Monday, May 25, 2009


Part of working to commissions is the way that negotiations can change your plans. Talking with fellow artists or even simply delays can also cause you to take a second look at things.

All of these figured in my deciding to modify the pose I am using in my latest portrait. See above.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My First Review

Hopefully, this may be a post I will look back at and laugh later.

Here is my first review in today's Chronicle (which featured my court sketch on it's cover again yesterday, this time as a mirror image.) :

Bon Amici [Coffee House]in Margaret Street is featuring the work of Des Howell in the exhibition Faces and Figures.

Enthusiasm seems to over-ride any firm selection criterion in this over-crowded and sometimes difficult to see show.
[Next time, I show in a properly set up gallery!] The work ranges from competent [such fullsome praise!] stylized and detailed pencil studies to colourfully exotic female subjects, some [actually one] brandishing lilies, and others adopting sultry latin poses.

This is alongside other reviews, one of which contains lines like

This exhubriant exhibition of colourful abstract statements uses spatters of paint and fluid shapes, some reminescent of forms from nature, to express an internal journey through the corridors of an artist's poetic imagination.

I am still trying to figure out which of my paintings feature "sultry latin poses" and I put the lilies there because I thought poses of implicitly naked ladies putting an empty hand on their head look silly unless you emphasize the "Art Noveau" connection. Anyway, someone loves her. I have been told they are racking up a deposit to buy her.

Ah, it is all in the eye of the beholder!

As for my diversity, my "signature" is If people say you are always going off on a tangent, it probably means they are still going round in circles.

My experience of academia suggests to me that lecturers often impose narrowly defined assignments with a view of making them easy to rate later. Their students get into the habit of working within narrow themes to meet their memories of academic critics' expectations. I tend to agree with the artist who said that if they understand you, you might be doing something wrong.

Anyone like to comment on their own reviews?



Monday, May 11, 2009

My first commissioned nude portrait

Someone has just asked me to paint some figure studies of her "before she gets too old to look good" and I have agreed to take up the challenge.

The young (late twenties I would guess) lady in question particularly liked a couple of paintings I currently have on show. These feature women standing draped with strategically placed scarves.

When she phoned, I made a silent "guessimate" of her age and sincerity of motives. I specifically made sure she would have a friend there when I called to discuss things further with her. As it turned out, it only took a couple of minutes face-to-face for both of us to feel comfortable enough about trying out some poses. I also felt good about having her friend there to help with the posing and arranging of draperies, etc.

I took a few of my life class sketches along. These not only demonstrated and reassured her about my skill level, they aided our discussions about poses, media, styles, costs, etc.

This is roughly the pose I will be working on first. (I agreed not to post any images of my sketches or artwork she has commissioned, particularly as she has a realistic portrait in mind.)

One of her other girlfriends arrived in the middle of all this so it turned out to be quite a relaxed, giggly fun sort of experience. I will let you know how it all turns out later.



Saturday, May 9, 2009

Art and Culture

Judging by this cartoon I did in the late 1950's, there were quite a few things affecting my psyche. None of them, if my more mature judgement is correct, were leading me to produce any great art.

Well, I am still looking around and reflecting on what ideas and influences might inspire me to greater heights.

One of the fascinating things about memes (ideas passed from one generation to another and dispersed in a variety of ways) is that, like genes, they can have surprising origins.

We often accept our notions as original because they seem so right. For example, I am very keen on the idea that art is only completed when the viewer participates in it. Now I find that there is an art movement called Relational Aesthetics, whose proponents pushed this notion to its limits in the 90’s.

The fellow credited with recognizing and promoting exhibits of examples of this Relational Aesthetics is a Frenchman named Bourriaud. I suspect that his writings are rather like a good speech at a Toastmasters Club. They simply articulate better what you might be contemplating anyway. All credit to hime, however, for being a mover and shaker.

Bourriaud has now proclaimed the latest art “Ism”, even though the label he uses “altermodern”, does not end in “ism”. Altermodern is the new art of the post-economic apocalypse, he claims, arising out of negotiations between different agents from different cultures and geographical locations.

Like most people, I guess, I hope that in the long term the current economic crisis is a going to be a mere blip on the radar, but anyone, let alone an artist, would have to be culturally brain-dead not to have noticed it and be somewhat affected by it . That insidious beast Globalisation with its godfather Economic Rationalism is also bound to get a bit under your skin too, so thoughts about it are likely to be expressed in Art in a variety of ways as well.

Here is an example of "Altermodernity"Bare: Aleph Null Head by Charles Avery

If you want to know more about Altermodernity and see some more images of its expression, I suggest you follow this link.

Comments are welcome.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

One-Man Shows Aint One-manned

We had the official opening of my first one-man show today.

Why "we" not "I"? No royal plural here, just an aknowledgement that a lot of other people were involved in this "one-man" show besides the bloke with the pencil and brush.

My dear wife, for one, who helped to sort out what to hang and helped me hang 'em. She also kept reminding me what her friends had said about the hand in one of my paintings and cooked up a storm last night for lunch today. Only two friends arrived. Thank God they did I guess.

Then there was Shannon, who provided the venue and Alan Bruce, President of the local Art Society and friend who runs the life classes I go to. He gave a lovely little speech to open the show. One of the things he said was that he thought I should focus on doing portraits of people who will sit "live" for me. Having spent some time during the last week trying to remember what the bottom of our model of two weeks ago looked like (See below) I could not have agreed more.

Howsoever, A great bunch of friends and relatives and friends of friends and relatives of friends and friends of relatives turned up for the actual opening.

And I sold three paintings! I consider myself a fairly unemotional guy but when the first one sold I got a bit wet around the eyes and Mary took me outside for a hug.

None of the pictures taken with my little camera came out clearly (See below) but hopefully Mary's cousin-law took some photos which will come out okay. If so, they could get into a local high class magazine.

Here is a picture of me and the people who bought the first painting. (I am the guy nearest the mermaid) Besides the blurring (which suitably expressses my feelings at the time) you may notice that the formerly conspicuous hand of the mermaid is now lost in the murky depths.