Introduction



I started my on-line diary in the 1990's from my studio in the North of England. After a lapse of ten years, I resumed the enteries from my present studio on the Caribbean island of Dominica. From the far beginning, my intention has been to give an insight into my working methods, and to share the triumphs, trials and tribulations of work-in-progress.






Saturday, August 13, 2016

The enigma of arrival

I have taken the title of today’s post from V. S. Naipaul’s novel The Enigma of Arrival. The book has many interwoven themes; as one reviewer said: it is unlike any other book I know. On one level it speaks of the disillusionment of achieving one’s objectives. And this I can relate to on almost a day to day basis.

A couple of months ago my objective was to develop my work as a sculptor, specifically by way of my recent reclining figure and torso. Both pieces worked out better than I dared hope. But now, after arriving where I earlier wanted to be, I find my aspirations have forged ahead to yet another level.

While I struggle with that dilemma, here’s the finished plaster master cast of the torso.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Finding gold

I search in vain for the work of artists with a similar feeling for the figure to my own: those who attempt to de-euphemize society’s overt sexual connotations with nudity and to depict the human form in its primal state. They are few and far between, but occasionally I strike gold.

I found the work of the self-taught Spanish artist Nicoletta Tomas Caravia (1963 - ) by way of a link from one of my followers. He has this to say about his series of paintings titled “Lovers”, and from which today’s painting is taken:

To paint that love, that island of comfort, to paint the energy that moves us in that state of intoxication…I wanted a language of the body that would carry all the emotion of that dance of love, of carnality, which is that love from within, the drama of passion, that which irradiates and that which cannot be touched but only felt…I drank from many painters: Klimt, Schiele, Picasso, Gauguin and many others…I have taken something of value from each of them.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Portrait Demonstration


This year the University of the West Indies Dominica Open Campus is holding a Creative Arts Summer Program for children. My contribution was a portrait demonstration with one of the participants as my model.

I teach by demonstrating as it is the best way to learn. On one occasion I set up my stall before television cameras and an audience of two hundred. But whether I paint before a small group or a multitude, the risks are the same: can I make the magic work one more time!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Life, death and resurrection

The transition from the initial clay sketch, to plaster, then to the bronze cast, is summed up by sculptors in the saying that: clay is the life, plaster the death and bronze the resurrection.

Although the plaster cast does not have the sheen of wet clay nor the luster of bronze, it nevertheless has its charms; as can be seen in today’s picture of Annabelle’s reclining figure.


Monday, July 18, 2016

No turning back

I have spent a lifetime disappointing those who have bought my paintings and then come back for more. The disenchantment comes about because I can no longer paint what I painted in the past. Had I been able to paint Caribbean palm fringed beaches ad infinitum I would, by now, be a millionaire twice over. But creativity is not about repeating what has been done before. This year’s paintings are subtly different from last year’s paintings and far removed from the paintings of thirty years ago.

Today’s painting is of Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands. It was painted exactly thirty years ago. Feast your nostalgic eyes on it, for I cannot repeat that period even if I wanted to. I intend to keep moving on and leave you to catch up with me.


Friday, July 15, 2016

There’s time for me yet

Louise Bourgeois, whose twenty-foot spider was the show piece at the opening of the Tate Modern, didn’t find fame until she was in her eighties. At 73 in a few days’ time, there’s time for me yet!

Has luck would have it; I can’t rest on my laurels. Yes, I’ve had a few successes along the way, yet nothing to get complacent about. I still haven’t achieved the vision that haunts my mind’s eye. But I’m still working on it. With my water colours of the female nude I feel that I am almost there and if I can allow my sculptural figures the same freedom...who knows?

I write this with a glass of rum in my hand at the end of a hard working day. Perhaps, as Charles Morris (1745-1838) recommended in his poem The Toper’s Apology, I’ll fill my glass again.

“Tis by the glow my bumper gives
Life’s picture’s mellow made;
The fading light then brightly lives
And softly sinks the shade;
Some happier tint still rises there,
With every drop I drain –
And that I think’s a reason fair
To fill my glass again.

My muse, too, when her wings are dry
No frolic flight will take;
But round a bowl she’ll dip and fly
Like swallows round a lake.
Then if the nymph will have her share
Before she’ll bless her swain –
Why that I think’s a reason fair
To fill my glass again.

It is not often that I’m in the picture, but here I am contemplating the molds for the torso.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Transformation

Following on from yesterday's post, today’s picture shows the transformation from clay to plaster. What you are seeing is the waste mold being chipped away from the plaster cast. The initial “flicked” coloured layer acts as an early a warning device. It tells you that you are within a faction of an inch to cast.

So far, so good: a near perfect cast!


Monday, July 11, 2016

Take the shoes from off thy feet

When working from the nude I keep in mind the biblical quotation: Take the shoes from off thy feet for the ground you are about to step upon is Holy Ground.

Here, given life, is the final clay sketch for Annabelle’s half-life-size reclining figure.  


Friday, July 8, 2016

Working at the speed of light


While searching through old press cuttings I came across an article by the Sunday Times art critic, Waldemar Januszczak titled, “Working at the Speed of Light”. In the article he gives credit to the artists who paint fast; among them, Michelangelo.

I first realized a speedy brush stroke…to be a true guide to an artist’s talent…when I had a chance to examine Michelangelo’s handiwork on the Sistine ceiling from close up during the chapel’s restoration…It was the speed of his brush strokes that amazed me…In the scene of God creating the earth, the world and its vegetation was the work of seconds. Adam’s famous penis was traced with a single cocky outline. All over the ceiling there were astonishing displays of painting at breakneck speed. Never have I seen clearer evidence of artistic genius.

The entanglement of lips, arms, breasts and hands in today’s painting was thrown down just before Annabelle had to rush to catch a bus home. After an hour of holding the reclining pose for her sculpture, the sweet release of rolling over signaled the end of the session. But, as often happens, it’s the rolling over that reveals a transitionary position that cannot be contrived. When I catch that illusive moment out of the corner of my eye, I beg my model to hold it right there and give me time to work at the speed of light.

Now you can run for your bus!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Behind the scenes

Between clay and cast, there is lot that goes on unseen behind the scenes. Today’s pictures give you an idea in what is involved in taking a mold from the clay torso.

The mold is called a waste mold and for good reason. It is a one-off and must be finally broke into a thousand fragments to release the subsequent plaster master cast. The steps are as follows:

(1) Brass shims are inserted into the clay to give the necessary divisions. In this case, a three piece mold.

(2) Fine Casting Plaster, mixed to the consistency of cream, is them flicked over the clay. The process is achieved by dipping a hand into a bowl of plaster and flicking with the fingers. The process has not changed since the time of Michelangelo. This layer of plaster is no more than a quarter of an inch thick. It is tinted for reasons that will become clear later down the line.

(3) A thicker layer of plaster is then troweled over the figure, level with the shims. Steel reinforcing rods are added to give extra strength.

(4) When the plaster is fully cured, hard wood wedges are driving into the seams to separate the mold.

                       

                       

 The above may sound easy but three days of skilled work is involved. There are scores of intricacies at each step. If anything goes wrong, all is lost. Up to a hundred years ago sculptural mold making was a specialized trade unto itself.

The final picture shows the front section of the mold immediately on removal from the clay. The surface clay is dragged with the mold and hence lost in the process.


A blow-by-blow account of casting the master plaster cast from the waste mold will follow in later posts.