Saturday, 28 January 2012

Joan of Arc finished...

I think this painting is about done now. A 600th birthday present for la Puecelle.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Google's 'visually similar'

I learned of this feature just now from reading an entry on it on the Gurney Journey blog.

Very interesting, and a good way of printing some nice wallpaper. I tried it out finding what the computer thinks is 'visually similar' to my 'Adderbite' piece. Here are the results...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Today's progress on Joan of Arc, impeded slightly by a visit to the pub after picking up the prints of my latest images for my portfolio, (which I will probably take along to the Spring Fair in Birmingham).

The halo is painted in gold metallic oil paint. The face also gains colour.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Contemporary Realist Movement.

Interesting article here...
I'd pretty much sign up...

Never permit conceptualists and abstractionists to appropriate the terms 'contemporary' and 'modern' for their style and their ideology. These terms are propagandistic, claiming a monopoly on what is valid in the present. Conceptualists and abstractionists are entitled to no such monopoly. Their art is based on experiments and revolutions that are old-hat, now, and which were never great successes. The 20th century avant-garde never produced greater art than that which went before. I don't believe most abstract art is even as good as much of the figurative ('traditional') work, produced by artists and over the same period (however marginalized they were by the art establishment during the years when 'modernism' reigned supreme).

The idea that non-figurative or anti-aesthetic art is somehow more progressive is baseless. We who advocate figurative art as a valid and virile movement should reclaim the language. We should avoid any terms which imply that figurative art is stick-in-the-mud or obsolete. At the least we should put distancing quotation marks around the term 'modernist', when speaking of a particular style related to a badly-aging cultural movement. No artist today should feel obliged to work within any tradition in order to be taken seriously. Choosing to draw inspiration from the Renaissance is certainly no less worthy than choosing to build on the questionable achievements of the 20th century 'avant garde'.

The only reservation I have with the 'contemporary realism' label is that it might seem to imply a focus on the contemporary world, and a mundane focus on the here-and-now. My own commercial art, however, is primarily fantasy. My personal work often reflects my interest in the past, and a certain romanticism and mysticism. 'Neo-Romantic or Post-Pre-Raphaelite', as it were, is more my thing.

Anyway. Here is how my 'Joan of Arc' is coming along... As you see a start has been made on the colour. I have some gold paint for the halo, the yellow is an undercoat.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Joan of Arc progress

Here is how Joan of Arc is progressing. Not too much done as had to go out to post Brigantia off, and to attempt to get some prints made up. I also bought some new brushes. Such is my rock n'roll lifestyle. (Also thinking about ordering a medieval knight's helmet off ebay, for reference, and to stop my dog miting my nose when I try to cut his claws).

Painted the chain-maily bits today. Not as difficult as some make out, but somewhat laborious. If I was doing this digitally I could use a photoshop 'brush' I've made which is quite nifty for instant chainmail, but as it's oils that's not really an option.

Planning to add colour as the next stage, the black and white underpainting being nearly complete now.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Warrior Women

Warrior women seem to be the flavour of the month. Recently I sold a commissioned piece 'The Windigo' featuring an under-dressed heroine slaying an alien.

And yesterday I confirmed the sale of my 'Brigantia' piece, a Celtic warrior goddess who is marginally better dressed.

I have also made a little progress working on my latest painting 'Joan of Arc', who actually has proper armour.

Nudity in Art

There is an interesting article on the subject of nudity in art, here on ARC website. It makes some good points and is worth a read.

It seems that modern people are often more prudish, puritanical (and prurient) than the Victorians were. This puts me in mind of an annoying aspect of submitting images to deviantART, where all images containing nudity have to be labelled 'mature content'. There is an official inability (or refusal) to differentiate erotic or sexual content with non-sexual artistic nudity. This seems particularly mystifying, and offensive, to traditionally-minded artists especially on the European side of the pond. One feels that if one includes nudity in any context, one is lumped together with pornographers.

I have preferred to put ridiculous shell bras on my recent batch of mermaids, for example, rather than do them bare-breasted and be obliged to put 'mature content' labels on them, (as though the sight of the two concentric circles that comprise a nipple would warp and derange a vulnerable young mind). It is really ridiculous. School kids are dragged around the National Gallery which is full of artistic nudes in classical paintings, nudes adorn public monumens, building facades and fountains, and even churches. To my mind nudity is not intrinsically (or primarily) erotic. To associate artistic nudes with things indecent, by default, is misguided. As the article says, it's all down to treatment of the figure. How much clothing it is wearing is incidental.

The ARC article also touches upon the gender politics related to the subject of nudity in art. Apparently the complaint is that female nudes represent female oppression and objectification, and male nudes represent male dominance (and oppressiveness). Well, possibly this has some justification in some instances, yet it does not hold as a general principle. The overwrought critique seems to belong more to a 'politically correct' attempt to vilify males generally, and to read in to a given artwork an agenda that exists only in the heads of the critic.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


It's a year of anniversaries. One that has passed is the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc. inspired by the recent examples by Donato Giancola and by Michael C Hayes, I thought I'd attempt a painting of la Pucelle, and have made a start. Already it promises to be more successful than my earlier take on the subject, at least in terms of dynamism...

