completing Jordan’s maquette

Day three and the maquette is done.

The clever trick with dropping the waistline!

Does it drop any lower? Not saying’!

Maquettes of this type are interesting when arranged to show disjunctions.

DSCF1998

Nice Doc Martens!

An add-on!

In the comment box below, my friend Maria writes about her great grandfather, who always carried kid gloves in order to challenge any man who slighted him to a fencing duel. (The challenge coming in the form of a light slap to the face with a glove!) Maria writes that no-one was maimed and there weren’t any fatalities, though he never lost a duel. She kindly sent this photograph of him on horseback to share at the Artlog. Note his sartorial splendour: the bow at his neck, the cufflinks, gloves and crop, and the stylish hat!

My thanks, Maria. Your great grandfather looks magnificent!

Jordan’s maquette, day 2

It’s got to be said that over the decade that I’ve been building and using maquettes as studio aids, I’ve got damned ingenious at making constructions that have an enormous degree of pose-ability. Where once they were simple, the backs of the figures are now bewildering layers of levers, double-elbowed joints and sliding bars, the better to help me get the most expressive movements out of the components. The maquette of Jordan is coming along beautifully, and had I not other things to attend to today, it would have been finished this evening. The jacket alone is a fluid shape that can sit snugly on him, but convincingly mimics what occurs to the shoulders of such a garment when the arms within it are raised. Here are some images to show how it looks.

Adding marks and texture to the jacket in green pencil

Tonight I will be adding his hands, clad in tight-fitting lavender gloves!

The Artist and his Muse: Clive paints Jordan

Clive Jordan Morley is a performer and video artist, a dancer, a choreographer and puppeteer. He’s worked with the companies Punchdrunk and Phantom Limb. His website bears the legend: ‘Jordan is not good at making himself sound interesting, so he asked other people to write this section for him.’

  • Lisi Stoessel: The Jordan Morley is a rare beast with the bones of a bird, the tail of a fox and the head of a man. He is known both for his spontaneous acts of beauty and his highly developed organizational skills.
  • Gorgas Gorgas: Mr. Morley’s aesthetic throughout is stark and violent; a helter skelter melee where gravity is defied as a matter of course, and eerie, askew angles are interspersed with clear gasps of beauty.
  • Gregory Barnett: Jordan Morley is beautiful, offering us an impressively articulated combination of overt sensuality, inherent wit, and unexpected moments of disarming gentleness. He also dances.
  • Yarden Raz: Jordan Morley = all the tastiness in the same jar.

You can see Jordan dancing, HERE, in extracts from works by choreographer Kyle Abraham. (Jordan is the tall one with the plait!)

Jordan and I will be collaborating for a while. We’ve set no time limit on this, but plan to move gently from project to project, feeling our way, getting to know each other and seeing how things develop. As he is in New York and I’m in the Ystwyth Valley, Wales, it’s not practical for him to be in my studio, and so we’re working on alternative forms of painter/model collaboration. Our first project is Headshots, an exhibition curated by artist Henrik Godsk at the Alejandrogallery in Barcelona next year. For this each contributing painter must provide portrait images measuring 8 x 10 inches, the international standard for commercial ‘headshots’. I’ve asked Jordan to provide me with four sets of photographs made to my specification, which will be the starting points for my work at the easel. This was my brief to him:

  • I need four sets of five photographs of your head and neck. Keep the same distance between you and the camera for all the images. Each set of five headshots will consist of:
  • a) left profile
  • b) right profile
  • c) three-quarter profile left
  • d) three-quarter profile right
  • e) full face
  • Each set of photographs has an emotional theme. I don’t want you to change expressions, but to subtly allow your face to express the emotional states I’ve named for you. Look directly at the camera and give yourself the time to feel what needs to be projected. You must make scenarios in your head.
  • Set 1: Emptiness. For this I want complete neutrality. A relinquishing. Garbo, when asked what she was thinking about when the camera drew close to her face for the closing shot of ‘Queen Christina’, replied that she was thinking of ‘nothing’. I want that from you. Colour yourself with nothing.
  • Set 2: Sexual Desire. Imagine you are looking at someone you don’t know, yet wish to convey unstoppable and blazing desire.
  • Set 3: Grief. A great well of sadness. Don’t close your eyes or avert them from the camera. I want to see the sadness rise up from a deep place. It must be as though all that comforts and supports, has been taken from you.
  • Set 4: Joy. Only one stricture. No smiling!

