Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Macbeth: A Graphic Novel...or Play.

My graphic novel based on William Shakespeare's Macbeth is now available on Amazon.
A big thanks to all who supported this project, your encouragement made it a reality.

Barnes and Noble sells it too, currently at the sightly lower price. $9.99
And at Kings Bookstore Canada.

It's simply the darkest telling of this story that I could achieve -- But I stuck to Shakespeare all the way! To me it read like a nightmare and that's how I drew it...I believe that might be what he intended, at leas in part.

If you are a bookseller or librarian this book is also available via Ingram's. 

  • Series: Prague Shakespeare
  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1533596778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1533596772
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.3 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

'while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums'

'I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.' -- Lady Macbeth
I thought this a strange admission -- the Macbeth's have no children but Lady M claims to have experienced nursing a child. What happened to that child?

It turns out she did have a child. The story of Macbeth is fiction but based in truth and Lady Macbeth had married before to 'Gille Coemgáin, Mormaer of Moray' and with whom she had a son named Lulach
As Wikipedia would have it...

Lulach mac Gille Coemgáin (Modern Gaelic: Lughlagh mac Gille Chomghain,[1] known in English simply as Lulach, and nicknamed Tairbith, "the Unfortunate"[2] and Fatuus, "the Simple-minded" or "the Foolish";[3] before 1033 – 17 March 1058) was King of Scots between 15 August 1057 and 17 March 1058.

Lulach was the son of Gruoch of Scotland, from her first marriage to Gille Coemgáin, Mormaer of Moray, and thus the stepson of Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlaích). Following the death at the Battle of Lumphanan of Macbeth on 15 August 1057, the king's followers placed Lulach on the throne. He has the distinction of being the first king of Scotland of whom there are coronation details available: he was crowned, probably on 8 September 1057 at Scone. Lulach appears to have been a weak king, as his nicknames suggest, and ruled only for a few months before being assassinated and usurped by Malcolm III (Máel Coluim mac Donnchada).

Lulach's son Máel Snechtai was Mormaer of Moray, while Óengus of Moray was the son of Lulach's daughter.

He is believed to be buried on Saint Columba's Holy Island of Iona in or around the monastery. The exact position of his grave is unknown.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Time Approaches...

The Time Approaches...crossing the finish line, that is. I have about two pages to go.

Ok, Pi day over and another thing I had to do done as of yesterday, back to work on Macbeth.
A final cataclysmic battle to illustrate today, but first I have to make parsley soup...and ride my Mongoose. But after that, more battle...more cowbell.

If you've followed my posts you'll have seen part of this page before. But here those panels can be seen in context as a full page. Click on the image to enlarge it and read the text.

More soon.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Star Faced English Soldiers...and why not?

Two panels from page 63.

I just plucked this from my FB page....a note to the actors really, who took part in Prague Shakespeare Company's Macbeth.

