Thursday, 23 January 2014

The History of My Art, Part 2: Student Days

One disaster I averted was that I nearly studied History of Art (which would have been in Canterbury). Fortunately I ended up studying History and Art instead, as separate subjects. I'm not sure if this was the best way to spend three years and several thousand pounds but I don't think it was entirely worthless. I went to University College Worcester, initially majoring in art, but later switching to joint honours so that I could do my dissertation in a historical subject without having to relate it to art. (I researched the suppression of the Knights Templar, a historical episode that intrigued me, having come to it through reading of speculative books like Holy Blood Holy Grail, which a friend, John, from my art course, with similar esoteric tastes leant me. The same friend also introduced me to the artwork of HR Giger which would be influential on some of my later work, such as the drwaing below which is probably from this time...

Controvercy by dashinvaine

I had impressed John by throwing my trainers away when a nightclub bouncer tried to stop me going in with them. He later drove me home, one time, to pick up a bow tie ahead of a James Bond themed party (where he enjoyed decidedly more Bondian luck with the females).

The first year of the art course (1999) included a module on drawing, but the only painting I did that year was not part of the course, but an experimental thing done on a thick slab of board, in the shed of the house I was sharing. The title was 'We Know Major Thom's a Monkey'.
We know Major Thom's a monkey by dashinvaine

 I had a pen-friend at the time, known as Raven, who, as well as sharing my interest in vampires, literature, art and poetry, was a big Bowie fan, and this probably inspired the title. (I later would meet Raven at the Tower of London, which seemed apt).

I can't say the art modules at college involved much technical instruction, so in that sense I would say I am basically self-taught as an artist. The emphasis tended to be on concepts rather than nuts and bolts, which is sadly typical, or was in those days. There was also a lot of instruction about the various modernist movements, and their ideologies. As I have opined before, potential students interested in developing technical skills would be better advised to find a traditional atelier style school, or to avoid college altogether and use the resources that are now abundantly available online. That is if this is the primary importance of study- to build skills and create a livelihood.

There was also a module in graphics and multimedia, wherein we were introduced to photoshop. I would have done well to pay more attention given that this would eventually become my primary productive medium, but as it was I was either hung over from student nights at local nightclubs the night before these classes, or too busy smooching with my girlfriend, Nat, at the back of the room. So this was not one of the modules I excelled in...

The house I shared eventually came to be decorated with more of my paintings. 'Library Girl' was at the top of the stairs, while in the living room were paintings of a gothic castle in the moonlight, and a surreal piece called 'back of the wardrobe'.

The castle piece was inspired by 'Dracula' and featured Van Helsing and Mina in the foreground. Alas it was too thinly painted, but a later digital reworking improved it somewhat.

back of the wardrobe by dashinvaine

'Back of the Wardrobe' was a surrealist image, incorporating some personal symbolism and some motifs developed in earlier works. The title came from the fact that it was painted on a piece of board that formerly was the back of a wardrobe. (Extravagant spending on art supplies was not my custom).

As noted I received little or no formal or technical painting tuition, and if anything the encouragement was to loosen up one's drawing style, and experiment with conceptualist, not necessarily representational stuff. Having subsequently come to learn about Cultural Marxism I view all this with even more suspicion and disdain than I did at the time. After covering the Dada movement, I made my first (and for a long time only) digital collage/photo manipulation, which was called 'Mona Hitler'.

Mona Hitler by dashinvaine

Another early mixed media experiment was a Phantom of the Opera poster with a singed music sheet taking the form of the mask... This was part of a graphic design module.

One image from the time that I was proud of was this portrait of Lestat, although only a copy of a photo, a frame from the film 'Interview With the Vampire', it was the most realistic portrait I had achieved to that time. Another figurative drawing I was pleased with at the time was the biro drawing of a girl, also below...

Lestat by dashinvaine old sketch of girl by dashinvaine

I enjoyed living in Worcester, during my student years, anyway. The city has a picturesque cathedral by the riverside, the burial place of King John, and of Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII, who died before he could become king. I had pleasant times going around with the aforementioned Nat, who was a local.

This painting imagines Prince John riding back into modern Worcester...
worcester bridge by dashinvaine

This one shows the late lamented Odin, our dog who was particularly attached to my mum, set in a landscape back home in Buckinghamshire:
Tumpy dog by dashinvaine

At this time I also painted this ship for my gran...

Seventeenth Century Warship by dashinvaine

and this Gypsy for my father, who moved away from my mother at this time...
Gypsy Girl by dashinvaine

After painting the gypsy girl, I made the (generally regretable) decision to switch to acrylic paint, chiefly for the quicker drying time. I never really liked acrylics, though, since they don't blend as nicely as oils, and they dry out too fast- even in the tube.

Still, these were some of the results, not all of which were deemed fit for public consumption...

