It has been quite a number of years since I tackled painting/drawing nudes. I guess the main reason for my lack of figure work has been due to the difficulty of getting to a life drawing class or hiring a model. Living in the middle of nowhere does limit one's options.
Yesterday a friend came over to visit and she was looking through my folio, when she came across a couple of my figure drawings. She was like 'wow you need to do more of these people would love them.' Now not just two minutes ago we were discussing how conservative Haugesund is and how my recent work (with the skeletons, eyes, creepy Victorian figures) would scare a lot of the locals away, AND only the serious 'Gary Reef' collectors would truly appreciate the new direction.
So it got me thinking, and today I decided I would start doing figure drawing again. So below are some examples of some figure drawings from a life drawing class I used to take back in the 90's, I have a lot more pictures and need to upload them, but here are some to give you an example of my style.
Now not having a model directly in front of me does make it slightly challenging because it is hard to visualize different positions, but because my style does allow for proportional errors, he he he, I think I can get away with it. The style is very loose and free flowing. One thing I try not to do is over work the figures or the composition, keeping it simple is best! Also, only allowing myself to work on any one figure for a few seconds helps.
I decided I would start by using different shades of primary and Prussian Blue. A lot of people say Prussian blue is an old fashioned colour but I have always loved it. The figures themselves, well they are inspired by looking at my other drawings (basically i am doing contour drawings of them) and I am selecting the images I think would work well together. I am looking at figures online, etc.
The thing you have to keep in mind with this particular style is that you have to consciously ask yourself 'How can I create the gesture in the least amount of brush strokes?' 'How can i capture the essence of the pose?' It does take a lot of practice and you really need to loosen up before beginning a drawing like this. Anyway I will add to this gallery above as the work evolves.
I could feel the need to create building inside of me all morning, until I got to the point where i was desperately grabbing paint, brushes and stencils like i was some drug addict, preparing his equipment for his next hit. I mean seriously to me painting is my drug and if I go a few days without doing something I get really moody and irritated.
I had all of this energy inside of me bursting to get out (sometimes I fling paint brushes out of hand because I can't control the energy flow).
Having worked on a few plexiglass artworks recently I kinda stumbled onto a little painting formula which i quiet liked. So I wanted to test it out on something a little larger to see how well it transferred.
I really believe intuition can be taught through repetition and practice. I think if you do something over and over enough times, eventually you will automatically do it without even thinking. I think painting is exactly like that, the more you do it and the more you focus on what works, the better at painting you will become.
So I started this painting as I do every other painting with just laying down random images. So I glued down some old Norwegian dictionary pages from the 19th Century and then began to add some of my own imagery. At the moment my work features forgotten unknown people (The female image with the faded face was a photo I took at a cemetery in Australia. She had no name and her grave had deteriorated to the point that it was almost non existent). So I feel by using her image I am breathing life back into her forgotten image. Now those of you who know me well enough, know that I like layering and adding images in 3's. I like odd numbered things. So hence the 3 different images with all slightly different proportions and compositions. All the images were placed randomly and if you want to try this technique but are scared and don't know where to start, I suggest you put on a blind fold and start gluing things on randomly.
There are 2 kinds of artists, those who plan out an artwork before hand and those who 'go with the flow'. I'm the 'go with the flow' type of artist. I generally like to build up layers and start playing with the composition first. I find that my mind begins to create the story as the painting progresses. It is like when you start out, everything is fuzzy, there are no real boundaries or things set in concrete. Then as you progress, the painting starts to come into focus a little, until finally you arrive at the 'AHA' moment when the idea pops into your head.
So I was working initially from this formula I had come up with, and it seemed to transfer quiet easily to a larger scale. I mean painting is really just like constructing a big jigsaw puzzle, you just keep shifting the pieces around until they fit. That is why I have no problem removing images and relocating them to another part of the artwork. It is all a game of problem solving at the end of the day.
For many of you, the image of this quite intense looking old chap is familiar, but for those who don't know who it is then check out the painter 'Francis Bacon'. As many of you know he is one of my idols when it comes to painting. He is a very interesting man both in terms of his subject matter and also his personal life. I've always thought that if we met then we would either get on really well or we would hate each other (I am inclined to think we would get on).