So I'm nearly done but must down tools to get something else sorted out over the next few days, damned annoying timing. I think I more or less made the 28 day target, but I'm not sure exactly when I started (or switched from the intense 7 day spur). Proof that an impossible goal will get you somewhere even if you miss the target.
The goal was to transcribe PSC's performance to a graphic narrative very very quickly - and in a way that didn't look stupid or lazy in hand or mind. Originally I thought I would just track the play point-for-point. But I realised I could create simple sets fairly effectively without losing speed. Suddenly the players were in another world, a strange fusion of something like Scotland and a modern play. Hints of tartan and impossible castles started popping up and an army of star-faced English soldiers -- defenestrating historical accuracy completely. This is the play as a dream or nightmare.
I've also swallowed my pride with the drawings, accepting anything that happened -- warts and all. No finessing, I kept thinking, it had to be quick and thanks to the subject, a raw, 'warts and all' style of drawing worked. Those poor souls who played the witches, I've done horrible things to you all....warts are just the beginning.
The pages have the energy of a sketchbook and that pleases me. But there's not a panel in all the pages that I couldn't improve. But time is an issue, it has to be done fast. This year I want to paint the Spring as it breaks....I try and fail every year. But I'm going to be in the fields this time rain or shine.
Once the pages are done, I'll letter everything and then I have a few design things to do. Splash pages and cover and interior art. I'll have to meet with a certain thumbless sea captain--> John Poston. John was Macduff in some of my references but Charles Frederick Secrease was the Macduff I began with. So, I'd like to draw a ship wreck, illustrating something the witches mention early on and John washing ashore, as the pilot.
Same goes for anyone in the play that I may have missed, I think you should all have a part in this, particularly witches -- my references are so shadowy and dark that I mostly had to make them up from scratch. I also want to draw the invasion by sea that Macbeth is said to have repelled, I imagine hundreds of Viking long boats... cast of thousands, but done in this shadow way...tat way I let your brains do all the work. That's the beauty of shadows, if I get the suggestion right you'll see more than I ever did.
I can't say what's been most fun, it's all been fun, a very satisfying challenge. But there was something that really stirred me as I imagined and sketched from memory the dusk, the 'gloamin', hills and beaches and structures of a Scotland I haven't haunted in many many years. Like that retinal negative you see on your eye when you blink in a sharp light. A residual image in stark black and white...if there's any poetry in this collection it's in those scenes.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


The English power is near, led on by Malcolm, And the good Macduff.
Revenges burn in them... 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Ok...7 days was pushing it.

I reckon it's a 28 day project -- Objective = As stark a black-and-white 'graphic narrative' as can be. Bleak and inky black.

Why is this of note? Ever listened to Shakespeare? Beautiful language, but time has rendered many lines opaque to the ear. With this version I hope to shed a wee bit of light on some of the darkness. For example what does this mean-- 'in a sieve I'll thither sail' ?

In this format, as a graphic novel the words can be explored. This particular line refers to a story that had become popular in Shakespeare's time -- that witches, hundreds of them, were riding kitchen sieves as boats. Paddling with their brooms....and coming ashore like an invading army from hell knows where. An urban myth.

Working on page 41 today.

More soon...

Thursday, 18 February 2016

30 Pages....

So ...I did not make the 40 page mark I was aiming for---I would have, if I hadn't begun to lay in text, but I had to do this extra task because of, well, the qualities in Shakespearean language. I noticed, for example, that a break between certain lines gave me, and hopefully my readers, a better understanding of the play.

But breaking up the statements meant more panels...

Anyway, long story, it's ongoing and I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Hashtag was #7DayGraphicNovel

Is now ... #28DayGraphicNovel

Monday, 8 February 2016

Blocking...(7 Day Graphic Novel)

To block or not to block?

Blocking will keep everything under control and give me a page count too. Not blocking would likely lead to headaches but might yield some creative surprises. With my graphic-novel most of the blocked pages proved right on the money straight out of the pen, so maybe here I can wing it and just draw each page as I go without planning. Not the way

There is something about seeing a picture or a page in thumbnail form. That little diagram holds the main points and no more, nothing is lost to extraneous details.

So maybe not to block...

I'll tweet about this project at @Atwomic if you want to follow the development on on Twitter. I set that feed up years ago to share my 'Atwomic Multiverse Project'.

A study of a broken skull...painted with wine on paper in 2010.

MIDWAY and Making Something New.


About two months back I took a break from my graphic-novel*, I had reached midway point at 130 pages, and I thought it a good time to take a breather and gather my thoughts. During that drawing break I thought I might actually set myself an outrageous goal and create an entirely different graphic-novel*...in just 7 days.

I wondered if I could create a 50 page comic book in black and white, start to finish, in 7 days.

It's just an exercise, so if I fail so what?  It might be doable.

Two months back I decided I would do it, I decided I'd start on the Monday...but Monday brought other things and I was soon immersed in two other unexpected projects.

