Monday, 31 January 2011

Doing Artistic Bognor Regis Angst Now for my website for the Jesus on the Tube website, my best known image and its story for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

And Now, We Are Going To Do The Bognor Regis ...

Angst.  Before I decided what we were going to do this week, I thought of another title for this blog.  "A Gallop Through Gombrich".  When we first studied Art History we were given a book called "The Story of Art" by E H Gombrich.  It was a very important book to us, it told us everything that we needed to know and started, at least for me, a life long love of the Italian Renaissance.  I believe it is a very important book to generations of Art Historians; everyone who is anyone in Art History seems to have been given a copy of "The Story of Art" at one point and to have become enslaved at once.  So A Gallop Through Gombrich would mean an Authentic Artistic Movement A Week for a good few months.  Bognor would be the new Paris.  Or Rome.  Or New York.  Bognor Regis would be the Creative and Cultural Mecca of West Sussex.  More so than it is now.

Today we are going to concentrate on Angst.  What does it means to be Angst Ridden?  We are still wondering what to do for the next Bognor Movement, and as we can't make up our minds, we are becoming Worried, which because we are Artists, means that we may become Unbalanced.  So the best thing to do is to make that the theme of the day.  Historically,  Artists are supposed to be emotionally wobbly a lot of the time, and the term Angst Ridden applies to those alarmingly creative, insecure, introspective and sensitive types.  Well, I am not really any of those things, but I am creative so I am entitled to a teeny bit of Angst.  

The word Angst is glorious in theory, less so if you actually have it.  It means fear and anxiety in German, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch. All those countries are bound by the same word to describe their intense feelings of apprehension and inner turmoil; "Angst!" they moan as they stagger around with copies of Kierkegaard under their arm, "I got Angst, goddamit, it's all too bad and I got Inner Turmoil too.".  It was first used by the Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkeregaard, that jolly fellow that I can't understand a word of, in his book "The Concept of Anxiety" (or Fear depending on the translation) and it is linked too to what can be described as a deep seated spiritual condition of insecurity and fear in the free human being.  Yes.  I can see Bognor may have some of that.

So today we can use this very deep and troubling word to describe how we Artists are feeling for this week.  The word has been used to cover all manner of negative states, and I don't suppose everyone who uses it knows quite how philosophical it is because it sounds so good.  It sounds so clever.  "I can't deliver the groceries today," a delivery driver may say on the absentee hotline to Sainsburys, "I got Angst.  It is part of my Deep Seated Spiritual Insecurity".   Teenagers have it in bucket loads.  I did.  I wrote poems on how depressed I was and how I was going to die and left them around for my father to read.  He used to write jokes on them and give them back. He was very witty and making me laugh (I tried not to) nipped my angst in the bud. 

So. Angst.  Here is a smattering of what is giving me a mild attack of Angst.  I have an exhibition to organise.  A Graceful Death goes to Manchester and the paintings are still not there. The transport from Dublin to Burnage is now suddenly changed and it all seems too too difficult.  Who looks after the Child (14 and dangerous) while I am gone?  Will anyone come to the exhibition?  Neill the film maker of repute is terribly busy, so am I, when will we catch up?  Will he still do the film?  If he won't is it because I am a loathsome creature (the bells, the bells)  and he got a glimpse of my deep-seated-spiritual-condition-of insecurity-blah-blah-blah-free-human-being-blah-blah etc? Why am I so tired all the time?  I have more Angels to paint (phew) but they are in danger of being painted crippled by anxiety on the canvas. Will the ever wonderful photographer Eileen Rafferty take the train all the way up to Burnage, Manchester, for the the A Graceful Death exhibition only to photograph Neill filming me in an empty room?  Will I manage to talk sense?  Ever?

It strikes me that I talk of Bognor's Artistic Temperature, and then describe myself.  I think I am the Bognor Artistic Movements, single handedly being everything all at once. Maybe next time I should make Bognor do Surrealism or Dadaism.  They were bonkers enough for one person to decide to be a personification of both or either.  So then I won't have to write about Mulitple Personality Disorders, or about Delusions Of Grandeur.  None of which I even remotely have.  Phew.

The Scream by Edvard Munch.  

This painting by Edvard Munch is a fantastic example of Angst.  He painted several versions between 1893 and 1910, and caught the agony of the human condition (if you are in a terrible way) and in his own words " infinite scream passing through nature".  You can see how one could identify with this if one is suffering the ghastliness of insecurity (deep seated and spiritual) and fear.

