Going through photos of family members I inherited from my mother I was saddened because there were many people I didnt recognise. The few remaining relatives were unable or unwilling to help and I was left with a sea of faces I couldnt fit a story to. This made me ponder on the fickleness of memory and how the solidity of the present so quickly crumbles.
I suppose this feeling was heightened by the fact that my father (my parents were divorced) had annotated most of his photos and so, when I inherited these, I had a rich narrative of the life of family members on his side of the family.
I decided to explore ways to express this feeling of loss and the attrition of memory in painting. The painting above was my first go and I do like the feeling of the palimpsest that this painting creates – the image is caged behind bars of paint – receding into obscurity.
This second painting isnt as successful, I feel.
This self portrait expressing the same idea uses a technique I have tried in life paintings before. I feel that it lacks the visual impact of the first.
I will try out further versions when I can work out how to proceed, though I wanted to show these, if nothing else, but to ponder on possible ways forward.
Other life drawings and figurative paintings are available for sale on my website: grahammcquadefineart.com
I suppose this is an essay on optimism and was taken from a trip we recently made and which I documented in an earlier blog. Someone had brought a kite along and we sat on a hill and in the breeze a few of the group had a go at flying the stunt kite.
I had left my sketchbook in the car so I took a few photos, and this is of Rob having a go. I actually liked the movement and arching in his body as he fought to keep the kite aloft – a triumph on this blustery day. I painted it in a blocky expressive way to convey the energy of the scene.
It reminded me of a statue on the canal close to where I live to commemorate the cutting of the first sods of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal and shows a Navvy bursting out the ground into the sunlight as if he was coming up for air.
I didnt have a clue what I was doing when I started this except the notion of attempting a figurative piece. I had a photo of the top part of the figure and I liked the compact pose; the rest just sprung from there.
Playing with washes and colour, with a bit of drawing, and who knows where I have landed. Out of the proverbial and into the fire. Well, having said that, there are aspects I could take and use to better effect. You build up this thing intuitively and then you stand back and think that would be better there, and if only I had used a redder blue here, or lost that line there.
I do miss the life sessions I used to go to, as it was painting on the fly – no time to really think things through – just crash on, and this painting was similar in that respect. I do have sketchbooks full of figures that might be worth developing and applying some of these approaches to. We’ll see. I did have plans to do some life drawing at the start of this shutdown and apart from some sketches this is only the second figurative painting I have managed – I get sidetracked too easily.
A change of pace here. With not much life drawing going on, I had to make do with the materials I had at my disposal. Apologies to any startled horses.
Though here in the UK, the BBC presented a life session last week – a few hours of models posing on live TV, though drawing time was curtailed by presenters adding their bit and analysis of studio participants work – including the mandatory celebrity. I suppose it was trying to get people to take up life drawing, rather than pander to my needs, but it was also hindered by the small images they presented – panning back from the model to take in the surrounds. On my TV it looked like the model was in another room, which is another barrier to success. At least they tried and I got a few loose sketches.
Back in June 2014 I did a couple of pastels on the isolation of the individual. I was never happy with the outcome. These first two took a high viewpoint and recently when playing around I decided that a low angle might be more effective. But it wasnt plain sailing, as I found the detail I required was difficult in pastel.
So I changed to acrylic and am happier with the result. Though it may not be the final resolution, I feel I have made progress – and that is all that one can hope for, I guess. I may even revisit the first two paintings I did and see if acrylics would also suit them.
The final life session finished last week, so here are my last live figurative paintings for a while.
I have been alternating between pastel and acrylic of late rather than sticking to one medium and have ground to a halt developmentally. This imposed hiatus might give me time to work up some of these images.
Developing images I have produced at these sessions is something I have always meant to do, but never got around to doing. It might also allow me to explore some different styles as the fast pace at these sessions doesnt leave much time to ponder and I would like to try other approaches to figure painting.
The closing down of these sessions will also leave many of the models without this source of income and some are quite economically vulnerable. There are a number of life groups around where I live so the good models can do two or three sessions a week. The girl depicted in the first sketch, Eve, even runs a group herself, as well as modelling.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been doing a bit of life drawing with pastels. This is of Eve. She liked the painting and at the end of the session wanted to photograph it. I said she could have it if she sent me an back an image.
Arthur, a model in his sixties still runs, though he has stopped the marathons
An interesting angle, though I think I could have made more of this and the highlighting is a bit harsh.
Though dozing off with your mouth open just brings out the worst in me. Again I could have made more of this as the shapes were quite interesting.
I was asked to paint the portrait of a lady, who loves reading, as a birthday present. As she is someone I`ve never met good photos are very important. Fortunately one image had some decent lighting on it. The other was flat and featureless. One issue is that the lady had changed hair styles between photos and I subsequently found out she had lost some weight. All making life interesting.
We are getting there, but slowly, as other members of the family are viewing the image and adding their imput.
I received a set of Unison portrait pastels for Christmas and thought I’d find a subject where I could give them a road test. I had some images from my trip to South East Asia which caught some figures in the light – always a favourite subject of mine.
This is a compilation of a number of those images – ones of Buddhist monks and their initiates – and reflects a mindset I certainly get into myself, of being absorbed into activities which take away all sense of time. On talking to one Laotian monk in particular ( who engaged me in conversation just to practise his English) I came to the conclusion that they passed their life absorbed in worship, following rituals and were comforted by that routine. He did also say that many were monks for a short duration only and then activated the ejector seat to return to the secular world.
My painting has been disrupted by moving all my stuff to accommodate Christmas guests. I am in the process of moving back, but taking the opportunity to clear stuff out. So painting is a bit slow and this isnt helped by trying to update my website at the same time.
In the process of sorting and binning, I came across these sketches done at various life sessions during last year, so I thought I might post a few.
As you can see most are people sat in chairs – the favoured pose in these parts. Looking through the work has made me resolving to do more pen and ink. Once the mark is down theres no going back, so you paint by the seat of your pants, whereas charcoal can be corrected.