So, now, here we are, heading in to tuesday the 9th of February and I think tomorrow may be that day. From Tuesday to Tuesday, the 9th to the 16th....Can I make a book?

50 pages is an estimate, the story may only take me to 40 or so pages, I don't know, I've not blocked it yet. I'll start that business in the morning. I can't say anything yet about the story but we'll see what I've drawn when the hurly-burly's done on the 16th.

(I have a Cohiba waiting at that finish line. Coffee and a Cohiba, not much can beat that!)

*I know some have a problem with that term. I don't mind it where it refers to a mature story that has a beginning, middle and end.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Black Magic Woman - 'Hek' a Tee' or The Triple Hecate.

'Hek' a Tee' or 'Hecate' 

Last night I was lurking in the dark again along with a number of 'witches', the 'Wyrd Sisters' of Macbeth. This painting series I am working on is an ongoing project that I last picked up on last December (when my computer died and I had little choice but to change subject and revert to traditional media). I had been working steadily on my book which relies a lot on digital media...so.... that was the end of that, for a while anyway. So, out with the oils and in new paintings it was.

In this painting series I have been following the work of Prague Shakespeare Company, off and on, for a few years, each time they perform 'The Scottish Play'. Last night I finally collected all the visual information I need for the series...the witches were very patient and generous with their time.

The picture above is that of the most prominent of the 'wyrd sisters' or 'three witches' of Macbeth. A group who may in fact be intended as the triple form of the Greek goddess of witchcraft and will power, Hecate. I think I've watched this version of the play 4 times now. It felt all the more familiar to me this time (I think) because I recently travelled around Scotland with my family. We rented some kind of SUV type thing, (I have no idea what it was, I was only driving it...I could care less about cars) and although it seemed like over-kill it came in very handy as we motored some fairly rough terrain in parts. We passed through Macbeth country in the north, skirting Cawdor, as we travelled from Inverness to Aberdeen. We were very near Dunsinane at one point too as we travelled through beautiful Perthshire . We drove in a huge circle around the country and I saw, at one point in our travels, the most beautiful view I have ever seen in my life. More on that later.

In fact I'll post about the drawings I made on our trip, the excellent pub we found and the fine B&B my wife discovered. Next time.

PSC performs their last Macbeth this year later this evening. If you are travelling to Prague and enjoy the theatre you can book tickets here.

Oil painting in progress included to show the hidden face of 'Feance'. See above for the completed painting, with Feance now hidden.

BTW...this trailer looks good, a new film adaptation....of course, it can't touch the fine work of PSC who truly 'screw their courage to the sticking place'.

Monday, 23 November 2015


Lady Macbeth
This picture is part of my ongoing series of theatre studies. On occasion (and for a quite a few years now) I meet with actors to sketch and paint them in the process of stage rehearsals. 

This canvas was painted in december 2014 based on Jessica Boone performing Lady Macbeth at the Kolowrat theatre in Prague. The excellent Prague Shakespeare Company will be performing 'The Scottish Play' once again on the 30th of November and the 1st of December this year.

This is a particularly difficult picture to photograph, it seems to give off a light all its own that I can't somehow capture with a camera. I did all I could to give it a unique light, glazing techniques for example, the painters method, but it goes beyond what I planned or thought would happen. I don't note down my process and so, don't recall what in particular was different about this one...but it's all in the underpainting and layering. This is one of my better pictures and as usual, when that happens, I feel I had nothing to do with it. I feel like it painted itself.

The other odd thing is how different 'Lady' appears at distance. Her face and even her expression seem different to me in close up. You wouldn't think the detail below is the same painting. I have my own theories on how to create a sense of 'life' in painting the human form and it rests in part on the neutral balancing of expression combined with the 'sfumato' (like-smoke) effect. It's not easy to pull off but when you get it right the face appears to change expression, not dramatically, but on the cusp of tipping into a different expression - we read expression so well that some artists can exploit the eagerness of the minds eye. I've done it before but this time I wasn't really trying. I should say it's subjective, I may be alone in thinking I see this.