I don't feel quite like this yet.  But if it gives me kudos, I am prepared to pretend.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Not Quite The Bognor Renaissance But Getting There for my website for my other website for the A Graceful Death Exhibition, paintings from the end of life

The Bognor Renaissance Needs A Bit More Time

I said this blog would be about the Bognor Renaissance, and so it is.  It is about how it isn't quite here yet, but then, it is possibly very hard at the beginning of a movement and one may not know it was a movement till a long time afterwards.  Unless of course it was a very self conscious movement, which gave itself a name and a start date and then got on with it.  I imagine the Italian Renaissance took a while before anyone noticed that they were in a hotbed of artistic, cultural and intellectual  endeavour.  And quite possibly they didn't all wake one morning and with one breath, one mighty uniting of souls and purpose, shout, "I know what this is!  It's the Renaissance! What fun!"  It was given the title of Renaissance long after it had moved on to Mannerism or some such thing.  Oh.  What if Bognor moves onto Mannerism.  How wonderful.  See below

Pontormo's Deposition of 1525 -28.

Mannerism was about those pale light colours and rather elongated and exaggerated figures.  This fellow, Jacopo Pontormo, was famous for his entwining poses and rather ambiguous perspective;  the figures seem to float, not being too concerned with gravity.  I love this painting, I love it's strangeness and silence.  It is slightly exaggerated and the figures much freer and looser than perhaps, a Fra Angelico.  

This is a Fra Angelico Annunciation - a real Italian Renaissance fresco no less, from 1438-45.  Here the poses are much tighter and the figures more angular.  I imagine that a fresco would be jolly hard to do, as one has to work in egg tempura onto sections of wet plaster bit by bit before it dries.  To get this wonderful finish he must have been so careful.  He probably had helpers, but even so, it must have been very difficult and precise.  Here, there is perspective, architecture and depth.  See how the arches continue around into the background behind the angel, and how there is another room entirely behind the Virgin.  How clever. A suggestion of space and depth.  There are little flowers in the grass, and the columns have perfectly painted classical capitals at the top, which I think are a mix of Corinthian and Ionic.  But definitely Greek so very Renaissance.

Briefly, so that we can get on with the possible Bognor Regis Renaissance, the Italian Renaissance stretched from about the end of the 13 Century to the end of the 16 Century.  A long time.  The word Renaissance means Rebirth, and it was coined much later, as those in the Renaissance didn't have time to know that they needed a name to identify themselves.  It was a time of huge cultural and artistic change and development, inspired by a newly discovered fascination with classical culture and antiquity.  It included Art - painting and drawing, Architecture, Mathematics, Poetry, Writing, Philosophy, Sculpture...the first Art Historian was a Renaissance man, Giorgio Vasari wrote the Lives of the Artists published first in 1550 and still in print today.  I have a copy.  I expect lots of us do.  I am not in it though, and so we need to update that.

So.  Bognor is on its way with its Left Bank.  In order to be more Renaissance, we need to become less Bohemian and more Intellectual.  We need some Philosophers (I know one!  She lives in Stoughton!) and we need some Mathematicians (there is a maths tutor in Barnham, wonder if he is interested).  If I could find an Architect - it must be possible, someone must have designed Bognor.  I know someone who is interested in Architecture, they can be a fill in until a real one comes along.  We need writers and poets.  We have those.  Plenty of those.  I know there are all sorts of Artists too, and designers and people who work in Glass (stained glass etc) and Sculptors.  I know there are Sculptors around, I can sense them.  Oh!  I know a brilliant one who used to live in Chichester, see if I can get him to move back.  Something that may be more difficult is the unearthing of hitherto unknown Greek Treasures, buried since Antiquity.  Well, two ways around that are a) we have lots of Roman remains in and around Chichester, like Fishbourne and the probable ex Roman Amphitheatre site behind the car park in Chichester on Market Street.  We can use that.  b) forge some Ancient Greek Finds.  (Honest Guv, it's a real Zeus.  It was floating around Bosham Quay and I just found it.  I reckon a genuine Myron.  Or Praxiteles. Or Whatever.)

