Abstract Thoughts

“The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.”

– Lucian Freud

 

I’ve dusted off my oil paints and I’m about to embark on a long series of portrait studies. I plan to try out some varying approaches and ideas in the hope of developing my art practice and leading it into some sort of new visual territory (fingers crossed).

I’ve always been really into portraiture. I’m drawn towards just about every portrait I come across, no matter what style or technique has been used. Whenever I resume my own portrait painting practice though I find myself simultaneously looking at lots of abstract paintings, and the more I paint and think about art, the more I merge the two genres together.

During my early days of drawing and painting and throughout school I thought of art as primarily being split into two main categories – abstract and representational. I liked copying things and reconstructing something 3 dimensional using a 2 dimensional format. And to this day the challenge of doing this still fascinates me. So, naturally I gravitated towards representational art. It is also what I was mainly taught at school. Abstract art was thought of as being this strange but cool kind of art that was way over there. It was something completely different and separate, something ‘other’.

At the time it seemed that both categories served different purposes and I battled with this idea throughout my time at art school – the idea that you were either an abstract painter or a representational painter.

I remember coming across the famous painting by René Magritte, titled “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” which translates as “This is not a pipe”.

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The title/text serves as a reminder that you’re not looking at an actual pipe – it’s merely a representation of that object. It’s an arrangement of colour, tone and hue to create the 2 dimensional illusion of something 3 dimensional that is recognisable to us. Now, I know it’s obvious. Everyone knows it’s not an actual pipe, everyone realises it’s just a painting. But that got me thinking.. does a painting which represents something else only serve that purpose? Or does it become something unique in it’s own right? And can it become something else despite it’s blatant similarities to something we recognise in it? (Am I making much sense?!)

Then there’s the other way round.. it’s in our nature to apply familiarity to everything we see and experience. As humans we struggle with the totally unfamiliar, we struggle with something being completely abstract and alien and it’s not uncommon for us to apply some kind of visual or emotional association to an abstract image. We often see faces in images where there was no face originally depicted. Or we might perceive a blended wash of colour as being a sunset or the ocean. We rarely accept the image as just being all it is (or isn’t) in it’s purest form without even subconsciously attaching our own visual bias to it.

Since a very young age though I found myself doing the opposite – looking at something familiar and attempting to view it in an unfamiliar way. My love for basic physics (The Dummies Guide!) has played a part in the way I look at everything around me and I never accept what I see as being absolute. I see ambiguity in absolutely everything. Have you ever stared at your own face in the mirror for so long that it starts to look a bit weird? A bit alien? I kind of do that with just about every single thing I see. I look at the colours on each object and think about the group effort of the speed of light, my own eyesight and the colour’s relativity to its surrounding colours and how all of these things affect what I see, or think is there. So I reduce recognisable objects and imagery down to basic components of colour and shape and its surrounding environment/conditions and I (usually in the case of art) analyse the relationships between each component. I also think about that idea behind “If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one around to hear it, did it really happen?” Is everything a subjective simulation? No two human being experience the world in the exact same way and that extends to how we look at things, how we observe.

When I was in my final year at art school I gave some of my fellow students a smallish bit of primed board and I gridded them into small squares. I handed them all the same image of a section of a face (which was also gridded in the same way) and asked them all to paint the colours that best represented the overall colour within in each square of the face. When I placed the finished pieces side by side there were noticeable differences between all of them and no two palettes were the same. For example, some had a  greener tint and some used a lot of purple and brown hues. The results highlighted just how subjective and unique our own senses are, even when looking at the exact same thing.

This idea propelled me forward through years of ‘documenting’ my own sensory input/output which is why, when I paint a portrait or a cityscape, I dissect it, forcing myself to consider each part of the image and surface area with equal value and attention. I also want the outcome to highlight the fact that it is ultimately just a flat object which I have projected my biased observations onto.

Anyway, I digress..

My first real interest in abstract art happened during my first semester at Art School when I went to see Bridget Riley’s exhibition that was currently on at the GOMA. Her large paintings left a lasting impression on me for several reasons. I was struck by the physical effect her paintings had on me as the viewer, since up until then I thought that art was more inclined to cause an emotional effect. The horizontal lines appeared to move on the canvas depending on how near or far I stood from the painting. They would blend and bump into each other and I struggled to keep the lines apart. After a few minutes of staring at those lines I started to develop a mild headache and my eyes began to feel a bit strained. Although none of the lines were touching, my mind blended all the colours together and created movement from a static image. The painting seemed to be physically interactive rather than just something that was already established without the viewer’s input.

