The Spaces Between. Part 2: On Show


Above: Detail from The Rapture

Looking back, I’m not at all sure why I kicked off the Artlog by deciding to make stage by stage posts of The Congregation of Birds. Given I’d been shy of visitors to the studio while any painting was in progress on the easel, it seems at this distance to have been quite a challenge to myself to have produced fourteen posts during twelve days spent making a single work. I know there were times when I thought I’d made a mistake and should back out of the venture before I made a complete fool of myself. But I stuck with it, and afterwards there was a sense of having achieved what I set out to do, which was to strip some of the mystery away from how a work is produced. The posts can be viewed at this link:

The Saint Francis Diary

Since then I’ve made two start-to-finish posts at the Artlog, and I rather wish I’d made more. They’re a good record, because there can be no doubt that while I imagine I’ll recall all the stages that go into making a painting, without photographs I quite quickly forget what’s under the top layer of it. Sometimes I make notes, especially when something is hard-won and I want a reminder of how I went about the resolving problems. Occasionally I have good intentions to photograph a work-in-progress, but get so deeply engaged by the day-to-day painting, that I forget to make the photographs necessary for a visual diary. My studio diary for Touched may be found if you click on ‘Annunciatons’ in the Topics bar, and once there, scroll down. (There were fourteen days of work that I recorded on it, but alas I ran out of files for my ‘Topics’ box, and couldn’t bundle the posts together in a link for easy access.)

The last ‘diary’ of a painting at the Artlog, was for a large Tobias and the Angel painting. Damian Walford Davies watched its progress, and by the day the painting was finished, he’d produced the beautiful poem that became its title; The Rapture.

Tobias and Raphael Diary

Although there haven’t been any more ‘diaries’ of paintings, I do try to post regular project updates at the Artlog, and Hansel & Gretel and Skin/Skôra may both be located in the Topics box. I hope shortly to add Gawain and the Green Knight, but first need to work out how to upgrade the number of categories that I’m allowed. I’ve currently reached my limit.

day twelve: head of the saint

Today I think I may have finished the painting of Saint Francis preaching to the birds. By the time I was done the sun was setting and I was too tired to do more than take a snapshot to post here. A proper photograph of the entire painting must wait until I have the time to set up the lamps. For the present this detail must suffice.

Next on the easel is Tobias and the Angel. My terrier Jack is to model for Angel Raphael’s dog. Jack is very amenable to being painted, having already modelled patiently for Green George. He has a basket in the studio and chooses to spend a lot of time up there. I think he likes to keep an eye on me.

day eleven: the feet of the saint

It’s Boxing Day and I finally managed a few hours in the newly cleaned and reorganised ‘Battery’ to tackle the calves and feet of Saint Francis. I completed the last of the falling oak leaves too, but I’ll spare you those. Enough that you’ll see them in context when I post a photograph of the finished painting, hopefully within the next few days. Just the head and hands to go now. I’ve no idea why I left them until the last. Normally a head is the first thing I’ll paint when working on a figure within a composition. I guess with this painting the birds took all my early attention.

day ten: painting the saint

This is how the painting is looking at the moment. (Read yesterday’s post for details.) The work on the torso is first stage and so there’s still a great deal to be done to bring it to completion. I need to get the head, hands and legs to the same stage so that the work across this zone progresses coherently. This is where everything will either come together or fail. I dare not think about the latter as an outcome.

Click on this image to view a high definition version that you can zoom in on.

This morning we’ve been without electricity at Ty Isaf while the power was transferred from an overhead system to the house to one laid underground. (So no painting today!) When we moved here three years ago the building was caught in a cat’s-cradle of overhead cables. We always knew that at some point we’d try to improve the situation. For the past few months we’ve moved by stages toward setting things right. The grounds have been churned up with heavy machinery as trenches have been dug and ducts  laid to take the power and telecom lines. It’s awash with mud out there. However the work will make such a difference to the appearance of this historic house. Come Spring the turf will heal over and Ty isaf will stand free of the power lines that disfigured it like a ship with maladroit rigging.

sources of inspiration: Giotto

Today in the studio Saint Francis went ‘under the brush’. By the time I’d finished painting for the day it was too dark to take a photograph without setting up arc lamps, and I’m too tired for that. I shall do one tomorrow morning. Here instead are two versions of the Saint preaching to the birds as imagined by Giotto.

Getting the Saint right is going to be challenging, not least because I’ve elected to show him naked. Francis was forever giving his clothes away to those less fortunate. His nakedness enables me to explore the vulnerability and the  agony of  sublimated flesh. I started today with his torso, working with a very limited palette. Lot’s of blue/grey with a hint of rose madder to warm the surface slightly. But he looks cold and pained despite this. I’m looking forward most to working on the legs, mainly because I greatly enjoy expressive feet. (The legacy of all my years as a choreographer!) The Saint’s left foot is twisted in the under-drawing, taking all the tension of his awkward kneeling position. (I intend to make the knees reddened, as though he’s been on them far too long.)  But I shall put this off a while yet, saving the best for last. Tomorrow I’ll get to work on his face and hands.

day seven: rook

A rook arrives…

… and the goose is completed.

On ‘day five’ I wrote about having enjoyed painting the patterned plumage of the owl. But at the time I didn’t photograph a reasonable close-up to post, and so here’s one to make up for that oversight.

Click on this image to view a high definition version that you can zoom in on.