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Open Studio Today

The building where I have my studio hosts three open studio nights per year. Most of the time I don't participate, for various reasons, but today I am.

This is because I've produced a group of oil paintings since I got back from Paris in February that I am reasonably satisfied with, and I want to see what responses I get. Like the short films and installations I've done in the last five years, they are based on memories of my childhood in an English coal mining town. But the content is more filtered through the subconscious:

I've also printed and framed some collagraphs that have a similar content and execution to the paintings (and that's also a difference this time, because often my prints and paintings look like they were made by completely different people):

So everything is nearly ready to go in my studio. I will post photos and reactions from the event next week.
Recent posts

Gertrude Stein Hated This Painting. And Yet...

A painting by Picasso from 1905 has just sold at auction for one hundred and fifteen million dollars -- what ArtNews calls "a rare nine figure purchase." The painting, from Picasso's so-called Rose period, is "Girl with Basket of Flowers":

I am in the camp that thinks the reasons why Picasso's Rose period work sells for more than his Cubist work are precisely the reasons why I don't like the paintings that much. That is, they are anachronistic pastiches of late nineteenth century Symbolist painting, their mythological content replaced instead with sentimental idealisations of family pastoral. However, there's no questioning the skill and sensitivity of Picasso's brushwork, particularly in the face of this girl.

The first owners of the painting were Gertrude and Leo Stein, the rich Americans who moved to Paris in the early 1900s and set themselves up as patrons to the avant garde (though their taste didn't extend to Picasso's Cubist work…

Dessins de Paris: 7

On the metro again, a woman sitting diagonally opposite from me. Time of day: evening rush hour. Crowded train. Her face wasn't this colour, I just chose this crayon because it matched the fact that there was something surprising about her face. She really did have such a long nose and jawbone, and her eyes were sunken and tired as if she had been awake for days. She didn't seem that old, but her skin had a sallow, waxy, deathly pallor. She looked like she was carrying a lot of anxiety and troubles. Her hair was long at the sides, and rolled back onto the top of her head in the style of women from the Edwardian era.

Blogs I Helped Get Started

Occasionally I teach classes to artists and writers about creating and maintaining a blog. I just checked in on a few blogs created by people who took one of these classes, to see how they are progressing. The answer is: very well! Here is an entry from Jessica Baldanzi's Commons Comics, dedicated to reviewing graphic novels. In the post I link to, Jessica talks about Fatherland, which seems to be a serious exploration in graphic form of a person's family roots in the former Yugoslavia. Jessica's writing is extremely clear and engaging.

On Common Pages, the writer talks about something close to my heart -- music -- in a blog post reviewing a book about the history of the Cleveland Orchestra.

And on The Barefoot Norwegian, Connie Geissel has a blog post with the title Almost Eaten by a Bear. Which gets full marks for grabbing your attention and forcing you to read it.

Nice work, everyone!


One of the classes I am teaching at the moment is collagraph printmaking. As the name implies, you make a collage of materials on a flat substrate such as matboard, seal the back and the front, then ink and wipe it like an intaglio plate before printing. Here is one of the collagraphs I have made this year:

The texture along the top is created by ripping away the first layers of the matboard and exposing some of the rougher fibres below the smooth surface. The crane shape comes from cutting precise lines with an x-acto knife and then digging away inside the lines. The brown shape below the crane=a piece of thin textured fabric glued onto the matboard. The factory=pieces of the torn mat board cut into regular shapes and glued back down. Finally, the very darkest areas were created by brushing on carborundum mixed with PVA. When all of that was dry, I sealed the front and the back with acrylic gloss medium. Inking=prussian blue and sepia, wiped with tarlatan to create a middle tone of …

Dessins de Paris: 6

A waiter at La Closerie de Lilas, at the eastern end of the Boulevard de Montparnasse. The bistro is famous for its association with several generations of writers and artists, from Paul Fort in the 1890s, Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s, and Gide and Beckett in the post-WWII era. The waiter could have worked at any place in Paris, however, and that's what caught my eye and made me draw him. The crisp white shirt and apron, the black tie and waistcoat, and the high domed forehead made him seem like the distilled essence of Parisian waiter. If you cold walk into the Closerie in any of the eras I mentioned, there would be a fair chance of seeing a waiter who looked just like this.

He looks like he might be sleeping on the job in this drawing, but I think he was looking down as he was ringing up a bill at the register. And that reminds me of something: I don't recall many French waiters gazing at their smartphones, even if there was a lull in the traffic (unlike American or Englis…

Dessins de Paris: 5

At a restaurant in Montparnasse, just off the Boulevard de Montparnasse, where three of us went one evening for a faculty meal. A small place with fewer than ten tables, and a waiting list that meant we had to book more than a week in advance. The food was classic French cuisine with some Vietnamese touches. One of the waiters was the chap in this memory-drawing: tall, athletic build, with a beautiful rich burnt umber skin tone, and his head shaved into concentric circles ascending to a curling tuft right on the top of his skull. It's the sort of hairstyle that might look ridiculous on some people, but which mysteriously some people can carry off well. The waiter also smiled a lot, and seemed like a nice person. I can remember him more than the food I ate that night.