Monday 17 January 2011

Artist! Paint Thyself! Or Something. for my website for my other website, my best known image of Jesus sitting on the tube train being ignored for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Artist!  Paint Thyself!  Or Whatever.  You Know.  Innit.

A cry from the heart.  As a painter, I am a creator of  pictures, a mistress of oil paints, a lambkin in clover in a studio full of paint and colour and the heady smell of white spirit.  But life runs on many, many parallels, and without a wife, so to speak, to sort the house, the kids and me out, I am doomed to carve little pockets of time out of the day in which to paint.  I had put Sunday afternoon aside to tackle the Rock Chick Angel of the North (the Rev Rachel Mann's portrait), but found that once in the studio, I simply couldn't concentrate.  Apart from anything else, I had done my Sunday morning Big Bike Ride in order to train up for the 60 mile Charity Bike Ride I and some friends are doing on 10 July, and by the time I got into the studio, I could barely walk.  So, in the studio it was a dab of paint here, a dab of paint there and then off to the computer to see if anyone loved me on Facebook.  No!  I cried sternly to myself, Do not do this thing!  Fie, Shame, and do you think Bill Nighy got where he is by Facebooking?  And before I hurried back into the studio part of the studio, I had a quick look to see if he was on it...

Here are some facts and some opinions.  
  • In order to paint anything I generally need a client or an audience.  So I have to work out in advance, who am I doing this for?
  • So I have to find a Client or Clients.  
  • This means hours looking on Facebook for people to convince to have a painting
  • No it doesn't.  
  • Because it is a wonderful digital and internet age, it is necessary to create custom and interest on the computer, so Blogs, Forums, Websites and other sites are a must to get the word out
  • This means I can spend forty thousand years on the computer making interesting places for people to see what I do, and of course, read what I do (like you, kind and wonderful folk that you are).  Fun though it is, it is not Art.  
  • Oh I am weary before I even write this next bit - the house needs cleaning and the boys need feeding and clothes need washing and drying and blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzz.
  • And anything that happens, I create it.  Or if it comes to me, I accept it and then manage it.  Like the A Graceful Death exhibition next month in Manchester - that needs me to co ordinate it, paint it, and talk about it.  And publicise it and remember all the wonderful people who help out, and then, then, to make the film of it that Neill Blume and I are doing.  You don't know about it?  Go to and have a wee read.
  • And when people ask for Angels, I do them and send them out by post.  They should fly, shouldn't they?
  • And in the back of my mind, until it is done, is the portrait of the Rock Chick Angel of the North, the incredible Rev Rachel Mann, maverick vicar and wonder woman, poet and performer.  So I creep up to the painting which is about 4' x 3' in size, with my eyes squeezed shut and my mouth in a tight little pout, dab a teeny bit of paint on it then squeal and run away and hide
  • Why?  Because it is a painting, I am a painter, and it is important.  And like many painters I expect, I fear that somehow we have all been fooled and I can't really paint at all, and God knows how all the other paintings got done - fluke, or and alien, or something.  And now is the moment I will be unmasked as a Charlatan and a Cad and a Loser.  "Ha!" they will say, "we knew it was painting by numbers all along, we all knew it".
  • But this is just a process.  I always get over it and the painting will get done because I will, once it starts to look more as I want it to look, enjoy it obsessively.
  • Like Facebook.
So the life of an Artist such as me, is a juggling act.  When I was studying Art History at university, I was very impressed by the male artists of a certain type (Renoir, or Degas) who put on their tweeds and hat, and got the wife to get the servant girl to make some sandwiches, packed his pipe and easel and go orff into the streets/fields/bathrooms/cafes and paint away till their bottoms hurt on the hard little stools.  By then the sun was setting and they packed up, drank the last of the wine, and ambled home to quiz the wife as to what the servants had got for dinner.  And the next day after collectors bought all their paintings, they painted the servant girl, and ambled off out again.

Even in dire poverty, like Modigliani, or Klimpt,there was a woman who Helped Out.  Drunkenly, but helped out nonetheless.  Renaissance Blokes were apprenticed to a workshop or studio.  They all chipped in on painting the altar pieces that the workshops turned out.  A face here, a leg there, if they were good enough, and a craft learned.  Oh, and Chagall had his lovely Bella to help him.  He was a Jewish Immigrant from a small Russian village, and didn't have it easy to begin with.  But he did have a wife to help out.  

I am feeling my way here to the fact that the artists that I read about t university didn't have to take their boys to Boxing Lessons, nor sweep all the cigarette buts off the sofa or convince the schools that the boys are human, they just need time.  I do very well.  I am down to one live-at-home-permanently boy, and though he demands eyeball to eyeball attention much of the time, he can be distracted by Friends and Family Guy on telly, or a large meal.  I have a gardener to do the garden.  Instead of tidying up I have learned to throw away, so life is good really.  Which leads me to end where we began.  Artist!  Paint Thyself!  In the same tone as the saying Physician Heal Thyself!  And we will take it from there. Innit.

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