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A Casting from Life

This is one of those images I never tire of looking at. For observation, skill, pathos and 19th century sensibility it is a paradigm object. painted by the French painter Edouard Dantan, it is in Gothenburg and I have to admit I’ve never seen the original although I have seen other paintings by him with similar subjects. The story is of workaday, even lowly matters mixing with and creating lofty ideals and…

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Making an Underpainting

This original drawing, made some time ago, I projected onto a Belle Arte extra primed panel which I use lot for sketching and made a base drawing layer using burnt umber, ivory black and titanium white. I’m all in favour of remaining in Europe but I must say the EU regulations against the sale of lead white which I used to use are completely unnecessary. I’ve had to adjust to Titanium and use a combination of…

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  I like sketching. When I use the word I usually mean “oil sketching”, done in oil paint and not intended as a finished painting. Some are done as preparations for paintings, and can evolve over a period of time, with major or minor changes leading towards the basic presentation of an idea, trying out different aspects or forms, without worrying about final appearance. Some, as here, are drawings done in paint,…

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Serious paintings aren’t supposed to be funny. Sounds pretty obvious but the implication is that funny paintings aren’t supposed to be serious and that paintings involving humour are less worthy, less profound and less descriptive of the human condition than those which deal with the darker emotions. Light hearted is thought of as slight. The history of painting shows that artists have used humour as an end in itself and as a…

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Alla Prima

  I often sketch in oils, (as above) and always alla prima, since I regard it as a form of drawing. As friends often point out, there is in them a freshness of colour and gesture not present in my finished paintings. I agree, but that is not all there is to painting, and I am not good enough to get all I want in one go. However, the point nags me, and…

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  Tracy Emin was on BBC national news recently talking about her new show at White Cube. (whatever happened to the BBC’s ban on advertising?). She talked about the work as though it had profound personal and universal resonance, and she was taken seriously by the presenter. This is astonishing, because by any descriptive or artistic measure that I value her work is immature incompetent rubbish. She is, to cap it all, and by one…

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  I try not to make major changes during the course of a painting. The reason is so as to not compromise the integrity of the paint film and to use the thick and thin, that is opaque and transparent, abilities of oil paint to describe form more effectively. This in turn adds to the credibility of the image and supports, rather than interrupts, the original drawing. I know there is a charm and liveliness…

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I paint a lot of paintings. Some get sold. some come back and go on to another exhibition, some come back again and hang about sulking. Lurkers, my wife calls them. this happens to a few of the best but most get acknowledged by me as not up to the mark. This happens because when you’re working to an exhibition it’s not always possible to get a good perspective on all individual…

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    I don’t usually have a psychological plan or reason for a painting, I just come across an image by working through ideas I’ve got from observation, developing themes in past paintings or stealing from another artist. The mood or meaning i.e. sombre, funny, ironic, light-hearted, enigmatic or mystifying is refined through a process of feeling, trial and rejection, not analysis or clear decision. That way I’m not altogether responsible for…

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In the 1950’s, when I was young and not visually sophisticated, the majority of British art had a very particular, not to say insular, character. I’m referring to artists and illustrators (they were often both) who used a heavily designed style and referred to local and religious history in much of their work. Many had had war experience which had given them a desire to change perceptions but not values by placing old narratives in…

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