Damned Spot!

If you know the play, this scene is in act 5. The moment in which she says 'Damned Spot' and that is this pictures title. It's a haunting scene in which Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and believes she has blood on her, blood she can't remove.

Where the painting is not soft I deliberately emphasised its angles, the sharper the better.
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?
Macbeth Act 5, scene 1, 26–40

Visiting Prague? This is a great production -  Get your theatre tickets here.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Volume 2

An example from a scene currently underway in volume 2...

Volume one is 130 pages long and fully complete. A few weeks ago I started working on Volume 2, but I'm only 5 pages in because I'm split between working on it and making V1 publicly available....that and a one thousand mile tour of Scotland - a road trip (mostly) that wiped my mind clear of all that had been on it graphic-novel-wise.

I returned to pages I had no idea I had started...that was a bit of a surprise, I'd done them in the last few days before departure. I was working at a heady pace, a big contrast to my pace today, I'm finding it very hard going getting the machine (me) up and running again...I think part of me just wants to be battering along highland roads in that four-wheel drive whatever-the-hell type thingy it was.

Focus man...focus!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Market Test...

This is a screen-shot of the top half of one of my pages...
With the first volume now finished and ready I have still a few things to do before I can make my graphic-novel public. BUT - I am delighted to say that I received some very exciting feedback in the last few days....more on that later.

I have also contacted a few comic book stores to ask if they would be open to helping me run a little market test, one in California and one in England. It's just a wee test of what might be a unique selling method.

So, if you run a comic book shop and think you might be interested in an unobtrusive and simple test of this project with your clients, drop me a line at my contact email and I'll send you the details.

Sunday, 18 October 2015


Work in Progress...she is tiny, a pixel person.

When I plotted out the book I realised I was 'directing' the work just like a film director might. I've worked on many comic stories in the past but usually only a few pages. This story is hugely ambitious because its 262 pages long. In plotting things out I storyboarded everything and along the way many unusual things occurred to me. Things I could 'fold in' to a panel or run along behind the main action. This breathes a greater life into the thing. If you imagine the script to be a line going from A to Z - that's a line I see as if on a map and as we make the journey from A to Z with the characters I can show what is circling them at B, C, D etc. It's an illusion, but, the moment-to-moment landscape of the adventure seems as broad as it is long and if, when, one day I direct a film that is going to be one major sensibility that I'll bring to it.

One problem of formulaic story telling in film (or any medium) is the feeling of being 'on rails'. Game terminology that applies just as much to the predictable 'anything', books, films whatever. I want to feel I can go anywhere in the story while I know it is travelling a very certain path. But I don't think about that certainty if the story is not predictable....and I think we achieved something of that in this story. Well.....I hope....but it's not easy to know for sure when you've done nothing but work on that same story for years (and know it back to front). Still...

Some things that I thought up had to be abandoned...or I thought so anyway. I cannot afford to damage the flow of the script and I could see one or two things were likely to affect that in a negative way. Last friday I changed my mind with regard to one of those ideas. I'm glad I changed my mind because it enriches the 'period' (the 1950's) so much. In fact this one element has made this last 4 pages something of a snapshot of the entire book.

BUT there was a price to pay. It slowed everything down. The one page could have been drawn in a morning because it is, or was planned as, just a close up a famous personality. Instead I turned the close up into a history lesson and as that 'close-up' plays out other things are running in he background and the foreground. The close up would have been 1 panel, now, to allow movement, it has become 9. And it's a damned tough 9 because it is intricate. It has taken days and is still not finished.

In short, the American dream rules the background in this sequence, a nightmare in the foreground. Familial 'bliss' is unaffected because the nightmare goes unnoticed, the dream lives on!

This whole thing is nested in reality, it all happened, and I find the scene very funny...but it's not funny at all. I have a sick sense of humour.

Volume 1 is complete at 130 pages...and I'm now drawing Volume 2...and I'm on page 5...drawing right now in fact...

