I’m a couple of days late with this week’s post. Most of the past week was spent marshaling supplies needed for a couple of big illustration jobs, making sketches and basically getting into the creative headspace needed to immerse myself in a multi-month task. I’ve also been in the workshop assembling strip frames for my 8×8 oils, varnishing and trying not to amputate any essential digits. At some point in there I cleaned up the digital file of the Harbinger drawing so that it is ready for the printer in January.
This week I’ll get going on the aforementioned illustrations, and start a couple more of the 8 inch oils. I have an idea for another large ink, so I may spend some time on that as well.
On the writing front, I am almost finished working through the copy edit of Tailor of Echoes. My morning writing project (new novel) is making progress as well. I’ve edited everything I’d written earlier in the year, and now I’m producing new text. It’s very motivating to see that word count climbing.
Currently reading the Quincunx by Charles Palliser and listening to Cluster. If you haven’t seen the Brian Eno documentary called Man Who Fell to Earth, – an odd title given its association with Bowie – it’s on Amazon Prime. I stumbled on it a couple of days ago and it reminded me of a ton of amazing music I’d all but forgotten about.
This is an iPhone snap of a watercolor I did a few weeks ago. I plan to do a version of it in oil in due course. It was necessary to suspend my use of oil for a while as the products I was using led to some pretty trippy – but ultimately not fun – ocular migraines. Since then, I have added some odorless oils to my supply cabinet. I’m at the point where I can resume. I really like working in oil – though if you are familiar with my monochromatic ink work you would be forgiven for assuming otherwise. I’ll post my progress here.
At the moment, I am taking a break from social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so this blog is your best bet if you are interested in my new work. My reasons for stepping back are largely related to a desire to enhance my productivity, but they are also related to the attitudes the designers of these platforms have for privacy, data harvesting, and surveillance. Time will tell how these issues are resolved but for now I plan to be more circumspect in the use of the platforms (though in full disclosure these blog posts are shared to Twitter).
If these issues are of interest to you also, I recommend:
The Age off Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
World Without Mind by Franklin Foer
Zucked by Roger McNamee
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
These books have all been published recently and give excellent overviews of the issues from slightly different perspectives.
I’ve been balancing my production between personal work for upcoming group shows, illustration and fiction writing. Balance is hard to achieve, especially when you get seduced by one particular project. This week is was short stories. I finished two that were, sort of, almost there. I might drop one here, to celebrate the first anniversary of my novel, Necessary Monsters. Like my art, my fiction isn’t intended for everyone. It’s my statement, my aesthetic. I love it when readers respond. It’s so gratifying when people “get it.”
Now that the two stories are finished, this weekend I am returning to the final illustrations for my collection of short stories (Magpie’s Ladder, PS Publishing, later this year). Work on my next novel is progressing, but it’s the kind of thing that has to slow cook.
Booking group shows into 2019. Very excited by projects coming down the line. Thanks for your interest and support.
One of the joys of the year coming to a close is thinking about what will come in the next year. This is a time when I make a lot of lists; possible names of new drawings, ideas for images, books I want to read and things to research. Right now I am thinking of a series of drawings that could be a book, or an exhibition or both. Time will tell. It’s going to be called Oneiric Natural History.
Along with a couple fairly involved ink drawings, I also have several paintings on the go. Everything is in various states, from OMFG why did I start this thing? to hey this is working. So, those of you who paint will know the piece above (put through a render on my “tin type” app) only has a neutral layer of oil. What you see here will vanish pretty quickly. I’ll post updates as I go along. I’m racking up half finished works to get me through the winter, like a squirrel storing nuts, or maybe a nut storing squirrels. Who’s to say?
Today’s musical recommendation is Foam Island by Darkstar. Or anything by Darkstar actually. Music is essential in the studio. If you don’t know them, check out Foam Island, I doubt you will be disappointed.
This watercolour is a study for a future oil painting. I wanted to give the figure an avian quality, hence the placement of the eye. The whole piece hinges on that pitiless eye! I think it’s also quite funny. I have a series of paintings in mind featuring monsters in remote outdoor settings. I plan on doing these in the coming months, probably spread out over the year. If you’re wondering what that might look like, Tadpole Tales (below) is the kind of thing I am talking about. Each medium has its own qualities to recommend it.