Artistic Bognor could base itself on any Artistic Movement in history if it really wants to be a thriving maelstrom of culture and ideas.  A gentle rather laid back maelstrom, with much chatting, tea and toast, peanut butter and flapjacks and Facebook.  And Annabel Church Smith's truly splendid cup cakes.  I think I am going to see how the Left Bank Bognor goes before gently easing into the Bognor Renaissance.  I feel we may go rather quickly into Mannersism though, personally I am quite inspired by them.  See how the others feel, as we trudge along through the other Movements.  I hope we don't stop off in Dadaism or Fauvism just yet.  I need more time and some good nights sleep before tackling that.  

Oh how exciting.  Now.  What would Giorgio Vasari make of all this?  "Mama mia!" he would say with feeling, "eesa geenius." 

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Bognor. The New Left Bank. for my website for the website on the Jesus on the Tube image and idea, Jesus sitting on a crowded tube train and being ignored. for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Bognor.  The New Left Bank.

Intellectuals, Painters, Photographers, Writers, Graphic Designers, Poets, Feminists, all living in (or near) my house.  Bognor is a hotbed of creativity and passion.  The tide has turned and suddenly anyone who is anyone is here (or near here), being Excited and Planning their next Move.  The Left Bank in Paris was the place to be if you were an artist and or bohemian from about 1870 to after the second world war.  It was home to painters, writers and creators, eccentrics and nutcases, artists both profound and bonkers.  It was where aspiring writers went to mingle with others of a like mind, where Art was the Passport and success was elusive and often unimportant.  Or irrelevant.  Many of the characters were so wonky-of-mind that they wouldn't have known what to do with it anyway, and continued to live in utter chaos, drinking themselves into an early grave.  Like Modigliani, who painted the most beautiful silent and elongated two dimensional portraits of people, considered terribly odd at the time, but what the heck he lived in the Parisian Left Bank, what do you expect - but now are collected and sold and exhibited as masterpieces, and worth an absolute fortune, thank you very much.  Modigliani drank and drugged himself into an early grave in abject poverty, which gave him quite a lot of kudos.  It makes him seem superbly talented in hindsight, and though I love his work, the reality of his life must have been terribly squalid and painful.  Chiam Soutine was another artist who's art spoke of his life and mental state amidst poverty and misery.  Astonishingly moving and difficult to like, I think.

Names such as Marc Chagall, the magical mysterious Jewish Refugee painter, Toulouse Lautrec, the dwarf from an aristocratic family who painted the working girls and cabaret performers with extraordinary skill and perception, writers and painters such as Nina Hamnett known as the Queen of Bohemia, Gertrude Stein the very tough and probably unlikeable but influential abstract writer and poet and her partner, the ever patient Alice B Toklas, Pablo Picasso who we all know and have an opinion about, all these and many many more lived and worked in the Left Bank in Paris.  Their Bohemian lifestyle was notorious, the mingling of so many minds exciting and productive - life there must have been intoxicating and addictive.

Which brings me onto Bognor Regis. Intoxicating and Inspiring.  Here, in and around my house, are gathered Photographers (the eminently sane and sober Eileen Rafferty), painters (Me, also sober but more of a show off than Eileen), Graphic Designers (Rhona Reedie, modest but brilliant, so very like Eileen, and a bit like me in that I am brilliant but not modest) , Film Makers (Neill Blume who is making the A Graceful Death film with me and is very wild and arty in his own way, in that he has a motorbike), Cup Cake Gurus (Annabel Church Smith who can make anything she really wants to but has surpassed herself in the cup cake stakes), Olivia Fane (classics scholar, theology scholar, writer of books that are deeply intelligent and controversial)...And then, as if that is not enough, there are more.  I know and am inspired by other artists, writers, poets, feminists some of whom are married to other feminists, thinkers, nutters, eccentrics and mavericks.  They have all visited here and we are in touch by email and phone.  There are those in my life too, and so in the Bognor Left Bank, who are capable of wonderful things, but whose lives are so deliciously complicated, and so wonderfully naughty, that that is creativity enough to be genius.