Once the photographs are made and I’ve received them, then I’ll begin a process of extrapolating information from them and drawing. After the drawings will come the paintings for the exhibition. I’ll chart the entire process here at the Artlog. Watch this space.

A Pinterest board on the evolving process, titled MUSE, may be found HERE

Peter Slight and the Killer Gingerbread Zombie

Peter Slight is making a three dimensional ‘Killer Gingerbread Zombie’ to help in the promotion of my Hansel & Gretel from Random Spectacular when the time comes. I love Peter’s delightful figures, hand-carved in mixed-medium, though with all the gleaming perfection of plastic toys. He made a wonderful blue Krampus for me (illustrated below) after seeing a collage I’d produced of the demon that comes at Christmas to spirit away naughty children.

Here is our conversation about living dead gingerbread.

  • Peter S: I’ve attached my favoured sketch of the zombie gingerbread man. It’s pretty close to my original sketch of him, but incorporates the tump and stray Allsorts, which I think do make for a stronger design. I tried out some more ‘dynamic’ poses but they all looked like he was diving to save a football! My models usually take on a life of their own and tend to evolve as I’m making them, so it may not end up looking exactly like the sketch, and is therefore more of a guide than a rigid template. What do you think??
  • Clive H-J: Those eyes might be smaller and set higher in the brow, to give a more sinister expression. And he’ll need a texture to suggest gingerbread, or he could look like an evil jellybaby! But I think it’s all looking most promising. I do like the Allsorts, which somehow contextualise everything better.
  • Peter S: Yes, I see what you mean I will change the eyes and send you a revised sketch. Do you imagine them as concave, inset dots or as small convex ‘mounds’? 
  • Clive H-J: In my drawings I’d imagined them as holes, so that when standing against the light the zombie’s eyes would evilly glitter. Could that work? If not, then tiny currants probably, pressed in like you sometimes get on gingerbread.

  • Peter S: He does look a bit like a jelly baby in my picture, ha ha! 
  • Clive H-JNothing wrong with Zombie Jellybabies!
  • Peter S: The shading lines make him look more rounded and ‘doughy’ than he will be, and give no impression of his actual depth. (I’m intending to make him quite flat with rounded off edges like a regular non-meat eating gingerbread man) I didn’t put any texture in the sketch because i didn’t think I could show it accurately or without it looking visually confusing. The texture will be created using the rough scouring side of a sponge impressed into the clay whilst still wet. I’ve tried it before and it gives a very good biscuity effect, which can be lessened or added too depending on the number of ‘dabs’ applied with the sponge.

Here’s the delightful Krampus demon Peter made for me last year. It stands 13 cm high.

the tattooed man: Phil Cooper writes about his skin

I’ve been thinking for some time that I might get another tattoo, though without a clear idea of what it might be. As I approach my 50th birthday, I feel I’m moving into a phase of life that might be marked with some more ink. So, when I saw that Clive was planning the Skin/Skòra project, I knew that I’d found what I’d needed as the final push to go ahead.

I already have quite a few tattoos. My arms and shoulders are covered, and I have a large design on the left side of my chest and around my right thigh. Some were applied for specific reasons. I’ve two snakes on my right arm, the first one inked in my mid-twenties. It’s a small, simple, black design taken from a Greek vase of the third century BC. It’s just a shadow now, overlaid by a later and much more elaborate Japanese snake design in colour which covers my entire arm. I like the way (to risk sounding like something from ‘pseud corner’) that some of my tattoos are a record, bearing witness to how my life has evolved. The snake is a creature I’ve been drawn too since I can remember and it has often popped up in my life in quite serendipitous ways, so that its repeatedly suggested itself as the subject of my tattoos.

Other tattoos, such as the geometric designs I have up my left arm, don’t really have any specific personal meaning. I just liked the look of the patterns on my skin. I was fortunate to find talented tattooists in London, mainly Xed and Jason at Into You. I spent many hours with them as they worked on their designs, and we got to know each other fairly well. Jason tragically died just before he completed the Japanese snake. I left the final unfinished peony flower on my tricep as it was, in memory of him and his talent.