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This lead me down a deep rabbit hole of op art and I collected further inspiration from more or BR’s work, along with that of Victor vasarely and Richard anuskiewicz

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My own art practice has often fluctuated between abstract art and portraits and other recognisable imagery like cityscapes. The more I go between these genres the more I see them all with equal value and status and the less of a ‘gap’ there is between them. I seek a sense of familiarity in my abstract work and in turn I try to highlight the abstract nature of my portraits and cityscapes.

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Portraits are a biggie though. There’s so much going on in a portrait and they can be absorbed by the viewer in countless ways. Is the painting/subject matter dealing with certain emotions? Is it about the person in the image or is it purely aesthetic? I think it’s human nature to gravitate towards the more emotional aspect of the painting and that is another way for the viewer to seek familiarity, to relate. I tend to go the opposite way and study the piece more literally and superficially, I observe the brush strokes and how each colour bounces off another to create this fantastic illusion of depth, not only physical depth but emotional depth. I’ll consider the ‘story’ behind the subject matter’s gaze, I’ll take a moment to appreciate the emotional atmosphere in the painting but my mind always goes back to thinking about it in a purely structural way. I’ll finally remove the human element of it almost altogether and view the whole painting as just a new object (which, technically, it is). I will judge it purely on it’s own merits, as paint being very well organised onto a canvas to create something that’s good to look at, even if the artist intended more than that. The only human aspect that I really think about is of the artist themselves. The person who painted it rather than who they’ve painted. How many hours/days/weeks did it take? What music were they listening to, if any? What were they thinking about? I’m usually more interested in that side of it than the finished piece, hence why I’m just as appreciative of photorealism.

Anyway I digress, again.

In this series of portraits I’m working on I want to consider what goes into a portrait and what comes out if it. I want to try and improve my colour mixing skills and explore new ways of applying the oil paint. I want to flirt with the conflicting concepts of each piece conveying certain emotions while ultimately remaining inanimate and ‘of itself’. I want them to be near the ‘border’ towards abstract and maybe occasionally crossing over. Or I want them to be on both sides at once. Depth vs flatness. Face vs colours and shapes. Meaning vs structure.
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I’ll end this slightly over-run blog post with a wee mention of another favourite artist of mine, Paul Klee.  Klee often challenged the principals behind abstract art and went in the direction of declaring that there is no such thing as being completely abstract and that everything is based around perception. He would often paint his observation of the environment around him in a way that was reduced to basic form and selective colour and tone. He would break the building or view down to it’s most basic visual elements, including the way the sunlight might effect it’s vibrancy and appearance through time. The artist’s input was extremely perceptive and familiar, yet the outcome appeared abstract and sometimes random.

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I realise that this blog post is all over the place but I guess I’m just venting and trying in real time to make sense of what I’m doing so apologies for leading you down that winding path! (If you’re still reading).

I’ll continue to bounce my own (often nonsensical) thoughts around on canvas as well as this blog, exploiting the paralleled levels of how art is received with its contradictions and ambiguity. Above any other analysis or overthinking, it mostly comes down to the fact that I love making pictures for other people to look at. So I’ll leave it there. 🙂

 

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Portraits

I forgot how to paint today. I had one of those frustrating days where every mark I made on the canvas looked terrible and every flesh colour I mixed just wasn’t right. I started cursing my own embarrassing efforts and I became overly frustrated by the whole thing.

I then also made the mistake of looking at other art work online, and instead of feeling inspired I just went into a negative thought tangent of “my work is so amateur in comparison to that”.

I envy those Bob Ross type artists who smile and whistle their way through a painting, seamlessly and without a care in the world, like it all comes naturally to them. The kind of artists who could paint in public and people would enjoy watching the lovely process of the image slowly but surely coming together on canvas. I’m really not one of those artists. I’m more like Brian from Spaced, except the outcome is maybe a bit more commercial.

I have a total love/hate thing for portraits. I mostly hate the process of doing them as they fill me with self doubt, frustration, swear words and fucked shoulders. But for some reason I still feel compelled to do one once in a while. I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment! And (unless I mess it up completely) I feel a huge sense of achievement (and relief) once it’s done.

Ever since I can remember, portraits, and the skill it takes to paint one, have always grabbed my attention. I do love a good portrait. I find them really captivating and I’ve always wanted to achieve that in my own work. Of course there’s an emotional element to creating portraits (as with any work of art). Art can serve a number of purposes.. it can be nostalgic, emotional, political, unnerving.. all of which I like. Though it bugs me when I come across article with bold statements like “art should be…”. Why? Art doesn’t have to be anything. It can be anything you want it to be and it can serve any purpose you see fit, or no purpose except to scratch a creative itch in the same way that some people like to play their guitar when they’re alone. That’s the main reason why I paint. It is mostly physical for me. It’s the act of using my body and mind to create something cool and captivating. It’s an elaborate puzzle.. ‘cos I love puzzles. It’s self indulgent. And if other people get something positive from my work then that’s even better.