(I hope to have more to say on how this book will be made public soon...)

Toodle pip.

Friday, 9 October 2015



When I set out to draw this story one concern I had was running out of steam or that I would begin repeating myself in some way with story elements. So I was delighted when this picture of Pamela sprang from my pen with total ease...if only that would happen more often.

Many pages and panels are really hard work for me and can seem to take an impossible length of time and grind. Pamela delighted me because she appears toward the tail-end of volume 1 and is so unique. I wish they were all like Pamela, I wish I could draw that way everyday.

Anything is possible, any kind of painting. But the crunch comes when you have to maintain a chain of images (similar but different events and people!) at speed.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

So, Forever Now...

That moment when someone says 'Hello' - but you just can't put a name to the face.

So, Forever Now...or for as many months (...or maybe just three or so) I've been busying away trying to bring the first volume of my graphic novel to something like a complete volume 1. I made it about a month ago and have been tidying up its many loose ends ever since. It takes a long time to edit a story (especially one with so many pictures) into something that makes sense. Each picture and all its characters having to have a perfect continuity...well, it's a boat load.

Today I am embarking on Volume 2, setting up the files and placing the sketch pages on lowly transparent layers. At the outset of this project I spent a month storyboarding the entire story. I posted one of the images to this blog way-back-when. Now, I've completed that very page that I was promising. You can now compare both below. What I said I'd do and what I did over a year later. There are a few small changes but the finished art is very like the plan.

The 'storyboard' version of the story, my guide to prove the concept. Created in 2012 I think.

The finished pages!

Today feels like that lonely day two or more years ago on page one...but it's nothing like it, I now have 130 inked, painted, lettered pages under my belt. I'm no longer alone, I have drawn a legion that will march with me on a long-ass road to hell and back...but it's getting easier.

Wish 'us' luck.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

'Clarisa' - T-Shirts Based on Art from My Graphic Novel....


The nature of my graphic novel is still very much on the QT. But I've completed volume 1 and it runs to 130 pages and today I've decided to test interest in a T-shirt design based on one of my characters.

Meet 'Clarisa'...

At this stage I'm just counting heads to see if it would be possible to cover the costs of the production of a fine quality hand-pulled* screen-printed T-shirt. Numbers will affect the price, the more orders I get, the cheaper each shirt will be to produce. If I only get 4 orders...the shirts are going be too expensive to print, but if I get 20...well, now we're talking!

*Printed by hand...by a genuine monocle-wearing English humanoid!

The shirt design will be very like one of the versions you see above. I have worked with this printer before and the shirts they produced were not only beautifully printed but of excellent quality. Exactly what kind of shirt (and final iteration of the design) I use will be decided before printing and shown to you for final approval.

But, like I said, this is just a test. One can't throw money down on a whim...I need to gauge numbers. After all I wouldn't want to lose my shirt would I?

So...If you have an interest drop me a PM to this blog page or at @Opipop on Twitter.
Thank You.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Volume 1 of My Graphic Novel...

A month or so back I reached 130 pages and over the last few weeks I've been tweaking things. So I'm pleased to say the first volume of my graphic novel is complete. Now what to do?

I suppose I should explain what it's all about. All things in good time. It's enough for now to have passed this milestone. Probably the most time-intensive thing I've ever created. That's 130 pages I sketched, inked, painted and lettered.

As I've stated before, I get very involved in my work and rarely blog about what I'm doing...must do better. I could put new pictures up here every day but I never think to do it....too busy making.

If you have any specific questions about the work, drop me a line here, I don't mind answering...but as for frequent blogging...I have to keep my head down...so its always going to be a now-and-again thing.