What makes Bognor so obviously the new Left Bank, is that while the Left Bank artists etc were living and creating and being artists, they had no clue that one day they would be world famous.  They just got on with things, and pawned each others clothes to buy enough paint for one more splurge, and got paralytic on absinthe for the price of a drawing in a table cloth, and got terribly cold when it was cold, and terribly ill when they hadn't eaten for a while because there was no money, or they forgot because they were drunk, or the Muse had kind of got them on a Roll.  They lived their Art as a day to day Thing, it wasn't something Other to them.  It wasn't a means to an end, it was simply a compulsion to create.  We, in Bognor are like that too, though not quite so disorganised.  But we are living our Art and making our mark as a matter of routine, whether we get paid or not.  Our Bognor Left Bank is a bit more orderly and middle class.  We have central heating, and many of us are teetotal, and we all have bills paid by direct debit.  Many of us are vegetarian, and so far, none of us have been sectioned.  But we know people who have.  The most unifying drink amongst us Bognor Left Bankers is Tea.  Pots of it, taken not with drugs or dry stale bread, but with Cake and Buttered Toast.  Possibly because we are a bit older now, in our 40s and 50s, we don't like discomfort so we have moved on a bit.  We all were hedonistic and disreputable once, in our youth, but we find now that that gets in the way of doing good work.  It becomes an end in itself.  So our flowering of Art,  Culture and Creativity is about being Inspired and Excited about Expression together.  The passion I mentioned in the beginning is not for each other, though we are all jolly good buddies and rather past all that kind of thing - it is about what we are doing; ideas for paintings, projects, books, films, poems.  It is about like minds inspiring each other, looking for ways to make all these things happen.  And because we are all a bit old now, and have sown all our wild oats, and have begun to experience the sweetness of success and interest from the World Out There, we are serious about doing what we do to the very best of our abilities. We all muddle along in a slightly less bohemian way than the real Paris Left Bank.  I have mentioned that we are all a bit older and more comfy.  I also think that Bognor, compared to Paris architecturally, probably comes off worse.  We don't have the Seine, but we do have the Sea.  We don't have many cafes, but we do have fish and chips.  Our Town Hall is not as grand as the Louvre but it is a nice big building. 

There is then, a flourishing of the arts in Bognor.  It is all quite gentle compared to the hundred or so years of the Paris Left bank, in that we have only been going a month or so.  Well, perhaps it has been building up for a year or so.  But we are on the way.  Watch this space.

Next blog, the Bognor Renaissance.

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.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Soctrates, Rocky Bilboa and Jesus. for my website for my best known image of Jesus sitting on the London Underground and not having anyone want to make eye contact for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Socrates, Rocky Bilboa and Jesus.   

I lay in bed last night and had the most interesting conversation with myself.  As I drifted in and out of sleep, turning this way and then that in the bed, listening to the rain fall outside, I realised that I knew all the answers.  I found that I could link all known facts together and make sense of them, and I could in fact, rule the universe.  It all made perfect sense to me during the night, and I was only mildly surprised that it had come to this, and that in between all this cosmic understanding, I was running happily through fields of vegetarian supreme pizzas and that my mother had hung tons of washing in my garden so that I couldn't find the door back into the house.  And that my real name was Marjorie.  As with all these lovely night time experiences, it was gone by the morning, and I can only barely remember that what seemed to be utterly obvious in a deeply other worldly sense, was, in fact, complete nonsense.  Oh but the certainty!  Last night I could have told you the answers to all the most perplexing questions, which I am glad I did not, because today I may be on some strong medication and held in a secure unit.  I jest.  We all know that I was simply dreaming.

But, I do remember a link that I like.  I thought it before I went to sleep so it is plausible.

There are those in history that are deeply fascinating and powerful for their words, their ways and their effect on the people around them. Socrates lived in Athens in a time of huge change, about 400 years before Jesus.  Socrates was born into a poor artisan family (normally.  Mum and Dad both earth dwelling) and from an early age showed a disconcerting intelligence and tendency to think outside the box.  He sought out the best minds that he could and walked the streets of Athens for much of his life, asking questions and bothering people by making them think.  His main aim it seems from the book I am reading right now, and remember I am only in the first few chapters, was to make people - and that meant All People, poor and rich, male and female, old and young - work out how to be the best that they could be and to be good.  Socrates didn't write anything down, it seems that not only did he not have time to do so but he didn't approve of it.  When he was 70, his questioning, eccentricity and persistance seem eventually to have angered enough Athenians for him to be arrested and tried on a rather trumped up anti-religion charge, for which the penalty was death.  He, the book says, did not seem overly afraid, and defended himself.  When he was found guilty, instead of running away which could, I read, have been an option, he stayed in his prison and like a hero, drank his hemlock at the appointed hour on the appointed day, and died. 