So why have I used him in this particular work? I think because I kinda feel connected to him on some level and I also believe that he had a lot going on inside his head. You only have to read 'Interviews with Francis Bacon' to understand how complex he was. So symbolically for me he represents so many of us artists who have lots going on in our heads, we constantly have ideas and thoughts bubbling up and the only 'escape' as it were, is to paint. Painting is our escape from our own thoughts. Hence the reason for the Portal above his head (which leads to another dimension or realm). Because as artists we are always trying to get to that 'place' where it seems time and all thoughts stop. I know some of you would have experienced it and others not. You know when your in the zone and time flies so fast that four hours feels like ten minutes and you almost stop thinking and just go into a trance like state, that is the other dimension, that is where we all want to be. We all want to escape the real world, the stress, the pressures of family, commitment, etc. Creating for many of us, allows us to have our own 'portals' to escape to a place of quiet and solitude. Hence the reason I have left the insides of the portal clear and whiteish, to represent that calm tranquil trance like place.
So the other things going on in the painting are representative of the order and chaos we all deal with. The uncertainty of life, the randomness of accidents, the awareness of our own mortality, the realization that one day our own image, our own existence will become a faded memory in time and in history. The different sizes of the imagery dictates to the length of time some of us will be remembered (Larger images represent that some of us will be remembered for centuries and others of us will be forgotten after we die.)
I decided to call this work 'Portals to Nowhere' because that is a place where I want to reside, and it is a place I can only get to by being an artist! Portals to Nowhere is an escape from reality.
Below is a video I made of the process from start until where I am now....enjoy!
I try not to make a habit of it, but sometimes you just have to go back to a 'finished' work and redo it.
I had completed this box some months ago but there was always something which annoyed me about it. I always felt that the centre image wasn't right and it was too dark. Also the imagery really didn't sit comfortably with me. So yesterday I decided enough was enough, I couldn't stand looking at it any longer. I took a knife and sliced into the lid and peeled it off like an orange skin to reveal the contents. I then proceeded to remove the barbed wire rose bush, the metal frame and then finally the paper images. It felt good, it was like a cleansing as I ripped away the paper, I was ridding the box of something which didn't belong. So why did I add the images in the first place if they didn't sit comfortably with me? Good question, but I really don't have an answer...it just happened!
So after removing the contents I sat there for a few moments hoping that my 'creative genius' was around to take over and create something magical. After listening to Elisabeth Gilbert's talk on 'the creative genius', I definitely put a lot more pressure on it to show up and do its part, and generally I am never disappointed.
So after those few moments of being still and quieting my mind...bingo! The creative genius told me exactly what I needed to use, it is amazing because I have come to trust it and to know that if I sit quietly, it will show up! But you watch, now that i have said i expect it to show up when I need assistance, it won't, just to teach me a lesson.
So what I did, was create an artwork which had more meaning. I then screen printed an ornate frame onto plexiglass and then laid it over the top of the artwork.
I then decided that I would add a glowing heart image into the front plexiglass panel of the box's cover. So once again I screen printed the heart into the inside cover (screen printing on the inside cover rather than the outside surface means the heart will be protected from possible scratches and dust).
I think with the addition of the heart it really gives the work another focal point which I feel adds to the appeal of the box.
So this is where I am now. I still feel it isn't quite there yet and I will let it sit for a few days and just wait for my creative genius to tell me what it needs to bring it to completion.
Do you really need to live in the city to become famous, to get a reputation amongst the art elite? I believe you do. But what about those of us who can´t just pack it all up and move to the city? What about those of us who can´t throw in our jobs and commitments? I mean really, is there any hope for us of becoming famously successful and being able to live off our art?
Realistically, I think the answer is YES and NO.