I started off thinking, in this instance, about taking liberties, and giving her feminized armour, but decided against that in the end, given the likelihood that she wouldn't have had armour shaped to her form. This is how it started off...

I shall probably give her a halo, not that I generally tend to rate the saintly credentials of people who fight wars against my compatriots, but I think it might work with the design. Everything is in black and white oil paint so far, as it enables me to sort out the values without worrying about colour. I haven't entirely decided on colour, truth to tell, being still undecided between a vivid red and a muted bluish grey background. I was going to add soldiers, too, but I may limit it to shadowy suggestions in order not to take attention away from the main fighure, which I wish to be iconic.

Other anniversaries this year, by the way, include the centenary of the death of Bram Stoker (April 20), so something based on Dracula may be in order, and of the sinking of the Titanic (15 April), which might also merit a commemorative painting, given that I'd planned a nautical series anyway.

It is also 200 years since the birth of Pugin (1 March), so some architectural gothic revival revival might be in order.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Good and bad Skyways

The decline in standards in skyway (covered bridges linking buildings) design in the 20th century is well illustrated by two examples from Oxford. One, from the start of the century, is the well-known 'Bridge of Signs' (Hertford Bridge), New College Lane. Design wise, it owes a debt to the Rialto Bridge in Venice, but it is daintier and its its proportions are more pleasing. There is also a Baroque flourish to the central section.

The other was was one from the later part of the century, which I noticed during a relatively recent visit.


There is also a 'Bridge of Sighs' in Cambridge, which I haven't seen, and this looks nothing like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice either. (Which I have). The original Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge's Palace and the prison, convicts were taken across it after trial in the palace, and it is named after their sighs of woe. (Well might they have sighed, especially the poor ones who couldn not pay to be kept in a cell above the water line). Still at least the Venetians took the time to make the bridge pretty from the outside.

There is also a fine covered bridge in Dublin, attached to Christchurch cathedral.

This made a suitably gothic background for the cover I did for 'Kiss Me Deadly' a vampire-hunter comic set in the city. I made it higher off the ground in order to fit the composition, but hopefully it is still recognizable.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

"The Art of Gordon Napier" Calendars by dashinvaine | RedBubble

"The Art of Gordon Napier" Calendars by dashinvaine | RedBubble:

A bird May Love a Fish

But where would they live?

This quote, from 'Fiddler on the Roof', inspired this piece, which I originally did as a pencil drawing, but have just worked up as a digital 'painting' in photoshop.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Good and bad public sculpture.

Just seen 'Witness', Anthony Gormley's latest public 'artwork' at the British Library, mentioned in that institution's newsletter (which I still get having once had a reader's card). I don't mind some of Gormley's work, but he's evidently taking the you-know-what with this one!

Sorry, mate... This is not art, this is rubbish. No finesse, or inventiveness, or imagination has gone into it. Plus this sort of thing has been done to death through the last 3/4 of the 20th century, when it appropriated the term 'Modern'. It's old now. Yawn!

Here is some more interesting (in my humble opinion) contemporary public art that I have seen on my travels:

Ammonite sculpture in Malahyde, Ireland, by Niall O'Neill, b. 1952:

'Children of Lir' monument, Garden of Remembrance, Dublin (Oisin Kelly, 1915-81):

Millennium monument outside Temple Church, London:

Scultputrs in Stratford Upon Avon inspired by Shakespeare plays:

Sculpture in Croydon that incorporates a hedge...

These figurative pieces have features and details that capture one's attention and spark the imagination, that is my response anyway. A square-cornered abstract eyesore does no such thing, and it only provokes alienation. There is nothing upon which to feast the eyes, the geometry can be understood as easily from a description as from actually looking at the thing. It is cold, shallow, hard and inhuman. It tells no story; a public space, especially a location devoted to literature and history, deserves better. Art should have character, it should have a face. It is true that modern figurative sculptures seldom reveal the skill levels or refinement that those from the 19th and early 20th century do. When a figurative artist lacks skill, it shows. When an abstract one does, there is no-way of telling. Any idiot can hack the corner out of a cuboid. To make a body look like a body is hard work. This, the National Firefighter's Monument in London shows how some modern figurative sculpture doesn't quite cut it. The anatomy of the figures is a little questionable...

Compare it to this sculpture by Lord Leighton, which I got to admire at the Cult of Beauty exhibition last year, and you can see how it fails. Leighton knew how arms and heads attach to torsos, and how long legs need to be!

Art should be hard work, otherwise you're doing it wrong. Once we get back to this idea, our visual culture will enjoy something of a renaissance. Artists should earn their accolades, and their success. Intrinsic quality needs to be elevated over hype, and the crazy critics should only be laughed at when they launch into elaborate explanations of clearly worthless tripe, in order to justify its elevation as 'fine art'. Artists should have to master a set of skills just as people following nearly every other profession have to.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Mermaid artwork

Here are two recently finished pics featuring mermaids, one an oil painting, the other digital. Now enhancing my mermaid-themed calendars on cafepress.

Mermaids have repeatedly cropped up in my artwork. They seem to come in spates, possibly being connected to nostalgia and escapism. Anyway, as a recurring theme such images are useful as a gage of my artistic progress over the years. Hopefully this comes across in this slideshow I have put on youtube, showing my drawing and paintings in chronological order...