More on this project soon....honest.
Links to other posts on this developing project can be seen here here here and here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Second Wyrd Sister

Another drawing of a Prague Shakespeare Company witch or 'Wierd' 'Wyrd' or 'Weyward' sister who meets Macbeth on a ' blasted heath'. There is no real evidence Shakespeare travelled to Cawdor. But he knew intimate details of the 'witch' burning trials in Aberdeen. I've been to what's called 'Macbeth's Hillock'. It seems the real Macbeth was even more influenced by witchcraft than the one in the play. The real Macbeth was not killed by Macduff, but by Malcolm CanMore in Lumphanon of all places....not far at all from where I grew up.

The Hollinshead Chronicle (1577) page 274: Macbeth puts many nobles to death on trumped-up charges and seizes their goods. | To increase his power, Macbeth orders a great castle to be built on Dunsinane hill. | Macduff, in fear of his life, sends workmen to the castle but does not go himself. Macbeth takes offense at this, especially since "certeine wizzards" had told him to take heed of Macduff. | Macbeth refrains from killing Macduff only because "a certeine witch" told him that he could not be slain by any man born of woman, nor be vanquished until "the wood of Bernane came to the castell of Dunsinane." | Macduff goes to England to persuade Malcolm to claim the throne of Scotland. Macbeth, through his spies, hears of Macduff's plan and goes to Macduff's dwelling, expecting to find him there. Macduff's people open the gate to Macbeth, but he nevertheless kills everyone inside.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


I was painting up a storm in December and so active that I began to wonder why I ever get inactive periods. Peaks and troughs, it has always been a bit like that for me. And I'm surprised to admit it has happened again, just as we reached about the 18th or so of the month. I put it down to the distraction of preparing for the 25th and new year, I was wrong of course, it was a trough and would have happened anyway most likely. Then I got sick. I tackled that with a -5 bike ride, I know that sounds nuts, but I wasn't too sick and I know riding the trails would have burned it off had I not wiped out in the ice.

-5 and soaking wet with a long ride home is no cure and things soon got worse. My whole family went down like pegs one after another. Monday the 19th of January was the first normal studio day for me again with everyone now back to fighting fit. But nothing got done...I'm clearly still in that trough.

But I've been biking and hiking and that certainly helped me get better. I think so much more imaginatively when I'm out, not sure why that is, but I wish I could record the shifting ideas that flitter through my noggin', not just the big ones that lodge there, but the ones I'm almost unaware of having, the steps to the more memorable ideas.

I had a string of short story ideas for example yesterday, not sure where I would be able to show them or share them, or how long they would take to create. By 'story ideas' I mean stories in picture form, comics as such. And the thought of them not seeing the light of day (like so much else) makes me think they should just stay in my head, my shadow gallery, the dome room. The trough.

I'm working on a short film I was asked to take part in. I have the lead role, I like the script and the unique predicament my character is in. The script has similar elements to a short story I once dreamt up, but it goes in a very different direction. Maybe that's why I responded so much to it. It will run to about 25 minutes and will take 7 days to shoot.

We'll be working on stunt choreography and acting rehearsals in a few weeks time.

I'm going to sketch out a poster for the film and may also provide some simple storyboards to help with the blocking. Anyway, more on this as it comes about, I'll post the work here.

Tomorrow I hope to get started lettering a few more of my graphic-novel pages. I took a break from the GN late last year when my Mac inexplicably died. The greatest trough of them all. It was incredibly intensive work and the let down of being so entirely grounded on a project that I had been lavishing time on just knocked me for 6. Again, no publisher, nowhere to show the work...always trying to outrun the trough.

Hats off (as I'm sure I've said before) to anyone who draws comics day in and day out. Surely you are the hardest working artists in the world because no sooner have you finished the last picture and you are on to the next...and no one drawing is the summation of the art and each is as critical as a chain link.

So, off to read and re-read the script for 'Opikanoba' (the working title of the film)....come to think of it I'll need to pick up a highlighter pen in the morning.

*One thing, I did crack open an old wine sketchbook, I've been working away with the wine-on-paper again, photo's to come.

Monday, 5 January 2015

2015 and Painting More Paintings.

Man, here we are, 2015. Another abstract number that doesn't make much sense at all.