So when I look at other people’s portraits, sure, I take note of its potential message and I very much allow myself to feel the emotions conveyed. I accept the invitation to think about the subject matter in a personal way and I consider the connection between the artist and their ‘subject’. But most of all I look at how it was created. I zone right into every detail and scrutinise every mark and every choice of colour. I think about which decisions on the canvas were conscious and what was unconscious. I think about the composition and the scale, and how the size of it affects the whole outcome.

I’m also one of those annoying people who likes to know how long it took. For some reason I prefer art work that took a long time to finish. I like laborious stuff. I like pieces that were created over several steps of time, and perhaps during many emotional phases for the artist. I can connect to those paintings a wee bit better, they just seem a bit richer somehow because the artist has invested more of themselves in many different ways into the process of making that piece.

The painting I’m working on just now is pissing me off though. I caught myself trying to cut corners with it.. I tried to do things quickly and all that really happened was I compromised on attention to detail. I went into “fuck it, that’ll do” mode when mixing colours, even when they weren’t quite right. The reason for this is because I’m getting very limited studio time at the moment. I’m saving up for a trip to Thailand next year and I have a lot of overheads too (mostly rent, studio and bills) so on average I work about 50 hours a week in various jobs.. and then I try to fit in painting time on top of that. I envy those artists who can spend all their time creating art and not have to ‘slot it in’ to certain times of the day or days of the week. I painted a lot better when I worked less, because I took my time with each piece. I was a bit more perfectionist and would rarely ever cut corners. But nowadays I tend to try and find some balance between creating at least one painting each month (preferably two) but not making it look rubbish.

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So after having a quiet word with myself (though I usually talk to myself out loud) I realised I need to slow back down again.. aim for quality over quantity and learn to take my time with these paintings. I need to put less pressure on myself to paint ‘x’ amount of paintings in a certain time frame and just focus on one thing at a time, until it’s at a level I’m happy with. I also need to accept though that it’s fairly normal for some paintings to be more or less successful that others, and not to get too worked up about it.

I know I haven’t been very up to date with my blog this year but tonight I just felt the need to vent about this. Just had to get it out my system haha. Feeling much better already 😉

Plans!

Time for another wee update. Lots of stuff happening recently and over the coming months!

I’m sort of going in the opposite direction of last year where I upped my social networking game and attended lots of arty events, got chatting to many fellow artists and shared ideas/experiences. I found this to be very beneficial and a few good friendships have also formed as a result (you know who you are 🙂 ) I’m so chuffed that Glasgow offers such opportunities for artists to come together both professionally and socially. There’s a great vibe of solidarity between us, and we encourage one another’s development and achievements. It’s not a competition. It brings all the creative types out of the woodwork and away from isolation which is a great thing. But on a personal note I am very introvert, so the idea of constantly attending these social gatherings makes me feel a bit knackered sometimes. I quickly run out of steam. All I really want to do is be sat at my desk or my easel, tunes on and zoned out, making mad geometric paintings. And in hindsight I got pretty distracted last year, I was so busy organising, talking and listening about art I didn’t get round to making it myself!

So it’s back to basics for me this year. I want to (almost literally) get back to the drawing board. I’ve managed to re-jig my work/social life to allow more time to produce more work with minimum distraction. And so far it’s been very productive 🙂

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on some cosmic themed collaborative pieces with my studio buddy Andy and the fun continues! We’ve now set up a Facebook page called Celestial where we can post all of our cosmic work. A lot of the paintings were worked on together and some individually. Either way we’re having fun bouncing ideas off each other and getting back to the primitive act of making art because we ‘feel like it’. It’s also a nice break for me from my painstaking portraits and cityscapes (which I’ll no doubt get back to at some point). I’ve always flirted with abstract art and I feel that the subject matter of space allows enough scope to incorporate such influences, while remaining vaguely representative.

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Some of our paintings can currently be seen up on the walls at the Six Foot Gallery in the Pentagon Business Centre, Glasgow. The opening night was a great reward for our hard work (mostly with making the frames!) and it was lovely to see so many faces and receive such positive feedback. (Picture of me below taken by fellow eccentrist Andy Hurst)

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We are planning a much bigger exhibition later on the year with our friend Craig Krypt and a few others. We are considering running a charity art auction too and rounding up some of our DJ mates and making it a proper big event, possibly using SWG3 as the venue. More will be revealed in due course!

And in other news…

I attended a meeting a couple of days ago with Andy and Tom (our studio neighbour) and Alex from the National Collective and Art Retail Network to discuss launching a charity called Give Art.

