February 26th, 2017
Getting into the final couple of weeks of my Kickstarter-funded project Painting dance, and reflecting on the remaining canvases I want to produce for the series.
The project has involved a great deal of experimentation – both technically, in terms of creative processes, materials and so on, and with regards to poses, picture composition and scale. I’ve run into a lot of problems, but have learned a great deal and developed a much clearer idea about the direction my work will take in the future – which will certainly involve further collaborations with dancers.
Looking forward to producing the final pieces, and to making up the second set of prints to be sent out to Kickstarter backers. Planning to have done this by mid-March.
Photo is from last week, during work on Gwenllian Davies and Krystal Lowe 12.
January 7th, 2017
Continuing my project Painting dance, my second Ballet Cymru studio session was with dancers Gwenllian Davies and Krystal Lowe, just before Christmas, and just after the final night of their 2016 tour.
Focusing on the improvisational approach explored in the earlier session with Anna and Andrea, we extended things a little by dropping straps from the ceiling to introduce a new dynamic to the compositions. (I installed the straps when building the studio in 2005, intending them to be used by nude models as support for particularly difficult all-day poses, though they were very rarely employed in this way. The main use they were put to for the first ten years was as an indoor swing for various friends’ children, until one, Lila, began inventing poses in them in 2015 – a brilliant idea, I think).
I made some sketches and shot a lot of footage of Krystal and Gwen holding positions they’d found through improvised dance, and I’m now working from these using the looped film technique described in my Kickstarter, whilst experimenting further with a range of materials and painting techniques.
One of the most exciting things about this project is not knowing where a session’s going to lead – which I’m just beginning to understand, and to feel more relaxed about. Working with Krystal and Gwen was great. They brought an extraordinary inventiveness and energy to the process, discovering new ways to use the studio space, and creating some beautiful poses. I’ll be posting some of the resulting pictures online as they are completed.
December 14th, 2016
Here’s a drawing by my old friend Reg Eldridge – painter, cab driver and jazz aficionado – who’s just turned up his toes at the age of ninety-seven. The drawing was made as a student at St Martin’s, after the war.
Reg decided to become a painter after seeing pictures by John Singer Sargent in the Tate Gallery in the mid-1930s, and went on to paint throughout his life, producing some beautiful work. I was lucky enough to be part of the life drawing groups he ran in Brixton and Putney in the 1990s, and his passion for observation, draftsmanship and working from the model had a big influence on the direction my work has taken since then. He gave me advice (some of which I took) and a great deal of encouragement. More recently he gave me his easel.
After ill health forced him to give up painting some years ago, I asked Reg if he missed it, and he said that he didn’t – that of course he’d never produced anything that could compare to Sargent, but he knew he’d made the best work he was capable of, so had no regrets about stopping. I thought that was a pretty nice way to end.
A lovely man.
December 12th, 2016
Pleased to be sending out the first batch of Kickstarter rewards today – A6 prints of a selection of panel paintings from the past few months. Had intended to produce four – all predating the start of the the current project – but upped it to five to include one of the more recent sketches.
Now very busy working with dancers of Ballet Cymru. Currently have three canvases in progress, which I hope to finish in the coming weeks, and looking forward to our next studio sitting tomorrow.
November 14th, 2016
Funded by my Kickstarter campaign, it was great to have my first studio sitting with dancers of Ballet Cymru last week. Neither Anna Pujol nor Andrea Battaggia had ever worked with a painter before, and I’d had only a little experience of working with multiple models, so none of us quite knew what was going to happen.
What resulted was several hours of experimentation – planned and partially directed at the start of the session, though becoming more spontaneous towards the end, with the dancers arriving at poses through brief discussion and passages of flowing, improvised movement. This latter approach (developing some of my earlier work with Beth Powlesland and John Livingston in the studio, and with Deborah Lago and Angharad Harrop at the FreeHaus project this summer) was more directly informed by the dancers’ own ideas, and led to some particularly interesting and expressive poses, a number of which I look forward to working up on canvas.
It was an inspiring day, and a productive first step in my new project.
Big thanks to Anna and Andrea, who were excellent to work with, bringing an enthusiasm and creativity to the process which I hope I can reflect in the paintings.
Ballet Cymru is currently touring Romeo a Juliet and Little Red Riding Hood & The Three Little Pigs – both wonderful. See dates and venues here.