I was up in the loft.
I was up and down in the loft quite a bit infact before Christmas and I started looking at some portfolios I keep up there. 90's time capsules of random sketches and paintings.

I'm going to post some over the next few weeks.

Here's an example, in 1996 I did a series of small self portraits. When you have no living subject or muse to paint, well, there's always the mirror.

What if I use just that brush?

No subject but yourself. The exterior, anyway,  a study of a reflection of the object that houses your thoughts. I guess that's one reason to paint a self portrait, to grasp at part of the consciousness feedback-loop. In this case it's not vanity, it's "What in God's name is that and how can it be me?"

What if I only use those colours with that brush?

My father would say he didn't recognise the old man he met in the mirror, I've heard others say the same. Maybe what's inside us is permanent and immortal, after all, and ageing is a slow uncoupling of the content from its container.

Or perhaps our minds are aloft.  A loft full of long dead ideas.

Why paint your self?...well, you're always around.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Memory Lapse : Paint by Numbers

I was still deciding here what the best posture would be, therefore one lad has two heads. Pentimento.
Pastel Sketch on Cardboard.

So, I just scrolled through this blog and found several old posts that mention the project below. It took several years as it went through various stages and via various methods. In the end I settled on what I have below.

I noticed on re-reading posts about the project that I never actually explained what I had resolved to do and I never mentioned when it was finished. This last oversight might be due to being sick at the time it was completed....but more than likely just a lapse of my memory.

For anyone who happened to read those posts, here is the finished picture.

I decided to paint the children as a 'paint by numbers' image. I then painted the faces fairly realistically but approached everything else with a simpler approach. Something of a failed experiment maybe. My earliest experiences painting, five years old or so, seem to have been with some kind of paint by numbers kit. I remember being amazed by the way the picture came about by just putting the colours where I was told. Someone was with me, my mother I'm sure, it's a vague memory.

But putting the colours in the right place is still exciting. Only now, I make that decision, and I don't always get it right. In fact, despite the agony, all the real fun and learning is in getting it wrong.

In the case of the boys in the painting, the older boy is drawing himself in to the picture. Some early self determination right there. The younger playing with a model tram. Although the foreground is 'unpainted' or deliberately incomplete. I painted the roll to stand out as quite realistic. This is a uniquely Czech form of bread. I think they are delicious, not everybody likes them. For many friends a 'rohlik' and a cup of tea was  their Grannies cure-all growing up.

I wish I'd done a better job or had the courage to not paint the boys at all and leave them as line art in a fully painted room, that would have been better. Next time maybe.

I also took reasonably good pictures in close up but failed to take good over all shots of the completed image. Ho hum. You can explore it below.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Working in Circles.

This study is coming along, I like the way the rich colours at bottom have worked out. This week I intended to work on the 'lady' I mentioned in my last post. But she's still wet in places, thankfully this hairless gent was dry. Tonight I am working on a little study of a dancer.

Winter kicked in hard the other day. It seems to have come overnight, but I may be mistaken because I have been at the easel so much and not set foot out the door (for any length of time). It made me realise there are a few other things I want to paint, winter scenes, and I should be prepared. In the Spring the blossoms always seem to come and go so fast I miss the best of them, but I have a few blossom trees underway too that I hope to finally finish up. But I need to be ready to capture a few more winter scenes this year. I'm tired of it all tonight though. Not sure I deserve to be tired, but it just kicked in. Break time.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Lady is Not for Drying

Unfortunately she is generating too much glare when I photograph her. She is almost complete, enough that I could show her in full. But too wet to snap effectively for this blog right now.

Even in the small shot above the texture of the canvas in the dark area of her cheek is kicking off numerous little flash points.

In addition, she just doesn't look as good as she seems in the flesh. She has a light that I just can't capture at the moment in a photo.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Yesterday was a little disjointed and I didn't get much done, i felt I'd wasted the day. Then in the evening I started something, another painting that I blocked in a few weeks back. In no time I'd established something that seemed to be painting itself.