I had to take advantage of the light this morning to do a watercolor (or strictly speaking an acrylic ink) painting. The paper wasp nest on the figure’s head is directly inspired by a yellow-jacket nest I’ve been watching over the summer in our garden. The recent cold mornings have killed off the nest, but over the past few months it was fascinating to watch the activity rise and fall with fluctuations in temperature and humidity. This figure is an anthropomorphic representation of hunger, a hunger that might be literal, but which I intended to be a more abstract.
The Veil is a cross hatched drawing done with a dip pen and then painted with acrylic inks. The drawing was done last year but the coloring was done today. One of these days I’d love to illustrate a book in this technique.
This piece is on sale. If you are interested you can check it out in my webstore. Each time one of my sale pieces sells, I put up a new sale piece (eventually).
A few months ago I was invited to submit work for a show at the Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra California. The show’s theme was Rock n’ Roll. One of the options was to illustrate a song or a lyric. I chose to do The Fairy Feller’s Master-stroke by Queen, which was itself a riff on the great painting by Victorian artist Richard Dadd. While working on the painting I snapped some work in progress shots with my iPad. For this blog post I’ve collected some of them to show you how this piece came together and share some of my thoughts at each stage.
I started by carefully drawing the image on a sheet of 300lb Arches coldpress paper. After that I contoured all of the forms using a brush and carbon black acrylic ink. This piece was intended as a fun take on the theme and while I didn’t want to copy Richard Dadd’s unfinished masterpiece, I did want to reference it. I borrowed the main figure and made him my own with the addition of wings and some other accoutrements. There are other references to Dadd’s work such as the daisies and the nuts.
I began painting with Liquitex acrylic ink, which has a particular vividness all its own. It handles somewhat like watercolour and blends well. I found that some of my watercolour technique was not usable with these inks but I really wanted to use just the inks, so I persisted. Why did I start here? I am left handed and this was the most comfortable place rest my brush. I decided at the outset that I would not approach this like a painting, by developing the whole surface. Instead I used the technique that I normally use for my ink drawings, fully developing one area before moving on.
At this stage I moved up because I wanted to paint the bird. I needed something “real” to set up the weirder subject matter. It also established a scale in an image where scale is otherwise almost impossible to determine. I remember feeling really good about the paint on the paper at this point and started working in some darker values. I wasn’t initially sure about the green gown but I knew it would take its proper place in the composition as I went along.
And then downward. With the side developing nicely I knew I had to work along the bottom to establish the foreground plane. It was around this point that I decided on a strategy of working around the border/ frame.
Painting this area was a lot of fun because I got to work on the fungus and introduce some different values. I liked the way the rust of the fungus picked up some of the colour in the fairy wing.
When working on a piece like this with a lot of moving parts I think it is important to create zones of interest. Each area of this composition has something for the viewer to look at. It also gave me the opportunity to work on something different, which is highly motivating; there was always another bit to push me on. Motivation was key on this piece because the timeline for production was very tight. Deadlines! About this time I realized that I needed some red. It was like tasting a soup and knowing it needed salt. Originally the feather was to be a crow feather, but I intuitively realized that it belonged to a cardinal. The red worked nicely against the green tree man.
Now I moved to the upper register. Spatially, the two upper figures are closer than the figures at the side. To stand out, the figures needed to be larger than the others. I emphasized the difference by introducing bolder colours, particularly the blue, which I feared was going to drip down the entire painting as I worked it very quickly.
At this point I was beginning to see the finished piece. I ordered the frame! I wanted to carefully preserve the luminosity in the clearing. It meant that I had to restrain my usual proclivity to go subatomic on the detail.
And finished. The Fairy Feller’s Master-stroke ready for the framer.
This is an acrylic ink piece I did as a study for something larger that I am working on for Gallery Nucleus (more on that later). The acrylic inks perform beautifully on this really heavy Arches watercolor paper (300lb coldpress). I kept this piece to very limited palette. It felt good to loosen up after a couple of weeks working on silverpoint and cross hatching.