His pupil, Plato, wrote down what he remembered of Socrates dialogues long after his death.  As did others, so that what we know of Socrates is from the writings of his devoted followers after his death.  And today, we still admire, read and are influenced by Socrates.  A bit like Jesus, eh?  Except yes, Jesus had a Divine Dad and did glorious miracles.  And came back from the dead and had a Virgin Birth and was on first name terms with God.  Directly.  I don't think that Socrates would be considered Divine, he didn't do Divine things (that we know of).  His Dad was definately his Dad.  But he did seem to be divinely inspired, and consider Goodness the most pressing question, and drove people bonkers with his refusal to stop asking them how they knew what they knew.  All were treated the same, I believe, and the mighty who thought that they may be given leeway and let off the hook because they were Important and therefore Right, were sent apoplectic by Socrates letting them tie themselves in knots by his questions.  And, I think, according to the book, Socrates was highly religious in a deeply spiritual and individual way.  And wasn't driven by ego, he didn't want to be right, just to Understand and make others Undersand.

Rocky Bilboa is a puzzle to me.  As Yule Brynner in "The King And I" says, Rocky Bilboa "is a puzzlement".  A fictional character from the Rocky films, written by and starring Sylvester Styllone, Rocky Bilboa is Jesus like too.  Not that Jesus thumped anyone (that we know of).  There is something I can't quite pin down about this Rocky character.  I saw all five films with my dear 14 Year Old Son, or Boxing Boy as he is known, or Thumping Child;  Rocky is the creation of Sylvester Styllone who then plays Rocky.  And Rocky is simple in that he is uneducated, but oh so advanced in an other-worldly-niaive-but-beautiful-soul way.  He treats people with respect unless they don't deserve it (he gives them the chance to change though, and when they persist in being ghastly he says things like "You ain't good, your heart ain't listenin' and I ain't having nothing to do with that".  They get what's coming to them after that.)  The Rocky character cares deeply about what is right, and is brave and firm in his standing up to bullies, always against the odds.  Unlike Jesus though, he makes mistakes and his son is overlooked when he needs his dad most, and lots of bad things happen.  But Rocky's wife tells him "goddam your son needs you Rocky, " and Rocky is paralysed for a moment with the revelation.  It all turns out OK after that.  And then, dear Rocky fights the Russian killer boxer played by Dolph Lundgren, in a fight of Light against Dark, in Soviet Russia.  And do you know, Rocky wins?  Eventually, after bout after bout of insane thumping and belting the bejeesus, the nasty Russian Killer Machine is knocked out and Rocky, is hoisted shoulder high by the now grateful and pro American Soviets, and he makes a speech.  "We all gotta love each other," is the kind of thing Rocky says, and "so I love you all".  Russia and America are one.

But look at the film.  The character of Rocky is utterly simple, totally wonderful and very spiritual.  There is much to chuckle at in the film, with a raised eyebrow and a superior curl of the lip; but Rocky, the man, is compelling.  I would even say, he teaches us something.  There is the Jesus like bit.  Simple, compelling easy to sneer at but real.  Except that Rocky is not real.  Or is he?  Sly Styllone wrote him and starred as him.  Is there a touch of Jesus in Sly Styllone?  Lordy lord.  What have I started.

Once started, Jesus like qualities can be seen in loads of people.  That's very interesting. Socrates intrigues me, as you can tell, and I am only on chaper 4.  There is something about his lack of ego, his influence on people, his insights and intelligence that I find inspiring.  And I find Rocky Bilboa compelling.  And Jesus is a fascinating fellow too.  Oh it's all so amazing.  Think I am going back to bed now to find out what happens next.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Angels And You.

Make Over Angel.  Before And After.  A Personal Angel Portrait of the wonderful Helen Ross, commissioned for her husband's birthday but then kept for herself.  Clever lady.  She is very yummy.  Oil on wood about 6"x 8" for my website for the Jesus on the Tube painting, my most well known image. for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Angels For You. 