Give Art was founded by Andy last year after he decided to donate some of his prints to Maryhill Food bank. The prints were snapped up in a matter of days and he has since donated colouring in pens, paper and other arts & crafts materials for kids to help themselves to. After a positive response, Andy decided that this could potentially grow into something bigger and while he finds the current growing need for food banks to be disheartening, he believes that by donating something as basic as some paper and crayons or some colourful art work for their walls, it can make a valuable difference to the wellbeing of children who may otherwise go without any form of inspiration, or means to create.

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While we regularly (and with a heavy heart) donate food to the local food bank, we shared a mutual opinion that children also need stimulation, they need a sense of purpose and to feel inspired. Having some colourful art work on their wall or some basic art materials to make their own can help support their personal and creative development at home. It can be therapeutic for them and so we want to find a way to make this happen.

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During the meeting we discussed creating a website, registering as an official charity and establishing local drop off points to begin with. We also talked about approaching a few celebrities and asking for their support. The team are currently looking to put on an event in Glasgow to officially launch the charity and raise awareness. A lot of planning is currently underway and more will be revealed shortly!

So that’s all for now, hopefully there will be many more updates in my next post! This year’s shaping up to be a belter already 🙂

Namaste. x

Gratitude

Get the sick bag oot…

I’d almost abandoned this blog completely due to lack of time/motivation/brain sells to string enough sentences together over this past year. But I’ve felt quite overwhelmed over the past few days (and weeks) and I have to express my grateful acknowledgements to the many people responsible.

2014 started off as an exciting year on the painting front. I was selling, on average, at least 1 large painting a month which is quite a lot for me! 2013 was a great year for selling prints and I was happy with that, but this year saw a considerable rise in painting sales.. something that I still can’t get my head around. Whenever someone parts with their cash, THAT amount of cash, because they value my work enough to have it in their home, it’s an overwhelming feeling of elation. It’s a massive compliment. And at the risk of sounding like a hippy (which ain’t a bad thing), the compliment means more than the cash. Don’t get me wrong though, when you’re slaving away over a tedious painting for weeks or often months, the cash is welcome too! I haven’t quite quit my day job(s) but all-in-all I’m delighted with where I am right now.

Speaking of day jobs, it’s certainly been a busy year for it. I basically spent all of my summer away from the studio and working up to 60 hour weeks in various random jobs. I’m grateful to be in a position where I am offered steady paid work (and I actually LIKE my jobs) so I’m in no way complaining, but the downside of this was that it stifled my creativity. I spent the best part of 3 months away from the studio and I really felt it during the last month. I would check in every now and then but simply didn’t have the time to finish any paintings or hang about for long. I missed my desk. I missed my easel and I missed Andy (whom I share the studio with). I also missed going to regular art events, because even if I was lucky enough to have a night off I would be too scunnered to go anywhere that involved standing up or talking to people.

I felt like I’d built up a great momentum the year before and then dropped it this year, and I could feel myself edging away from my studio life and being swallowed whole by ‘real life’. But while this was happening, something wonderful was happening simultaneously…

Despite the fact that I’d hardly painted in months, people were still contacting me to buy stuff, or just to tell me how much they loved my work and that they were looking forward to my next creative offering. People were still thinking about my art practice even when I wasn’t. They valued my work more than I did! And this, guys, is where this blog entry gets really cheesy (and you know I don’t like cheese).. because this is the reason why I’m now back in the studio, drumming up new ideas and painting with vigour. I think of my art practice as a mechanism made of two main parts. There’s me – the part that physically makes things, and there’s the other part – everyone else, the guys that buy my work or send random randoms of encouragement. The folks that share my work on Facebook or recommend it to a friend. The new friends I’ve made THROUGH my art practice and their relentless assertions of my identity as an artist, no matter how many hours or days I’m away from the studio. The other part helps me stay ‘validated’ even when the first part is wavering. And my gratitude for that goes beyond this blog post.

Special ‘cheers!’ goes to these people though – (if they’re reading)

Pete Gillies – another talented artist on a modest wage who recently bought one of my original paintings. I can’t do it justice here how flattered I am that he wanted to invest in one my pieces. And his reasons behind it were even more heartening. It’s a painting I did almost 8 years ago and there’s a strange satisfaction at the thought of it finally finding a home in another artist’s home (and I must add, an other artist who’s work I adore).

Andy Peutherer – Bit of an obvious one really, but we’ve shared a studio for years and had many ups and downs and 1am donor kebabs, but our friendship has remained solid and despite the lack of space (it’s a fucking disgrace), I wouldn’t have our studio any other way. He’s my biggest fan and his relentless nagging for me to make more work is (usually) much appreciated. We started off as just two arty loners, fans of each other’s work and looking to give each other advice on art related stuff, but years later and here we are as studio mates, soul mates and partners in crime. The daft banter and top tuneage that goes with it is also a plus point. Cheers Andy, get the kettle on.