I think for the locationally challenged, we really need to give it 100% all the time if we are to make a financially successful career out of our art. Often times we live in small narrow minded communities whose view on acceptable art revolves around some realistic pretty picture of a landscape or portrait. Now if you can force yourself to make these pretty kitsch little pictures then you might make some money, but realistically, how many of us are actually going to do that? Not me! I´d rather scrub toilets all day long than create art I hate just for the sake of making a few measly bucks...and I’m not saying that it is wrong because there are many artists who do that, it is just not me.
For internet artists, our art isn´t going to cut it unless we become the WHOLE PACKAGE! Now what do I mean by that? Creating great art isn´t going to get you anywhere unless you are more than just your ART. Not ONLY do you have to create art with impact, you need to become a part of the art itself. The secret to success isn´t just in the art you create, it is in creating the Art in YOU! Realistically, people buy art from artists they find interesting and intriguing, people who stand out and who aren´t afraid to voice their opinions and thoughts. People who open themselves up, share their pain, their desires, hopes, frustrations and beauty (by the way those who just show their pain constantly can have a negative impact, so it is good to share the pain but balancing it up with the love is the key.)
You’re not going to get a name being timid and tame or by posting your pretty little feel good artworks to your little groupies or art chick cliques. In today’s world having a voice, stepping outside the box, and being different is what will get you heard over the MILLIONS OF ONLINE ARTISTS! You need to stand out online because if you can´t do it in real life by living in the city, then you need to make an impact online. Unfortunately, the majority of online artists don´t have it in them to really stand out and make an impact. I know that is harsh but that is the truth, and I myself am not sure I have what it takes to stand apart from the crowd because for the past 3 years it seems I´ve been circling in the same holding pattern...ok there have been a few little connections made here and there with known artists but at the end of the day, everyone is in their own boat rowing up the same waterfall all trying to reach the same conclusion!
Now, let me clarify something before I continue on, there is nothing wrong if you’re not the stand out type, there is nothing wrong if your content is with your groupies or artist chick cliques, nothing wrong if art isn´t your life or you're just doing it as a hobby to pass the time...but for some of us who have this affliction (yes I call it that because for me art is something I MUST do, I have no choice) then standing with the pack day after day isn´t doing anything for our careers. You look back through history at all the artists who made great contributions to art, many of them were outcasts, walked their own path, did their own thing!
My advice is you better start creating like you have never done before and work out your niche, find your muted voice and let it roar, get up on your soap box and start showing your passion! Make me believe in your art because what I am seeing in my circle doesn't make me BELIEVE (not everyone by the way so don't email me.) We live in such a politically correct, anal society where we are all so scared to step on each other’s toes for fear of causing a reaction, but HELL don´t you want to be heard? Don´t you want to stand apart and have your work recognized amongst the greats, and amongst real life artists/critics? I know I do!
You know up until recently I was scared of appearing to ´want to become successful´ (and we all have our own measure of success) but you know what? Why don´t I deserve to be the next Damian Hirst, the next Rauschenberg? (yes, I can hear you laugh with absurdity.) Why does it always have to be those who are in the cities in the galleries who get the fame and reputation? Why can´t someone like me make it big without dancing and jumping through the gallery hoops or appearing on some reality TV show in the hopes I might get my voice heard?
So to sum it up, spend time creating the Art in YOU, you are just as important as the art! I'm pointing my finger at Lady Gaga, get the hint!
I truly believe that good art should cause some sort of reaction in the viewer, whether that reaction is positive or negative. I think many artists today get caught up in the 'I must please people' with my art mentality in order to feel that their work is worthy or deserved. Running an online social artist community, I see it over and over, people are scared of critique and criticism and individual exposure, to a degree. Why is that? Ok, I get that some artists aren't confident, unsure of their work or their style, but they can't live under a rock forever if they ever expect to get somewhere. I've seen some good artists who have been around for a long time buckling under the smallest amount of criticism they receive and I just don't understand that. Why are so many artists in today's society so concerned with what everyone else thinks about their work? It is frustrating to me and I sometimes just want to scream and say WAKE UP...you want to get yourself out there...yet you don't want to face the criticism! I'm sorry but you can't have your cake and eat too.