I have been painting Angels for people recently and think that there is a future in this.  I have always wanted to link the Mundane with the Divine, and to remove the barrier between God and Us.  If we are to believe in God, we practice that old chestnut, Faith.  There are those who set themselves to deepen their Faith, which means that they continue to forge a link with God whatever may happen to test this link.  There are those who cannot conceive of this notion, Faith, and find themselves looking at it with frustration.  A frustration because they wish that they could have this thing that seems so irritatingly illogical; a frustration because it is so illogical and those that have it so irritatingly silly; a frustration because it simply gets in the way of  sound and rational intellectual progress.
Much of my Religious Work has been about making God as real and familiar as a cup of tea.  My Virgin Mary's are always either having or just had cups of tea.  The "Virgin And Child Waving With A Cup Of Tea" for example.  I have painted Jesus and John the Baptist Playing Their Gameboys too.  I have painted a Practice Annunciation where the Angel Gabriel has to practice Announcing to teenage girls, because he has to get it right.  And what 13 year old girl is going to say, on being told by a glowing man in her room that she is going to have a baby, "Fine.  OK by me.  Bring it on.  Fab.  Thanks."  She is more likely (if it is bungled) to run away screaming, "There's a man in my room with wings and not standing on the floor says I'm going to have a baby whaaaa"

"Jesus and John the Baptist Playing With Their Gameboys." Jesus and John were cousins, and would have played together.  I like the idea of them being like any other boys, and playing with the things that were familiar to them.  Oil on wood, 4' x 2'.

Angel Gabriel on the left here is very unimpressed. He has been to practice his Announcing Technique on some local teenaged girls so that he can get it just right when he meets Mary. But he is met with blank incomprehension and total dismissal from two very normal and scathing 13 year old local girls.  He knows it is going to be a tough one, and he needs to try again.  He is very discouraged but will keep going.  Oil on wood, about 6"x 8".

 I think God has a fabulous sense of humour.  I think it is not possible to offend God, it is not possible to annoy God and it is not possible to make God want to give you a smack around the head to smarten you up.  God is bigger than all that, and most of all, God is not human.  And has no gender.  And while I am about it, I may plug my dear friend Nicola Slee's new book coming out in March, called "Seeking the Risen Christa"  about the feminine side of Christ.  I love Nichola's writing.  There was hope that my lovely portrait of our dear friend Rocking Rev Rachel Mann would be the front cover but it was thought too controversial by the publishers.  (Eh? Subject matter is not but the picture is?  See below)
Rev Rachel Mann, ordination portrait.  Wonderful woman.  Poet, Vicar, Heavy Metal Guru, Thinker and Rocker of Boats.  Oil on wood, about 3' x 2'.

Back to the Angels.

Angels are the most beautiful and comprehensible symbol of our spiritual lives.  We want them positive, lovely to look at, personal and wise.  We want them to Be There and to keep a permanent watch for our welfare.  We want them to know us.  We need to feel that they have never left us, and that though we can't see them, that all we have to do is call and they will turn their wonderful eyes to ours and lift us up so that we can do what we have to do.  The Angels I am painting at the moment are for those who ask for a Personal Angel to lift and love and care for us right now.  They are painted with love and insight, they are utterly individual and they represent the connection between the Divine and the Mundane. They make us feel so good.  They are nothing but good. See below for three examples.

An Angel to support the task of loving oneself.  For a lady who needs to feel loved and secure, and who is loving and giving herself.  Hence the hearts, and the border outlined in gold.  She loves purple and blues and is beautiful.

An Angel for a wise and spiritual lady, who loves nature and people.  She loves greens and has a crown on her head.  Sprigs of leaves symbolise her love of nature, and her angel looks out at her with a direct and understanding gaze.

An Angel for a very strong and wise lady, who feels buffeted by events both expected and unexpected.  this is symbolised with the purple ribbons flowing around her.  This lady has beautiful long blonde curled hair.  She loves blues and turquoise blues especially.

All these Angel paintings are 6"x 4" and are acrylic on canvas.  If you want one please email me.  I charge £65 for non portrait ones (like these three) and from £150 for the portrait ones (like the ones of Helen Ross at the top of this blog).  My email address is  All we need to do is talk on the phone or by email to get an idea of the Angel you want to have either sent to someone as a gift, or for yourself as a well deserved affirmation of your worth.

I have an Angel to do this weekend for someone who wants support and love, and is watching her three grown children do their best in the worlds they have chosen.  Her Angel will be in browns and greens, earth colours.  And one for a man who wants an Angel to help him to Fly Away in his life, to move on and be more free.  This I will do, and with pleasure.

And just to make a point about tea, here is that painting of the Virgin and Child Waving With A Cup Of Tea.  Acrylic on paper, 3"x 2".  Very small indeed.