Andy Hurst – I haven’t known Andy for long but he is a fellow crazy art & music fanatic. And he isn’t shy at expressing his observations! His words of encouragement lately haven’t gone unnoticed (even if I’m at work and can’t reply). He’s another good reason for me to pull my socks up and get stuck into some more painting. And his consistent flow of musical recommendations is a valuable asset to the studio speakers 😉

Garry Milne – Garry contacted me after reading my blog posts earlier this year. In fact, he actually reminded me that I even HAD a blog. Garry is an artist himself and he sent me a lovely email that made me snap back into place at a time when I was also floating away from creativity. I’m very thankful for his kind words of encouragement and I’m glad that my work has also made some sort of positive impact on him! I look forward to swapping some prints with him in the near future 🙂

I could go on but I start work soon..

So, aye, cheers for being wonderful! And if you made it through this whole blog then I’ll buy you pint next time I see you (subject to availability)

I’ll leave you’s with a pic of my latest painting ‘Nebula 1’ – a studio collaboration with Andy. Not sure what took us so long!

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2013

…was an epic year. So much so that I barely had time to keep my blog up to date.

It was such an eventful year and I feel it deserves a special mention in my blog..

Things got off to a good start in January, having an exhibition at Bar 10 which attracted an impressive crowd, and paved the way for future exhibitions and networking opportunities to follow in that same space, and other spaces, throughout the year. I can not express my love and gratitude highly enough for Michelle Cohen, who’s vision and hard work made all of this possible.

2013 saw my biggest commission to date – The River Clyde. The canvas was so big I could barely fit in the studio space. I had to paint half of it upside down for practical reasons and the mission seemed to be never ending.  Finally it was completed though and it is now my favourite commission to date.

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In the early summer I joined up with Nina Honeyman and we put together Art Fusion, our annual art event held alongside the Gibson Street Gala. We managed to get around 80 artists and craft people on board and despite the hurdles and stresses leading up to the event, the day couldn’t have gone any better. The sun was oot, the streets were packed and everyone was smiling. This created a real buzz amongst the artists and it was the start of something amazing. 580442_463931890359302_1366476409_n

What happened in the summer of 2013 was nothing short of remarkable.  Out of nowhere, a creative community was born in Glasgow. All the socially awkward and lonely artists crawled out from their isolation tanks and gradually came together to form a strong unit. Never has the term ‘strength in numbers’ ringed so true!

I didn’t even realise there were so many likeminded individuals living in such close proximity, each doing their own thing and going about their business pretty much unnoticed. Painting in the corner of their bedrooms, remaining anonymous. Slowly we started to catch each other’s attention and form not only creative allies, but genuine friendships. With thanks to Margaret Gilbertson and Stuart Murphy we went on to form an art collective called Rock Paper Video, working together to create public friendly group exhibitions that broke down the false barrier between art and the general public. We took out the middle men and spoke directly to Jo Blogg, selling our work directly and representing ourselves freely and without pretence. We even got the attention of the local media 🙂

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Our main focus was to remain inclusive. There was no hierarchy when it came to skill or formal education. Some of us have an Art School background and many others are self taught. It didn’t matter though, every artists brought equal value and contribution to the table. Some of us have carved some sort of career from making art, for others it’s a cherished hobby, and for many it’s a safe haven, a place for them to go and escape their personal demons and all of life’s tribulations.

Whatever the reason for making art, it was all encouraged.

Once we realised the potential of working together, we decided to keep the momentum going and actively seek new spaces to exhibit and network.

Next up was ‘Merge’, a similar style of exhibition, residing in an empty warehouse section of Skypark, one of Glasgow’s largest business complexes. Using the same basic framework, even more artists and designers were added to the list, creating a diverse collection of Glasgow’s creativity. The exhibition ran for 2 months, with each artists taking turn to invigilate and promote each other’s work. It was a resounding success, both as a group and individually. Worshops and discussion groups were also held within the space, allowing further opportunities to network, learn new skills and forge new friendships. 

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Before the start of this exhibition I was on a bit of a downer. I’d had a shit summer, selling almost nothing, not even prints. I was lacking confidence and started to feel bit jaded.  I was really lacking motivation but I submitted some stuff into Skypark on the basis of “I might aswell.”

On the opening night my work received much attention, a lot more than I would have predicted, and I sold many prints, got a custom framed commission and continued to sell the odd print here and there throughout the duration of the exhibition. I was equally chuffed to see my fellow artists friends having some much deserved success and in some cases a much needed boost to their confidence.  And finally, on the 2nd last day, I sold one of my original paintings of Ashton Lane.