How can you expect to grow and evolve as an artist if you stick to doing the same 'safe' art all the time. I see lots of people posting images of the same thing over and over just changing the colours around...Don't you get sick of people telling you "Oh that's wonderful, nice, beautiful, etc?" I mean is that a critique? NO! Does that help you as an artist? NO! All it does is stroke your ego and make you feel all warm and fuzzy...FOR ABOUT 2 SECONDS. So if you are happy to stay in that repetitive loop then good on YOU!
Now let me tell you that there is a clear line between a critique and just being damn nasty. There are people out there who want to see you fail, who want to criticize you no matter how 'talented' you are! You must realize that the more successful and popular you become, there will always be someone out there who wants to discredit and bring you crashing down. So you better realize that and prepare yourself if you're trying to get famous or at least known.
To help further illustrate the idea of taking risks and making art which isn't safe, you only need look to my 'Power of White' Series (still a WIP.) When I created this series I wasn't concerned with how people would react. I knew I had created something worthy when the middle painting 'Forest White' was exhibited for the first time in a group show. I came back a few days later and I spoke to an art lecturer/artist who had been discussing my painting with his fellow colleagues. He proceeded to tell me that they were all so intrigued by the painting and the use of white, but he told me that he didn't think it worked! I mean how is that for being critiqued? Someone directly telling you to your face your painting doesn't work, LOL. I looked at him and said" Why doesn't it work?" He said "Too much white?" To which I laughed out loud inside. "That is the point," I said. "The white pulls focus to the strip of colour and texture in the centre. Using white makes you examine the textures and colours of the centre strip yet allowing space for your eye to 'relax' after looking at so much intense texture/colour." I then went on to say, "I believe it works for a couple of other reasons, (1) It got a group of academics talking, and (2) Have you seen anything like it?"
I did have the cocky attitude to say "some people just aren't ready for it," just like people were not ready for Van Gogh (not that I am saying I am anything in comparison, but you get my drift.) Sometimes people need time to 'open their eyes' and get exposed to the art for a period of time.Example: I had one online friend tell me over and over that he didn't like the painting, but the more he saw it and looked at it, the more he got it and eventually he liked it a lot. Completely changed his mind.
For me this series happened because I took a risk, I stepped outside my comfort zone. I knew I could either create something fantastic or something I would eventually paint over. I still believe these abstracts are the best works I have ever created and if I died tomorrow I would go happy. But I still own all three paintings even after several purchase requests and I intend to continue this series and exhibit them, hopefully in a worthy gallery at some point in my career.
So what I am trying to say is that some of you really need to get over this 'Am I worthy' mentality. You are worthy, your art is worthy if you believe in yourself. So take what people say with a grain of salt, at the end of the day if you love it then what does it matter what someone else thinks truly? Best advice, IGNORE THEM, works for me!
Lately I have been really inspired by Rauschenberg. There is something about his work which really excites me, the way he uses common objects, the way he screen prints on Perspex. His ability to transform images into anything he likes, whether the images become a sculpture, painting, print or a combination of them all. I love the fact that he was prolific and constantly pushing his images in new directions.
There is just so much to extract from his work, so many ideas to explore.
So because of this rediscovery I have been inspired to work with plexiglass once again. I love the material, it has allowed me to create so much depth, mood, atmosphere and suspense in my work. My latest piece 'Forgotten and Remembered' looks at images, some we can instantly recognize and others not. Images like the Virgin Mary will always be remembered generation after generation whereas the female figure on the left side is unknown and forgotten. I found her image on a tomb stone, there was no visible name to identify her and her grave had long been forgotten.
So I used a skeleton stencil, screen printed onto the plexiglass to represent the dead and forgotten image of the lady on the left side. I also faded the face a little to represent being forgotten. As compared to the image on the right which is in focus and you can clearly see all the facial and body features. She also has a heart screen printed on the front of the plexiglass symbolizing vitality and life.
I decided to surround the artwork in barbed wire and tea candle roses which are handmade to tie the work together but also to go 'beyond' the boundary of the plexiglass. Overall I think this piece is pretty successful, it has certainly given me lots of ideas, and I hope it inspires some of you too!