Have a lovely Angelic day all of you.  With love.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

How Do You Really Feel? Pretend This Is Private And Tell Me... for my website for the website of the best known image of Jesus sitting on the Tube Train being studiously ignored for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

Well, Just Between You And Me Then...

I feel frumpy, dumpy and lumpy. ( Keep reading, it has a nice ending.) I had looked forward to today with a nervous excitement;  today was the day it All Begins.  8am saw 14 Year Old Thunder Child and me in a school meeting to discuss Son's re admission to school.  It all worked very well and he was, for a teenaged boy, quite nice.  They agreed to his return, but told him that he would go to the Tower of London if he went Robo Cop again and he said "Yessir".  Yessir I want to go to the Tower of London or Yessir I won't be a vigilante again, I wanted to ask.  But I didn't because I was busy looking serious and on the ball and traumatised and helpful all in one go, as mother of the Accused.    

The day began at 6.30 with that dreaded feeling that I sometimes get when I wake up, that I have expanded in the night and am like a zepplin in the morning.  It is all a state of mind, I know this, but it doesn't make any difference. This feeling is going to settle around me like a fog for the whole day, and possibly longer. I woke then, this morning, imagining that the night had seen me grow like a speeded up film of bread rising before it is cooked.  Suppress that thought, I whispered fiercely to myself.  But you can only partially suppress that kind of self destructive thought;  generally it is going to take over your mind as the day progresses.  So I dressed in my normal clothes, all of which fitted (of course, I was just having a Blob Attack) and went to the school. I tried to catch sight of myself in the windows of the building to reassure myself that I had not become obese in the night, but because I was in the grip of the Blob Attack, I dismissed all the nice reflections of myself as Lies Lies and More Lies until I found a window that reflected me as a circus freak.  "That's It!" I cried to myself, "proof that I am turning into a Balrog".  

Anyhow, Son's teachers didn't flinch when I walked into the room, and no one had to be revived as I left.  I can't, I said reasonably to myself, be that bad.  This is, I continued, certifiable behaviour.  Once home, I changed into painting overalls and work boots and put on some nice perfume.  I had planned to spend the day in the studio making important phone calls, painting and finishing the latest Angel, and feeling Really Arty in my Arty Outfit.  Oh but I had not allowed for this dreadful state of mind.

I get this particular state of mind sometimes.  I recognise it as simply a mental state, and not a fact.  I know I can't have become ugly overnight, but I goddam feel it.  I feel so very unloveable, so ugly, so big and ungainly that I may not be able to work ever again. I feel helpless and useless and hopeless.  Awful, really. Well. Here is the plan of action when faced with this kind of nonsense - do the day anyway.  Even if, even if I had morphed into a hopeless and helplessYeti overnight, I still have paintings to do (alone, invisible and privately) in the studio.  I can do that.  I still have phone calls to make, and unless they are Skype calls with a video camera attached, no one would know I was a Yeti.  So just get on with it.  Like naming your demons and facing them down, I go into the studio and say, "Here I am, what fun, let's get on with it" and try not to think that the only man that would find me attractive is Hagrid.

Today, I achieved a lot.  This is where it gets better.  I did finish all the painty stuff, and am very pleased with the results.  I did make all the phone calls, and I have set up necessary meetings by which time I know I will be Tinkerbell again.  I forgot, now and then, about being Frumpy Dumpy and Lumpy.  I forgot, now and then, about being a fast forwarded film of the yeast in bread rising.  I am now ending the day in my thick warm pink and white spotty pyjama bottoms and my green ripped and paint stained jumper feeling suddenly very tired, very calm and actually, very satisfied.  The day did not then, depend on how ugly (or not) I felt, it did not depend on how large, and stupid, and unnattractive I felt, it simply did not.  It depended on me finishing my work, doing my jobs and ignoring all the nonsense that I woke up with.  I wonder if I have a Sabotage Gene that kicks in before I intend to do great (ish) things.  Today, it is true, was to be the beginning of great (ish) things.  Today I was to have begun the hard task of focussing on Lists, painting the paintings I have to do, and asking people in the know to help me.  I have a film with Arty Man to make for God's sake!  I have an exhibition to put on, to publicise, and to curate, next month.  I have a proposal to write for A Graceful Death for a possible grant.  And I have Angels to paint, one after another, it seems as soon as I finish one, someone else pops up and asks for one.  Today, my dear Cosmic Gardener came to tell me he had finished laying the swimming pool (only joking. He had finished cutting down a dead bush) as I was finishing the latest Angel, and yes - he commissioned the next one then and there.  Did he care if I was a Yeti?  No.  Did anyone even notice today?  Actually, I don't know, but everyone was very nice to me and polite and so I think, I believe, that it was all a load of nonsense and I was wise to not let it stop me. 