The Jealous Father - cs by dashinvaine
'The Jealous Father', a satirical tribute to the Creation of Adam, using the same basic composition in a rather different context. Done on canvas. Quite large. I don't really like painting on canvas, I discovered, preferring hard surfaces.

Lilith and the serpent by dashinvaine
Lilith. A dark female archetype, seeming to crop up in my work periodically. Also alluded to in a horror story called 'Veil', that I wrote while still a teenager and that I must revisit someday.

RN Frigate by dashinvaine
A modern frigate. My father somewhat foolishly encouraged me to investigate a career in the Royal Navy, at one point. Nothing came of it, since I am not cut out for that sort of thing, but I still had the literature, which inspired this image. Never was inspired to finish it properly as it fails as a painting due to not having enough space around the ship.

I also did some ceramics modules at college, the results including these medieval tiles...

Medieval tiles by dashinvaine

enigma 2 by dashinvaine
The above painting image 'Enigma' was not one that I ever found particlarly pleasing, and I later scraped it back and extensively reworked it in oils, though it was originally done in acrylics. Certain qualities were lost, and it might have been better to start from scratch, but then it is no great loss on the whole.

The above is called 'Hairspray' (since the dolphin swims through spray that forms the lady's hair). One of my wilder and sillier experiments. Don't know what I was thinkng regarding the rest of it. (Dog and bone- phone, possibly). I didn't (and don't) do drugs, with the exception of trying a splif once or twice when a dodgy friend of a housemate in the first year came over. I didn't see what all the fuss was about.

Knight Templar Mounted by dashinvaine Templar Trial by dashinvaine

A version of the above painting of a Templar Knight would later be used on my book 'Rise and Fall of the Knights Templar', written soon after my graduation, while I lingered in Worcester. Overall the image works quite well but the horse is messed up, being too small, and the less said about its 'legs', the better. The drawing of a Templar trial, meanwhile, was done as a cover for my dissertation.

Some time before finishing at Worcester and before chucking those nasty acrylics away I perpetrated this artistic atrocity for my sister (who professed to like it nonetheless).

Kidderama by dashinvaine

I graduated in 2001, and left the house I had lived in as a student, coming home to Bucks temproarily, where I did this painting of Nat...

I also did this painting of the Phantom of the Opera and Christine Daee. Nat and I were fans of the story, and as well as having seen the musical in London, we had once been to a fancy dress party as the Phantom and Christine. She made me a cloak for the occasion, being a person of many talents.

Phantom painting  CS by dashinvaine

I then moved  to a flat in Worcester, in a dodgier part of town. The best part about this flat was a good view across the city, with many spires and church towers in view, albeit behind a bus depot. In the post-graduation period, I produced this painting of the goddess Diana, also in acrylics, and also this vaguely cubist piece called 'Boudoir'.

Diana and Actaeon by dashinvaine boudoir by dashinvaine

I didn't have a TV there, so didn't get to watch the planes crashing into some other towers. 9/11 was also the day I was offered a job as an ornamental assembler at Royal Worcester Porcelain. It involved sticking on heads and arms from the mould onto the bodies of figurines, and also applying flowers etc and removing visible seams.  I found this work ok, but a little stressful, since they seemed to expect painstaking quality at mass production rates. I was living in a different flat by the time I finished there, in a nicer area but with less impressive views. Royal Worcester went out of business soon after my departure. Paintings from this time included a view of the cathedral done from across the river, one of my few foreys into plein air painting, since I don't like winds, and I don't like people looking over my shoulder. Painting sold in a cafe, in which it was exhibited, within a few days, and before I could get a photo of it. I also exhibited paintings of a fantasy city, and another one of the cathedral, in that cafe, which was around the corner from the Commandery, a museum set in the building that was the rouyalist HQ before the battle of Worcester, during the civil war.

One event I attended at this time was a re-enactment of the funeral of Prince Arthur, that took place in the town, involving a procession to the cathedral and a ceremony there. The moody weather, the chanting of monks, the sound of the hoofs as a knight and horse came into the cathedral, it was all very well done and appealed to my medievalism tremendously.

Below are two paintings of Petra in Jordan, and of Christine from Phantom of the Opera, done on different sides of the same board... The latter was done at my second post-uni flat in Worcester, the former probably earlier.

Petra by dashinvaine Christine in white dress by dashinvaine

Another late Worcester work of mine was this Lamentation of Christ. A copy, basically, of a Bernini, but with a black background, making it even more sombre. I can't remember properly, but I think I may have darkened the background after returning to Bucks.

Lamentation by dashinvaine

Things didn't work out in Worcester, and things fizzled out between Nat and I (since we were both holding candles for other people, as it transpired) and so I moved back to Bucks. I, never to return except once to collect the paintings that had not sold in the cafe. I remained somewhat nostalgic for Worcester, however, and subsequently painted this view of the cathedral to remind me of it, albeit having returned to oils, my more natural medium...

Worcester Cathedral by dashinvaine

I also did this one of the Commandery:

The Commandery by dashinvaine

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