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The next few months that followed brought me steady success, selling many prints online and through people visiting my studio. And at my latest exhibition for Art Pistol, I sold my original painting of Glasgow’s Squinty Bridge.

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These are just some of the highlights from the past year, there are too many to mention but I must give a heartfelt thanks to Michelle Cohen, Margaret Gilbertson, Rebecca Glen and Stu Murphy for facilitating these opportunities and working to raise the profile of local artists. I feel humbled by your spirit and motivation.

My usual thanks also goes to my studio mate Andy for helping out with the usual day to day shit of carting paintings about and hearing me rant and moan about the silliest of things.

Oh and Susan Laws, your infectious enthusiasm for life makes me smile 🙂

Happy new year when it comes. Bring on another year of friendships and creativity.

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Catching Up

Ok, I knew it had been a wee while since I’d last touched this blog of mine, but 3 MONTHS?! I guess time goes in quickly when you’re stressed oot yer nut.

To be honest though, at the moment I’m not stressed at all (did I just type that?) but I was pretty busy and anxious just after my last blog when I was organising the Offshore group exhibition and Art Fusion. Dealing with roughly 25 (lovely) artists had me in a bit of a tizz. And there were a few minor hiccups along the way but when it came to hanging the work and having the opening night, it couldn’t have gone any better. I had no idea how busy or quiet it was going to be so, in my head, I just settled with the idea that it’ll be a nice wee piss up for us skint and thirsty artists, if nothing else.

It was mobbed.

The tunes were blaring, booze flowing and the basement of Offshore was filled with friendly Scots, Canuks, Americans, grannies.. you name it! The atmosphere was golden. And I finally got to meet, in person, some of the artists whom I’d only spoken to via email. It’s always nice when you’re a fan of someone’s work and when you finally meet them, you find their personality to be just as engaging.

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The following week was The Gibson Street Gala. Both Nina and I had been stressing over the predictably unpredictable Scottish weather. And with virtually no budget we had to gather together some borrowed golf umbrellas and parasols, should it rain.

We were there around 8am that day to set up before the artists arrived, making sure everything ran smoothly. I also had my own stall to organise so my head was bit minced by midday.

The weather was glorious. Couldn’t believe our luck! Not a cloud in the sky and the only issue was the impending sunburn (well let’s face it, us Scots are more likely to turn up with a brolly than a bottle of sunscreen). Before we knew it the whole street filled up with wondering people. Sales were happening and connections were being made. And plenty of smiles all round 🙂  I felt proud to once again be part of such a successful and positive event in my favourite little city. And to be amongst such a huge line of creative talent was overwhelming.

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Straight after Art Fusion I had a big commission to finish. I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew with this one but I got there in the end. The River Clyde is up there with some of the paintings I am most proud of and it has gone to a good home, appropriately, overlooking the River Clyde.

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Once that was out of the way, I decided to take my foot off the pedal for a bit. Chill out, conjure up new ideas, make new plans etc

That was over a month ago and to be honest I’m still kinda in 1st gear.  But I’m not giving myself the guilt trip over it (which is what I used to do when I wasn’t working my arse off), instead I’m taking advantage of this (rare) downtime to allow changes to happen naturally and see where things go. I’ve also started a new creative business venture in the form of embroidery and humorous text. I’ll delve into that a little bit more in my next post..

For me, this summer has mostly been about getting out there and mixing with other artists; realising that there really is strength in numbers and this was proven in the latest group art project ‘Rock Paper Video’ at DNA hub.

RPV was an idea brought to the table by fellow artists Stuart Murphy and Margaret Gilbertson. In Glasgow’s Merchant City lay a big empty space  full of dust and potential. With the Challenge Anika theme tune playing in the background, 15 local artists joined forces and cleaned the place up, painted the walls and hung their art work up on them. We then got a feature in the Herald and the opening night was a huge success! All kinds of people showed up and the exhibition looked amazing.  The work ethos amongst us artists lifted our spirits both collectively and individually, providing a priceless reward for us, and the public who set foot into the space.  🙂 We’re already excited for what happens next..

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Glasgow Love Affair

Hey folks,

Just realised it’s been almost 2 months since my last post. Since then I think nothing super major has happened, but lots of wee bitty things have come up or are taking shape.

On the painting front I am working on this HUGE commission of the River Clyde (Glasgow) and am having my usual love/hate affair with a painting of that nature and scale. Last week it was a feeling of ‘canny be fucked’. This week I’m back in the infatuation phase, I’m almost gooey eyed looking at the thing. Sounds like a John Legend tune doesn’t it?

