Thu, 24 Nov 2016
Copper Pot

Above: Copper Pot, Oil on wood panel, 10x8" [larger]

This is a painting done via a Will Kemp tutorial How to Paint a Copper Pot in Acrylics. I painted it in oils instead of acrylics. Kemp's done a very nice reference photograph that's lovely to paint because it's got such beautiful and strong contrasts, both colour and light.

I got some of the pot wrong for some reason (e.g. handle shape) but that's not a problem. I made the background too blue originally as well, and thought I over-worked it to fix, but that's not a problem either and I think it looks OK. The "pot" itself is the star here and it's turned out quite well. I hesitate to add extra highlights to the surrounding metal/cooker in case it detracts, and it is all too easy to mess things up. When is a painting finished?

The painting is on a wooden panel (Ampersand artists panel) using Winsor&Newton Griffin alkyd oils (faster drying oil paints). I used white spirit as a dilutant but also some liquin later. I don't like complexity in the process, especially worrying about medium concentrations (fat,thin etc.). I think some parts of the painting have too little oil and show as matte areas: probably too much solvent (white spirit). I may investigate fixing this, or perhaps varnish will in a few months.

The photograph of the work above was taken in my kitchen under a light bulb, then white-balanced slightly, so the quality is not the highest. By eye on my monitor it seems to be fairly true however.


Sat, 19 Nov 2016
Arrival

Arrival is a new film by director Denis Villeneuve, based on a short story by Ted Chiang called The Story of your Life. I read this last year.

This is a "first contact" with aliens film, where the aliens are very alien, but not obviously threatening, and we are struggling to communicate with them. The "threat" is human competition, fear and misunderstanding. Amy Adams plays a civilian linguist employed by the army to help try and talk to them, alongside physicist Jeremy Renner.

The film was very good, and a refreshing change from a lot of "speculative" (I hesitate to use the description "science-fiction") films made today. Chiang's story is about language and how much language might define us and the way we see (and are capable of seeing) the world. The story and the film are thought provoking, with the film deepening the very moving back-story (or is it?) of Adams' daughter. I have to admit that I haven't really figured it all out but that's part of the fun of an intelligent piece work sometimes. I would definitely watch it again.


Sun, 13 Nov 2016
Darkness and Light

Above: Detail from Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, 1602

When I first discovered renaissance and post-renaissance Italian art, Caravaggio immediately stood out; he became one of my favourite artists. The sharpness of detail in his paintings, striking use of shadow and light and the realism, almost photographic, all contributed to my admiration. Compared to his contemporaries, the people he painted were much less idealised, much more like the people you would meet in daily life on the street. Many actually were.

The current National Gallery show Beyond Caravaggio is therefore a must see, and I went for the second time this Saturday morning. A very wet day indeed, and I got thoroughly soaked on the bike, but worth it.

Only a few by the famous man himself, the show rather concentrated on the artists he influenced. A couple of my favourite paintings are below. The exhibition is a collaboration between the national galleries of London, Scotland and Ireland.

Right: Christ before the High Priest, Gerrit van Honthorst, about 1617

I find this a very powerful and emotional picture, with Jesus standing before the high priest being interrogated. Christ looks completely worn out, tired and all too human as he faces the questioning. He will soon be taken out, beaten and crucified, and he knows it. The single candle is the only light source, and it casts the Caravaggio-like darks and lights. The candle and the pointing finger. A beautiful and affecting work.

Details at the National Gallery site.

Right: A Man Singing by Candlelight, Adam de Coster, about 1625-1635

Candle light figures prominently in the exhibition, as artists use the light cast to generate the deep shadow and bright light that is often so indicative of the style of Caravaggio.

De Coster is an unfamiliar artist but this painting is masterfully done. The only picture I could find of it is not the best reproduction (too dark) but gives an idea. In life, he uses the strong contrast beautifully, including the detail in the clothes of the singer. A very good painting.


Sun, 06 Nov 2016
Blue Sky Building

Above: The Library Building, oil, 20x20cm

This is a painting from a photograph I took a couple of years ago of the Library Building on Clapham High Street, a (then) recently built residential block on top of a redeveloped library on the ground floor (and an NHS Surgery). A slightly different design to the usual: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm undecided about it. Having said that, I loved the bright blue sky and the single wisp of smoke ascending; a clear, sharp and modern picture I thought.


Thu, 03 Nov 2016
The Explorer

The Explorer
By James Smythe

Score : 3.5 / 5

I've recently finished reading James Smythe's first book in his "quartet", having read the second a few weeks ago. The wrong order but I don't think it really mattered in this case.

This first novel of the four has a similarly unsettling and claustrophobic narrative as the second; even more so in some ways. It also has a similarly nightmarish trajectory. The Explorer tells the story of the mission of the first spaceship sent out from Earth to meet the "anomaly"; once again things go very wrong. The journalist they take with them ends up faced with quite a shocking story, with himself as the main character.

There are plenty critics of some aspects of this book, particularly the science (it is not realistic). Personally, the science is good enough: it is not a "hard" science book but just the bare minimum to get by and move the story on. This book is really atmosphere and horror rather than science and as such it worked for me and kept me turning pages until the end. One thing, I had quite a feeling of claustrophobia and helplessness here and it might be a good idea to take a break between reading books in this series! That's it for now though. It will be interesting to see how it goes from here.