Sun, 01 May 2022
RSA 2022

The Royal Scottish Academy has its annual exhibition on just now and it is the usual mix. Some very good art and some terrible.

It was nice to see some Philip Braham paintings (see below). He had an exhibition on at the Scottish Gallery in 2021 but it was virtual only due to the pandemic restrictions. An atmospheric landscape painter; his work is similar to the sort of subject I like to attempt myself (less successfully). All his paintings in the exhibition were strong. There is no substitute for seeing a painting in real life. He is now "RSA (Elect)".


Above: Last Light, Green Turret by Philip Braham, Oil on Linen, 81x116cm (link)

Another painting really stood out to me: an amazingly colourful picture of a plant from the Royal Botanic Gardens: The Corpse Flower by Laura Footes (Acrylic on canvas, 150x120cm). Shown below, I thought it had shades of the great Hockney, especially the garden background. Very impressive work you can see on the RSA site.

The show is free and on until June 12th.


Thu, 28 Apr 2022
The Expanse TV

I finished book eight of The Expanse series, Tiamat's Wrath, a while ago and have been waiting for the last book to be published in paperback in the UK (June I think). In the meantime, the TV series grew in critical acclaim and then recently came to an end (with season six). I finally sat down to watch them all and, in a word, was impressed.

The TV show has been blessed with a good cast, good scripts and a good production. The books work particularly well because the characters work so well: you come to care about them. Happily, this is also the case on the show. There comes a point where your understanding and sympathy for the characters allow their moments of silence or laughter to say everything you need. There is plenty of action and adventure packed in on the screen, and more compressed than the the page, but the quiet moments make a lot of difference. The terrible trials and trauma people go through on the page have been translated to the screen in a very satisfying way, and a way that packs the same emotional wrench I remember from the written words. There's a lot of dross around: it is very refreshing to meet its polar opposite.


Thu, 21 Apr 2022
Brentford Covered Warehouse

This is a watercolour painting by Tracy Love as featured in the 2022 Mall Galleries Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour :

Well, what a stunning piece if work! Who knew Brentford had such a beautiful covered warehouse? This is a complicated work to paint, with many intricate details. It must have taken quite a while. Once again, this just goes to show how great watercolours can be, something I am reminded of every year when I visit this exhibition online.


Wed, 02 Feb 2022
Pond Life

The pond at Inverleith Park has been drained, which gives a very different view of the city as the sun rises. Nice reflective puddles at least :

Not so good for the park or pond though, or the various animals that like the water. The swans are just about coping. The board-walks at one end are being rebuilt so the water level had to be dropped for the foundation work. Hopefully finished in a month or so ready for spring, and the baby cygnets we hope arrive. We have four surviving from 2021.

Also in the park, an unfortunate casualty of the recent high winds. Always sad to see an old and large tree down and I hope no one (or dog) was nearby when this happened.


Fri, 28 Jan 2022
Fashionable Art
Above: Detail of cover for Altre forme lo distraevano continuamente

Lorenzo Mattotti is an Italian artist and illustrator. I first came across his work through comic art (over thirty years ago) but he also does a lot of book and magazine illustration. I recently bought an art book of his, finding it cheap in a charity shop, and it re-kindled my interest in his art. He has a wonderfully colourful and dynamic style that I think is instantly recognisable. I believe he works mainly in pastel and coloured pencils, a great combination given the results.

One of the draws of the work is (what seemed to me) its inspiration from early 20th Century Expressionist Art, and also particularly the colourful Fauves. Although, in an interview with Dave McKean at Paul Gravett's site, Mattotti himself references the Russian Constructivists.

Right: Mattotti's cover to the book Fires

I already own a few of his books, including : Fires (from 1986), Murmure and Pinocchio.

The book I recently bought is in Italian and titled Altre forme lo distraevano continuamente ("Other forms continually distracted him"), from 1995. It contains some beautiful pictures, including a fair amount of work done for the New Yorker magazine.

A good selection of his art work is on the artnet site.

I really love some of the ilustrations in this new book and decided to do a copy of one. I'll make a separate post about that!


Thu, 30 Dec 2021
Almost

Almost the end of the year 2021, a year few will look back on with any affection. However, there were a few good things for me in 2021: I painted some decent pictures, I got my flat into better shape, I did more walking and cycling, played tennis. Summer wasn't bad in Edinburgh and it was good sitting in the park in the sun. I got to know a few more people, including their dogs. And perhaps most importantly of all, I managed to stay healthy and active. So, here's to a better 2022.


Sat, 31 Jul 2021
Joan Eardley Centenary

Above: The Macaulay Children, 1957, oil on board

A new exhibition of Joan Eardley's work has opened at the Scottish Gallery this week, in celebration of her birth a hundred years ago. She died in 1963.

I have a mixed reaction to her work, especially the landscapes. However, I tend to like the paintings and drawings she did of children, often from the slums of Glasgow. These are usually quite rough but have a great "true life" quality to them and are not sentimental. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the gallery yesterday to see so many of these children and tenement style pictures.

