So I thought I might post some old weird paintings that I found whilst rooting around, piggy-style.
Even though I went to art school they didn’t teach me anything, so I consider myself pretty much self-taught. There are plusses and minuses to this situation.
Being self-taught has involved rather a lot of trial and error. Which includes quite a lot of error. But I’ve decided not to be ashamed of all this crap, because it’s all helped me to learn. In fact, it may still hold lessons for my present day persona.
Prepare for a parade of oddities.
I’ll see if I can arrange these in chronological order…
1. Glazey mouse hand
Now, that one was executed when I had just discovered glazing, and liquin. Liquin is a fluid resin medium with a nice smell about it. I was still obsessed with cartoon imagery but not knowing what to do with it. I sort of fetishised the trappings of cartoondom. Everything I did was a like a tiny experiment, because what the ‘finished product’ was meant to consist of was rather unclear. In this one I think the underpainting was in black and white acrylics, and the colour was built up gradually in liquin glazes.
2. Acrylic Melvyn Douglas
This was during a phase when I was obsessed with the idea of ‘iconicness’. And I liked Paul Newman, I think this image of old Melvyn Douglas is from Hud where he played Paul Newman’s father. He’s like a rigid plastic boulder here. But I’m just getting back into acrylics now and I see a lot of potential in their flat opaqueness, even if now I’ll be using it more in conjunction with more sophisticated mixed media techniques to bring things to life.
3. Idiot people in pink car
I think this was executed at around the time I started my degree course in 1999. I had leaving home on my mind. This was like a little private picture that was kept separate from my college nonsense. I don’t think I’d have considered it finished, then again, I wasn’t too certain what finish would entail back then. Some of these pictures are proper naïve, even though I could draw. I had lots of complex ideas about ‘expressiveness’ and how it relates to skill still to work through.
I still wouldn’t entirely ditch the idea that naivety has some virtue. Sometimes decisions about choosing ‘wrong’ lines or proportions are what makes a picture clever in its own particular way…or funny… but they ought to be well informed!
4. Geometrically peculiarly improvised landscape scene with loose limbs
Now this one was from a very strange phase in which I used to divide up the picture plane into elaborate geometrical configurations of triangles, then improvise the picture one triangle at a time. There’s always been part of me that’s drawn to methodical solutions and maths. I think it helped remove the pressure to settle on meaningful subjects.
I used to get so angry when people described my work as ‘illustrational’, usually because they meant in an art-snobby way, not because I don’t like illustration. But I was frustrated because I knew how serious I was about it, and because I knew how good I was potentially. But as long as I was at art school I found it hard to be motivated to complete anything spectacular, I was surrounded by so much irony and apathy.
5. Bimbo Potter and the not really smooth finish
Now the character in this is sort of a straight cross between Bimbo from the Fleischer Betty Boop cartoons, and Harry Potter. I can’t remember why, I was just mucking about. The scene is basically stolen from Bimbo’s Initiation. I guess the irony had got to me and I was experimenting with very flat ways to work with colour, and doing little test card squares was always fun and a little pointless acknowledgement of colour field painting or something.
There was a time when I veered towards a more smooth, shiny and meticulously designed kind of painting, a little bit like what Inka Essenhigh
has done, but then I found the Beach Boys and my soul came back into play.
I never meant the smooth characterless surfaces enough to do them properly.
But now it’s time to mix up soul and meticulousness. None of this is irrelevant, as material to learn from.
I will return with more drawings, new ones. I hope they'll be plenty alive and soulful once they're done.