it figured out.

Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, new work by Damien Hirst, is on show daily at Sotheby’s, New Bond St, W1, until September 15; check times at

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fashion ... beep beep!

I have a list of 'sensible' posts I should be writing. I have a task list of things I should be doing.

But then all my favourite magazines come out at once!

So now I'm going to be cutting and sticking to my heart's content for the next month or so.

As I mentioned before, I flick through them and rip out images that resonate with me for some reason. Then I stick them in my journal ... lying in wait for me, as it were. One day I'll turn to a new page and there will be some image or another waiting to surprise me. Makes my life a little more interesting. I thrive on stimulus and response, so I make sure that some stimuli are there in advance.

I like fashion magazines because of the lovely mix of the frivolous with the serious. I find that the art world - and art magazines - take themselves too seriously, on the whole. I like the way, too, that the work of fashion designers is presented. There is the "Collection" but often the adverts present only one particular piece. I also like to read the interviews, so as to better understand the creative process.

Some highlights:

Pop Magazine, has an amazing photoshoot of Agyness Deyn, by Ryan McGinley

Another Magazine has a lengthy article about the Prada Foundation's contemporary art programme

10 Magazine has a photshoot by Richard Burbridge where the models are made-up to look like Francis Bacon portraits.

If you don't want to spend the money on fash mags then do what Jo and I do ... go to Borders, pick a few off the shelves ... get yourselves a Starbucks ... and settle in for an hour or two (making copious notes as you go). Just don't spill coffee on the magazines because you'll be putting them back later.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Thought you might be interested ...

I'm developing a new series of paintings called "Contour", which will be based on locations in Mid Wales.

Part of my current research has brought me, again, to the work of Mary Lloyd Jones. I own a print of hers and a few months ago I went to an exhibition of her work at Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff. It was ... well, overwhelming, actually.

Anyway, I think some of you might love her work so take a look ...

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