Right: Girl with a Poke of Chips, 1960-63, oil on canvas with newspaper

Sun, 09 May 2021
Strange and Beautiful

The YouTube channel Great Art Explained has three videos about Hieronymus Bosch's masterwork : The Garden Of Earthly Delights. Each video is fifteeen minutes and covers the background to this most strange painting and each of its three panels. The narration and explanation is very good and riveting. It helps that the painting shares these characterisations. It really is a work of art to marvel at for quite a while and the videos put together by James Payne do it proper justice. Brilliant stuff.

Click the picture to watch part one on YouTube :


Sun, 14 Feb 2021
Big Black Cow

Last year was full of surprises and here's another one for me.

The band Steely Dan had never figured in my listening habits - ever - but over the course of 2020 I now know dozens off by heart. Well, almost, and in a particular order. I have the double album The Very Best of Steely Dan [discogs] and decided to listen to it every time I went out for a run during the various lockdowns. It's a double CD and there are a lot of songs on it. And after a few months of this it is easy to understand why some people love this music. Great songs. Back in the day, I would never have deigned to pick up something like an American "soft rock/jazz/funk" album. Now I am older and somewhat wiser.


Thu, 04 Feb 2021
Golden Fields

Above: Golden Fields by Cheryl Culver, 50x91cm, pastel

I like this pastel painting by Cheryl Culver. It's part of the Mall Galleries Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2021. Lots of very good pastel and pencil works on show; too many to show.


Tue, 15 Dec 2020
Farewell to a Master

Very sad to hear of the death of John le Carré; I had just bought three of his novels at a charity shop. If I ever see any books of his going cheaply and I have not read them, I always buy.

I was late to come to him as an author, only picking up and reading The Spy Who Came in from the Cold a few years ago. Since then, I've read quite a few but am lucky to still have many left to read for the first time. Le Carré is one of those authors that makes you realise the difference in quality between the merely pedestrian and the masterful.

I read his memoir recently, The Pigeon Tunnel, and what an amazing selection of stories from his interesting life. This includes some amusing anecdotes about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton during the making of the film. Le Carré's set pieces were always absolutely beautifully put together and could be mesmerising. Wonderful dialog, believeable characters.

Thank goodness he left us so many books to read! Goodbye David Cornwell.


Tue, 03 Nov 2020
Late Autumn

At the moment, it's raining. It does this a lot in Scotland. This is late autumn if I'm being optimistic but probably fairer to say winter now. With a week of rain and gales stripping the trees much barer of their leaves, it's starting to look like winter again. It's been such a great year that people are already starting to look forward to 2022.

My oil painting energy diminished somewhat over summer, although I did a few and then some larger paintings. Having seen a bad trough of motivation hit a couple of months ago, I managed to pull things together a bit and complete a picture I'm very happy with. I'm about to finish another. It feels like a bit of a slog just now; it's not only writers that get a block. They come and go though, like the gales.

One thing I have discovered this year is that I can easily listen to a podcast whilst painting and not be distracted. I've a lot of podcasts downloaded from the BBC (mostly), including plays, dramas and book readings. These are things I've grabbed over the years but put aside for a "rainy day". Luckily, there have been quite a few rainy days this year.

Some of the things I've listened to include :

  • MR James stories, some read by Michael Hordern. I love these classic ghost stories.
  • William Gibson's Neuromancer and Burning Chrome. BBC dramatisations, done well.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A BBC dramatisation of the book. I read it years ago but it was half forgotten. Quality.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson's The Bottle Imp - a short story dramatised.
  • Whisky Galore - BBC dramatisation
  • Darkness at Noon - BBC dramatisation of Arthur Koestler's novel about Stalin's Soviet Union
  • BBC dramatisation of Dracula in two parts
  • Arthur C Clarke's Rendevous with Rama
  • I, Claudius - Graves dramatised over six parts.
  • Understand - Ted Chiang's short story dramatised. The author of "Arrival", a favourite story of mine.
  • The State of the Art - Iain M Banks short story dramatised.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr. A dramatisation by NPR in 15 parts. Great cast, beautifully produced radio. A book I really liked.

There have been others and all have been good: this is what the BBC does so well. Luckily there is a large back catalogue because these are hard times for media producers.

As well as Eliot's Silas Marner and Middlemarch, I still have War and Peace to listen to and that's a great reason to start planning a big painting!


Sat, 06 Jun 2020
Figurative Art Fair 2020

Art show from the Mall Galleries, an online only Figurative Art Fair from the Federation of British Artists. It pains me that I can't see this in real life now, even without the current virus situation (without a long train trip) but virtual is better than nothing. Something for everyone I think, not all "figurative" (very little maybe, oddly). Some terrible, some lovely. Worth a few moments to have a page through the works.