Anyway, here’s a wee sneaky peak of the work in progress.. Image

Although painting is my first love, I’ve been feeling a bit bored lately and wanting to try something new. Not give up on painting, just have something else on the go at the same time to keep things fresh and interesting. So I had a think about what other creative skills/interests I had and remembered my long buried love for embroidery – cross stitching to be precise.

I hadn’t made the connection before but I can suddenly see some obvious similarities in the approach to cross stitching and the way I paint pictures. An almost identical approach actually, just using different materials.

So I’m going to get back into a wee bit of embroidery again, and once I’ve re-familiarised myself with the process I’m going to aim to make keyrings and other things using these small embroidered pieces. Not so much flowers and love hearts, think cult/cartoon characters and all things funky! I’m not sure how this will pan out on a practical/business level but I’m up for the challenge! 🙂

In other news I’ve started to help organise another year of Art Fusion as part of Glasgow’s Gibson Street Gala. I’m excited to be part of it once again, especially as I am proud of what Glasgow has to offer, not just on the creative front but as a community in general. I have been fortunate enough to travel to many cities around the world and through my own experiences I have yet to find a city with such a strong sense of identity, where community spirit is important and there is a genuine mindset of every stranger being a friend that you haven’t met yet. Through workshops, art, music and comedy The Gibson Street Gala highlights what is good about the people of Glasgow and I am humbled to be a part of it. Image

Signing off for now, hopefully it won’t be another two months until my next post!

Ciao xGl

Back in 1st gear

Hey folks,

apologies if you get splattered with disease while reading this, I’m full of the cold and have been sneezing so much that I now want to rip my own face off. But apart from that it’s been a good Saturday so far and I’m feeling more motivated than I have done in the past few weeks!

You see, I’ve actually been distracted with moving into my new flat which is now on the same street as the studio. (Yippee!) And I’m one of those people that, when I move into a new place, I won’t relax until the place has been decorated, everything out of their boxes and placed where they should be. And until it’s done, I can’t concentrate on much else! (wee bit OCD, yes)

I’ve also been tying up some loose ends (mostly bills and stuff) at my last flat but now everything is starting to become a bit more settled and I’m getting my arty heid back on 🙂

It maybe sounds a bit weird, but if my home environment isn’t right, my motivation just goes out the window, but now I’m happy to have a nice relaxing home to conjure up ideas in and then I can take these ideas to the studio where hopefully they can materialise. Image

I’m slowly getting back into work mode as I struggled to get myself motivated lately. I was also feeling a bit negative about my own art practice for some reason but I reminded myself not to be too harsh on myself as I know that every artist goes through these phases where it’s ‘just not happening’, frustrating as it may be!

But today, despite being loaded with the cold and feeling a bit groggy, I’ve got a clear head on me of what I want to achieve in the near and far future, and I’m steadily getting through today’s to-do list 🙂

Painting wise I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I think I need to mix things up a bit. Too many people think that my work is photoshopped, which although could be taken as a compliment, it’s quite frustrating and it’s costing me sales!

I miss doing free-hand portraits so I’m thinking of resorting back to this old style and trying out some celebrity portraits. Will see how that turns out!

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I’m also thinking about a new approach to cityscapes but this may be a bigger challenge! I do have a commission though in the pipeline of the River Clyde, done in a similar style as Buchanan Street so I’ll keep you posted on the progress of that. Image

And finally I just finished another painting of Prince for a commission for someone’s birthday. I’m glad to hear they were delighted with the finished piece 🙂

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Long term wise – I’m considering trying to get some of my prints stocked in New York as I seem to sell a lot of my prints online to people over there. This plan may take a while to materialise though!

So that just about keeps things up to date for now. I’m off to go and make myself a wee hot toddy. Tattybye for now!

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Taking Stock.

Evening all!

It’s been a wee while since my last post, mainly due to the fact that December was a very busy month.

It was a great month actually.. very productive, lots of painting, a few good sales and two exhibitions also!

I know it’s a bit cliche but, like every other artist, I feel the urge to reflect on the year I had and lay down my thoughts for 2013…

2012 was, by far, the most significant and artistically/socially productive year for me so far.

I began the year painting portraits in my studio at home. I became a bit of a hermit and the lack of social distraction allowed me to get my head down and get on with things, resulting in several completed paintings by April. I used the time to focus on developing and improving my painting techniques, and also gain a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.Image

Come the summer, I got bored and felt that I needed more for myself. I needed to get out of my flat and meet more creative people. I am, by nature, a very sociable person and I felt that working from home was depriving me of proper social interaction and consequently, opportunities!