I usually don't paint if I have only an hour because it'll be a waste, not enough will get done, paint will be on a time-limit (even though I'll refrigerate the pallet) and most importantly I may get off to a bad start and won't have time to guide things well. But last night...well, if only it was always so easy.
And it's better than I could have hoped.

That's what it was, it was easy.

More soon + pictures....

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Eye, Eye...

Aye, I...... aye - an eye.

Oil on canvas...underway, a few days ago. 

It's Raining Cats and Dogs

Best. Day. For. Painting.

No beer glasses clinking, no laughter, no morning chorus calling you to bike. No dazzle...just rain. And when it stops, just cold and damp and 'Caw Caw'....

Monday, 17 November 2014

Baldy in Progress

I've been working on a series, rotating wet canvasses for dry over the last few weeks, it's a productive way to get on with it all. Not much more to say about it at the moment, but here's a close up of what I'm working on right now, oil on canvas. More soon.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Ginger Sadness - Finished.

This was painted a long time ago. Over the years I've added glazes at different times, I always think the painting is done only to realise at some stage I can do more. The other day I decided to add yet another glaze. The final one. So...I think that's it. It only took 13 years. Fool that I am, I thought it done in 2004.

The final glaze broke the green with a new red.  I'm using it as a test for the paintings I'm working up at the moment and I'm glad I did. I realise I need some new materials.

I previously posted about this picture here.

Here's a facebook comment when I posted it this morning - 'Ginger Sadness' is now complete, painted over 10 yrs ago but periodically re-glazed. (New title too. Pronounced with a hard G followed by a soft g as in Gong and Minger) I always imagine Grant looking like this in his old apt with no electricity during the 2002 flood. So 'Ginger Sadness' (Floodlight).

What am I after here, why am I returning to this?

I have this idea about painting that captivates me when I see it done and it relates a bit to Leonardo Da Vinci. He had a technique that he mastered and that those who study his work are seemingly mystified by. It has a name, it is called 'Sfumato' which means 'like smoke'. His forms and skin and in particular all edges blend one to another very softly in an almost ghostly way - like smoke.

The master described it best...
"without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane." - Leonardo Da Vinci

I have some idea of how he did this and I've always felt it was a beautiful way to paint, in many places there are simply no strokes, it is like a work of magic. Think about that for a second. No Strokes - and no evidence of them being hidden either. Nothing. A spectre.

Even if I could I wouldn't want to hide my tracks so well, I happen to love the action of paint, the look of it, the marks. The way the artists movements can be traced, deduced, whatever, by the marks that are left. But I can do something similar to sfumato, it takes a great deal of time. I've tested it but ruled it out as A) Insanely time-intensive B) It undermines the life and joy of painting (more importantly) for me. 

But I've managed it in the past here and there hen I mustered the courage. I must I'm no slouch, I keep my head down, I lavish time on my work. One nude took 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week for 4 months...and the skin was good. Was it worth it? No idea, but probably not. I could have made so many more things in that time, but would they have been a match for the nude? Probably not....so it goes.

So there is a way, a method, in fact more than one. Although the Da Vinci method they ain't, not in a million years. His work is untouchable, the master magician. But I still grope for that smoke in the dark like an imbecile who wants the smoke and the strokes.


So I want a 'sfumato-lite' in my work, an indistinct set of forms that is there and not there. So that each piece when looked at separately will seem almost abstract. A soft thing that only makes sense as a whole. Ginger Sadness is pretty roughly painted, I've made no effort to hide the strokes. 

My favourite part of it is a tiny blob of paint in the inner eye, a half circle made with a last second twist of the brush. That's it, my favourite bit. The bit I'd cut out and keep...only that would ruin everything wouldn't it?

I should point out the photo above is not out of focus, the almost rectangular reflection on the wet glaze along the side of the image is sharp edged. And....you can see the strokes throughout the picture if you look.