Moving to London in 1988 and finally coming out properly, was an intense period. I started to take my first faltering steps living openly as a gay man when such a life meant exposure not only to sometimes violent prejudice, but to a terrifying, hitherto unknown illness that was killing my friends horribly. My tattoos from that time were all black, geometric shapes, and they probably reflected how life was back then. It was a time of bold statements, When beautiful, talented young people in their twenties were dying, purely decorative tattoos just didn’t do it. I had three heavy, solid black stripes tattooed across the right side of my chest, and I remember somebody saying, ‘Oh, they look like bars across your heart’. Of course that was exactly what they were, although it wasn’t a conscious decision. After so much fear and grief my heart was pretty much out of bounds.

The mid-’90s were a dark time, my ‘wilderness years’ when I threw myself into full-on hedonism and went off the rails for a while. By 1999 I knew I had to start taking myself seriously and change how I was living or I wouldn’t see much of the new millennium. After a bleak couple of years I started to thrive again. Life took on more colour and more warmth, and my new tattoos from that period did the same. Pink cherry blossom and a big green snake coiling up my arm, full of movement and full of life.

I built a new career, and started having fun again, taking up rock-climbing and kayaking, which became major passions. My new hobbies got me out of the city and into the countryside. Kayaking through remote landscapes in northern Spain, the Hebrides and Morocco, and rock-climbing all over the UK. Not only did I have a great time, I also reconnected with parts of myself that had been forgotten for many years. The sheer delight of being out in nature, seeing wild flowers and animals and swimming in the sea. Clinging to rock faces dozens of feet up in the air put a lot of things into perspective, and brought my attention back to the joy of living on the moment. In 2007 I met the extraordinary man who was to become my husband.

When I met Jan I was commissioning health services for the NHS and local authorities, and he was a consultant psychiatrist. As we got to know each other Jan shared with me how much he used to enjoy photography, and I told him how much I’d once loved painting. We encouraged each other to pick up these pursuits again. Seven years on, Jan is no longer a doctor but has become a successful and accomplished professional photographer, and I’m… well I’m still commissioning health services, though I have picked up my paints and brushes again. But I am finishing my job in January and taking the plunge, moving over to Berlin to be with Jan and to become a struggling artist. As if that city doesn’t have enough of those. Nevertheless, I’m going to be joining them, scary and exciting as that is.

Getting back into painting again found me looking at other artists. One day as I was browsing the internet I came across an image that immediately caught my attention. It was a painting by Clive Hicks-Jenkins of The Green Knight. Seeing it was the start of what became a wonderful friendship, and I’ve been enthralled by Clive’s work since. This year I’ve acquired a drawing and a painting by him, The Dragon of Many Colours, and The Catch, the latter with it’s dreamy, tattooed fisherman.

My tattoos were executed over a period of about 15 years in total. I had them done for a variety of reasons: some were celebratory, some to act as talismans to carry me through difficult times, some as declarations to the world. I haven’t had any work done for about eight or nine years. The motivation to have more seemed to wane as I grew older and mellowed out. Times, and my life, changed. But now, with Skin/Skóra, the threads of the past and the present are coming together: Tattoos, and painting, finding Clive, acquiring a painting by him of a tattooed man, talking with him of designing a tattoo for me, and yet to come, becoming a tattooed man in in one of his planned portraits for the project. I’m so excited and so pleased to be part of it.

One of the ideas we’ve been talking about as a theme for my design is a ‘green man’, a mythological figure I’ve identified with all my life, and that I’ve reconnected with in recent years. I may yet decide on a different theme (I’m also in love with Clive’s killer gingerbread zombies from his forthcoming Hansel & Gretel book), but I’m especially drawn to the green man idea. The connection with the natural world, the spirit in the tree and the eternal budding and blossoming of life, feels right at the moment as I reach my half century, and look forward of the next!

Phil Cooper, 25th November, 2014.

‘Peter’s Jug’, mixed media, 1998.

Above is an image of my first ‘artist’s card’, produced by the Martin Tinney Gallery in 1998. (Martin Tinney has been showing my work almost from the beginning of my career as a painter.) It shows an early still-life of a small ‘marbled’ jug, set against Tretower Castle as I nearly always painted it back then, without the curtain wall that in reality surrounds it.

I painted that little jug many times. It once belonged to Peter’s family, and has long lain wrapped in tissue inside a box because the handle is in three pieces. It’s been broken since I first saw it, though I painted it ‘intact’ in in the several still-life paintings I made of it. In the intervening years I’ve got rather good at restoring broken china, and so I must get the jug out and give it some attention. I’m feeling an urge to paint it again, to see how much my work has changed since 1998.