So how do you feel today?  How do you really feel today?  I feel glad the day is over.  I feel that I am often at the mercy of quite ridiculously irrational thoughts, and I wonder if I didn't have them, would I do better in my life?  I can't possibly know that.  But I do know that when I am feeling like a Balrog, I think I am the only one.  That everyone else feels just fine, and that if anyone knew, they would laugh at me and then call 999.  But hey, it just isn't so.  I bet you have felt this way too, Lumpy Frumpy and Dumpy.  Nice thing is that if you do, and you tell me about it, I won't shriek and run off shouting Monster!, I will probably swap notes with you and ask for your tips on hiding hairy hands and feet.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Ho Hum. At A Loose End. 10.29 am Jan 1 2011 And Nothing's Happened Yet. for my website for the most known image so far, of Jesus being ingnored on the tube train on the way to visit his mother for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

What's Next?  Done Christmas And New Year, What's Next?

Today I am determined to stay in bed.  Not to wander, should I have to get up, too far from my lovely big welcoming bed.  I start work tomorrow in my newly hoovered studio; tomorrow I get back to Normal and no more trying to spend the day on the sofa or in bed. 

This must have been the best Christmas and New Year I can remember.  There was no stress, and there was no worry.  As nothing is completely straightforward, this Best Ever Christmas and New Year has had moments of realisation that everything in my life begins and ends with me.  Being alone this year, first time for a good five years, I have to think for myself and make myself get up, get my glad rags on and go go go.  Alone.  And do you know, it is not so bad.  Each time I talked sternly to myself to get out of the chair and blinking well get out there, I have been rewarded by real Fun Times.  I tried to dress down for the New Years Eve party 14 Year Old Son and I went to last night.  I thought, "It won't matter if I wear grey and black, as long as I feel comfortable.  (Sigh and gaze at the ceiling).  Then at 12.01 I can lope off into the night, back home and eat sweets alone in my bed."  But I knew that if I did wear gloomy dark comfy old jumpers and wellies, that my conversation would adjust itself accordingly and I would not only not be able to finish my sentences but the tone of my voice would change to a dreary monotone and that, along with slightly downcast unfocussed eyes, would mean that there would be a kind of exclusion zone around me.  Only those who needed to practice their social skills would go and try and liven up the grey, rather sad dribbling artist in the corner, eating Pringles and dropping crumbs onto the carpet.

So I dressed in red and black, wore shiny high heeled boots, put on makeup and jewellery and had an absolute ball.  It made me realise that I can do it, I can rise from inertia and jolly well go out there and kick ass.  Alone.  And I was fine.  With my boots on I was at least 6' tall, and felt very powerful.  Inspired by the people I met, and thought, "I can do this too," while talking to folk who have been there, done that, got the teeshirt. 

Oh what a lesson there is there.  Make The Effort sums it up.  And this is the lesson that I carry into the excitement of 2011.  Make The Effort.  Put your boots on girl, and go make it happen.  

Until then, I am in bed and wearing red and white spotty pyjamas. It is now 11.29am and still nothing has happened.  "Oh Antonia!"  I say to myself with the fervour of the newly aware, "it is up to you to make stuff happen!  Remember, oh you who must always talk yourself out of lying on the sofa with a cup of tea, remember the Make the Effort lesson, the you-can-do-this-too, of last night!  And further more, your mother is coming for lunch at one, so enough of the philosphising, and make some soup."  

One more day of sitting around then, and tomorrow, like a coiled spring, I will ping myself into the studio and begin 2011 with all the projects that I put into place in 2010.  One more day, I tell myself, of glorious inertia, then into the real world tomorrow and wham.  Or Wham - ish.  I may be so lazy and used to indolence, that I will have to go into the house and put on my shiny boots in order to pick up a paintbrush.  Hey ho.  Whatever it takes.  Watch this space.  Now.  Can I entertain my mother in my pyjamas?