In June I volunteered to help organise and set up Art Fusion as part of the annual Gibson Street Gala in the west end of Glasgow. It was great being part of a team of like-minded creative individuals with an equal passion and enthusiasm for Glasgow’s creativity and overall community spirit. The day was a huge success for all and there was definitely a positive vibe in the air! And as a bonus I managed to sell a fair amount of prints at my stall!

Along with my fellow artist friend Lesley, I also put together a group exhibition in Offshore coffee shop called ‘Vibrant Glasgow’. This proved to be both challenging and rewarding and I am glad I was given the opportunity to do it. It boosted my confidence and I got to meet many other local artists and amazing people in the process. Image

After the gala, I returned to my home studio where the boredom set in again. So after some consideration I eventually moved into a studio at The Hidden Lane which I shared with two other creative people – both who have became really good friends of mine. This move has already changed my life considerably for the better. I have met so many talented and inspiring people and as a result, both individually and collectively, many opportunities have came our way.

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A small group of us founded the ‘Hidden Lane First Fridays’ monthly open studios event which has proven to be a success and we will continue to open our studio doors each month (if not every week). So if you’re in the area, please pop in and say hi! 🙂

From the summer through to winter I have been finding my feet again as an artist and, if I’m honest, as a business. There has been a lot of frustrating moments and occasional setbacks but overall from a birds-eye view I can see that there has been steady progress, and things have improved noticeably from the previous year. So, albeit a bit messy sometimes, things seem to be moving in the right direction.

2013…

..got off to a good start with a group exhibition at Bar Ten on Mitchell Lane. The opening last night was packed! Much fun (and drink) was had and I received a lot of praise for my work. The exhibition is on for a month and time will tell if I manage to sell anything or not but I never assume I will..so if I do then it will be a bonus 🙂 Image

I don’t have any solid plans for the year ahead, but I aim to do more of what I did last year. Try and get my prints stocked in more shops, paint more pictures, have more exhibitions and meet more talented and interesting people!

I’m mostly happy to just see where the tide takes me. But from where I’m standing at the moment, the future looks exciting, even if unpredictable at times!

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Paintings, Prints and Szechaun Chicken

Evening all!

November has been a pretty full-on month so far. It’s been all systems go!

Andy and I decided to go for a big push on the promotional front with regards to our studio and The Hidden Lane in general. Along with Pete (our friend and fellow artist from the lane) we put our heads together and and came up with a list of local newspapers and magazines to send press releases to. Pete and I have also became admins for the Hidden Lane facebook and twitter pages so we can update it regularly and try and spread the word a bit more.

To be honest I’m personally not the biggest fan of twitter but I can see how it can be beneficial for promoting stuff so I’m currently doing a crash course (or trial and error) in how to best put it to good use.

Andy also put his photoshop skills to good use and designed a new flyer for the lane…

Pretty impressive!

On the sales front it’s been a slow one with prints but managed to sell an old Kurt Cobain painting to someone in Chicago (random!) and a block mounted print of Buchanan Street to a lady from Motherwell to go up on her livingroom wall. She told me that it has taken her and her husband 2 years to find a piece of art work they both could agree on. That compliment pretty much made my day 🙂

There’s been plenty of exhibition chat lately… tonight I hung some of my prints, block mounts and one original (of Morrissey) up at the 13th Note bar in Trongate, Glasgow. It’s only up for a week but any exposure is good.


And this coming Saturday I will be hanging some of my paintings up along with the Laners Andy, Pete and Franki at Skypark in Finnieston. The exhibition will run until the end of January and is right in the main foyer where thousands of people pass through each day so LOTS of exposure.

Next year looks to be getting off to a good start with an exhibition at Bar Ten. They are planning something music themed so I’ve started a new mini series of black and white geometric musician portraits. Hopefully I can get enough paintings completed on time! Here’s a wee sneaky peak of my Kurt Cobain painting in progress…

So I’ve pretty much been living in the studio lately. I’ve honestly hardly seen my own flat except to sleep in it and wash clothes. A nice welcomed break from the studio though has been at my previous studio-mate’s flat Mairead’s, helping her with her bag making as her gorgeous Harris Tweed creations are in popular demand! Her bags are so nice, check out her website – http://www.breaghadesigns.com/

And finally, all this hard work deserves a reward, and it almost always comes in the form of good food. The other night I ended up at the amazing Asia Gourmet, just round the corner from Charing Cross, along with a bunch of hungry mates. Safe to say we ordered FAR too much but everything was (excuse the French) fucking yummy!! I may have over-did it with the Szechuan chicken though..and the photo below is pretty much what we left behind, but believe me we ate loads! Honestly guys if you’re looking for some decent Chinese food in Glasgow, GO THERE!

Drool.