Three things

A thing I made this week – this detail from a page in my notebook.

A page from my sketchbook with green paint on top of purple brush marks.

A thing I listened to this week – Edwyn Collins new album.

A man stands with a walking stick between two metal sheds

It’s his tenth solo album and the third since recovering from two cerebral haemorrhages and aphasia in 2005. He’s in fine voice and there’s something wonderfully frank about his lyrics.

A thing I saw this week – new exhibitions at City Gallery

A three panel blakc and white abstract video image of swirling forces.

Perhaps because earlier in the morning I’d been reading about Selected Ambient Works Vol 2 and the band Stars of the Lid, or maybe it was because I was in one of those wandering-around-and-noticing-things moods. Either way I was primed for some abstract noise with scratchy atmospheric black and white visuals – Semiconductor’s Brilliant Noise 2006 hit the spot.

Gardener or Architect?


Work in progress (Things in space)
acrylic on canvas
405mm × 380mm

Listening to a podcast with the author Neil Gaiman. He’s talking about the writing process and how some writers are architects, others are gardeners.

Architects plan, create a blueprint, a structure. There’s a framework. They build and construct their writing brick by brick. Thanks to the plan they’ve a clear picture of the end result.

Gardeners meanwhile plant a variety of seeds, tend to the them, nourish them, and hell, maybe even play them some music. They won’t know which seeds will flourish. Some will die while others bloom into something quite unexpected. Only time will tell.

The same thinking of course applies to painting, and right now I’m gardening.

Just painting


acrylic on canvas

One evening last week, sitting down at my large white table with The West Wing playing on my laptop, painting on a smallish canvas and rediscovering the relaxed pleasure of painting. Not thinking about a show, not trying to be something, not making a grandiose statement. Just painting.

Condensed energy, Frank, and jazz


Hidden & heavy (new old forms)
acrylic on canvas
400 × 350mm

I’m looking at the recent group paintings I’ve made, working out which ones feel successful and which aren’t quite there yet. The former have a certainty about them, a condensed energy. They’re not lacking anything. Nothing need be added or can be taken away. The paintings stand on their own.

My struggle now is how to regularly access that condensed energy and those moments in which a work becomes complete.

I may be able to reverse engineer the construction of these successful work into various elements – lay down a background colour, put in a net like form, place a solid form over an area that’s not working, etc.

Such a replicable formula may be a useful starting point but it doesn’t necessarily invoke the moment the disparate parts of the painting come together, nor does it guarantee the feeling of “condensed energy”. Scale has its part to play here (the marks in relation to the canvas and to each other), colour relationships, texture, shape, etc. While these formal elements are important I suspect the key is the clarity of my intent.


It’s 8:59pm and I’ve just read the following passage from the foreward in Frank Chimero’s, The Shape of Design. In it Liz Danzico quotes from one of Frank’s emails:

You know what I love about jazz and improvisation? It’s all process. 100%. The essence of it is the process, every time is different, and to truly partake in it, you have to visit a place to see it in progress. Every jazz club or improv comedy theater is a temple to the process of production. It’s a factory, and the art is the assembly, not the product. Jazz is more verb than noun. And in a world riddled with a feeling of inertia, I want to find a verb and hold on to it for dear life.

The yellow highlight is mine – a studio is also, “a temple to the process of production”. (Remember, Warhol had his factory). It’s this mention of process which resonates right now. Painters paint. Painting not as noun but verb. Only through “the playing”, through improvising (around a structure, a form), only then is there a living, breathing space in which all the various elements have the opportunity to combine and become complete.