Below: Windy Day, South Downs, Robert E Wells RBA NEAC, oil, 29x29cm, 2020

Thu, 28 May 2020
Neon Greens

Below is a screen capture from a short YouTube video, an interview with David Hockney. The video's only about 4 minutes long and he's talking about the state of his art and the world. As usual, good sense and humour from him.

I don't think I can get such bright, almost neon, colour in my painting! Mine aren't backlit though.

He speaks of a philosopher he saw talking on television: the news comes on and he's asked how he can be optimistic with news like this? He replies, well, that's television. Bad news sells. So he's asked, what's the good news then? And he replies ... the arrival of spring. Hockney chuckles and it's a typical Hockney observation (about "observation" itself).

he says, of course nobody notices spring arriving usually but in the past, everyone noticed. In 2020, I think many more people started noticing as well. And now it's summer. End in sight of the "crisis"? At least the beginning of the end.


Wed, 06 May 2020
BP 2020 Offline

The National Portrait Gallery in London are hosting the BP Portrait Award show online this year and have created a virtual gallery in the web browser. I had a poke around and it works very well, although I think I heard my laptop fans start to spin a bit faster. A "virtual" gallery like this is not bad at all but no substitute for real life. I'll be having a "stroll" around it and checking out the pictures, almost as usual. The painting just in the above frame to the left is the 2020 winner.

BP Portrait Award 2020


Above: Heavy(weight), portrait of Benjamin Gasinga Gaspard - Rwanda, Papay Solomon, oil

I hope the London gallery does the virtual display like this every year. I was very disappointed that 2019 was the last year the BP Portrait Award exhibition would be shown in Edinburgh. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery decided they did not want to host anything sponsored by BP, an oil company. I'm opposed to that decision and feel a loss. I bet a lot of people do. Edinburgh's loss.


May Gardening

Four years ago, the Royal Academy had an exhibition I reported on called Painting the Modern Garden ("Monet to Matisse"). I enjoyed it immensely (I think I went twice): the RA know how to put on a great show. The Monet water lilies in the last room were like being before an altar. Quite magical.

The Academy have just put their film of the exhibition on YouTube. Beautifully produced and full of colour as you would expect. This is worth putting up on a big screen and sitting back to wallow in: much art and beautiful plants.


Fri, 01 May 2020
Portraits 2020

No visits to the Mall Galleries this year either! This is the gallery I think I miss the most. This year's Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition is on and we've all got the email alert. Great paintings, online only. It really does pay to take some time to have a look through them.

Darren Butcher's painting shown below could be called caricature rather than portrait. Does it matter though? Very well painted anyway and there's an Expressions Two as well. In fact, there are a lot of new artists in the show this year, as well as the usual ones I remember and love.

Below: Expressions One, Darren Butcher, Oil, 63x63cm

The portrait below is by Alex Tzavaras. He runs a good YouTube channel called SIMPLIFY Drawing & Painting where he teaches painting technique and does some artist interviews.

Below: Peter Wearing a Plaid Shirt, Alex Tzavaras, Charcoal, 90x70cm

It woud be great if the various painting societys and groups could work out a way to take their exhibitions north of the border each year as well somehow.


Thu, 30 Apr 2020
RSA Annual 2020

The Royal Scottish Academy annual exhibition is on just now. In normal circumstances I'd be up there in person. Unfortunately, these are not normal times. Anyway, thank goodness for the internet. These are a few pictures I liked, but there are quite a few others worth seeing.

Below: Om Elephant Temple No. 1 (detail) by Alan Robb. Acrylic and Oil. 183x153cm

The above Alan Robb painting is very striking (and large). This is only a detail.

Like the RA Summer Exhibition, it can be a hit or miss affair but there's always something good in it and I won't be alone in missing being there in person. Although there are many good things about viewing art online, it's not the same at all, no matter how good the photograph. I feel a lot of sympathy for the organisers of the show this year, but in particular for the artists. Some would have been looking forward to their first RSA presence. They must be very disappointed.

Below: Night of Wonder by Gordon Mitchell. Oil. 41x51cm


Below: Pennan by Neil MacDonald. Oil. 71x82cm

Thu, 23 Apr 2020
And the Winner Is ...

Geraniums by Ruth Murray.

Ruth Murray has won the Jackson's Painting Prize with this amazing oil painting of a garden greenhouse at night. I wrote about this prize a week or so ago and remember opening this picture to have a closer look and thinking how good it was. Very deserving. You can see some other examples of her work linked on the Jackson's page.

Ruth's web site is here.


Wed, 22 Apr 2020
Still Not Boring

At the end of his interview with Tim Marlow, Hockney says that he might be boring others but he's not about to go and bore himself: he'll do what he enjoys doing. This is another great YouTube video from the RA, covering Hockney's 2012 show with his amazing Yorkshire lanscapes, and his 2016 show with all the portraits (and a still life).

I've gone on about how much I loved his colourful landscapes many times before. He is 82 now and currently "stuck" in Normandy due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Luckily he paints and draws, so I hope he's capturing some great spring weather over there.