I'm still way too obsessed with creating little shapes and colouring them in I'd say.
Oh well, I'll see if I can't introduce some scary shading into this one as it progresses.
This is the stage, the one you see on the left, when I think, jeez this is crap. It's the scrappy paint strokes that do it - nothing like how my mind's eye envisaged it, but still. I know things can only improve with age, right?
A poem fell out this morning, and I hope my French friends aren't going to be offended. It's just that there are a few French culinary delicacies which I find quite disgusting and thought I'd exorcise my obsession in verse. Nothing personal. It's only a poem. And there are probably quite a few things I eat which they would find equally loathesome. Like Marmite. And cheese and marmalade on toast (ideally a good mature cheddar if available). And baked beans. It's surprising how many French find the typical British baked bean in tomato sauce the oddest of concepts. Too sweet, they say. And who am I to argue. Unlike my poem, which isn't sweet at all. Here it is:
Ode to French Cuisine The French eat anything that moves it's said When on a pleasant night out on the town Yet it's the sordid snail that I most dread Like chewing gum soiling the sodding bread And a glass of rouge to gulp the damn thing down Frogs legs leap up to number two methinks In three litres of oil the victims drown Now there they are a-sitting midst the drinks All spindly limbs like some weird kind of jinx And a glass of rouge to gulp the damn things down The awkward oyster ends this list of crime With a consistency to make you frown Let me offer you one mouthful of slime An experience that's far from sublime And a glass of rouge to gulp the damn thing down
I wonder if any of my poems will ever make it to a wider audience. Maybe one day, but maybe I'll have to be dead before that happens, which is a bit of a shame. The collected works of a lesser-known Parisian poet - I can just see the compendium now, sitting dustily on my granddaughter's bookshelves.
And how will I be seen? Bitter? Drole? Irreverent? Crap? Maybe I'll make it into a future collection like the excellent In Search of the World's Worst Writers by Nick Page. I doubt I could ever equal the jaw-dropping delicious awfulness of The Tay Bridge Disaster so I guess I won't even try. I suggest you check it out if you're not familiar with this towering epic.
I'm currently enjoying a brief period of prolifickness (prolificity?) with no idea how long it will last but it's fun while it does. I'm not impressed by the quality but I'm acutely aware that I can no longer write as naturally about some of the things I treated in the past. A certain innocent spontaneity has gone, to be replaced by... I'm not sure what. Some sort of 40-something angst? Maybe. But I'm determined to produce and to record them in a coherent way, hence this internet outpouring. As long as I can see what I've done and feel that it's holding together ok I'm happy. Thanks internet.
There are those who use places like Facebook or their blog to chat about mundane, everyday stuff, and that's just fine. Then there are those who pass stuff on. Funny stuff, inspiring stuff or things they believe in and want to share with others. That's great too. And then there are the creators.
My aim is to be a creator by producing original content, and as much of it as I possibly can. I've recently come to realise that the people who post pictures of their lunch or the latest cake they've baked are, in fact, producing just as valid original content as I am with my pictures of Paris or anything else for that matter. Good for them.
There's a place for everyone, and the great thing is to be sharing in one way or another. And every time someone clicks on a link I've put up it's a compliment and an honour for me. Just thought I'd let you know that. In case you made it this far!
They say you can tell a lot from the eyes. Well, I don't know if it's the case here, but I can see a few wrinkles setting in, thanks also to the fact I was smiling for this photo.
I wonder if you could guess my age from the photo above. 47. So there you go. And quite happy with it. Better than never making it to that number like so many artistic and poetic types from the past.
My paintings haven't progressed from yesterday yet, but another couple of poems have fallen out of my brain since the last time I wrote. Oh, three actually. At this rate I could publish a collect of weak verse in about... a week!
Now There's A Job
Christmas rubber stamps another year The leaves have all been roused and rounded up With those funky new-fangled leaf blowers Now there's a job The relatives will come, they always do Like ants to sugar, we will live it up Whatever 'it' is, then we'll tidy up Now there's a job In time to see the old year truly out Like a drunken uncle on his ear The resolutions rain like fireworks Now there's a job The spring will out and summer come again The leaves will rust and readen on the bough Civil servants will start to wrap things up Now there's a job
This one's about the turning of the seasons, going around, coming full circle, and I think it was inspired by my last self-portrait with me looking decidedly grey. It's one of these poems I've been writing in recent years where the idea is there but it hasn't quite come together as I would have liked but I haven't got the patience to take it any further.
I liked the image I stared with, about Christmas rubber-stamping another year, and the rest flowed from there, for better or for worse. I didn't mean it to be criticising relatives, of which I have very few and we certainly don't have Christmases like I picture above, although I believe some do. There's a bit of irony in yet another year with yet another set of resolutions we'll hurry to break. And the leaves are always there, as symbols of passing time and lives. As for the civil servants, well, they're just there, wrapping up presents of one sort or another.
Then came the dog poem. I think I needed to get it out of my system. Hallmark honey but kind of funny. He's a funny old dog.
My dog's got a mind of his own My dog calls a bone a bone My dog jumps from windows gaping My dog flies through curtains draping My dog poos in precious places My dog enjoys licking faces My dog slumbers at my feet My dog always loves to eat My dog breaks out once a week My dog gives my toes a tweak My dog loves his daily walk My dog ignores me when I talk My dog follows me around My dog keeps his nose to the ground My dog's a sheep in wolf's clothing My dog's absence is my loathing My dog's a food finding sleuth My dog's cool and that's the truth My dog adopted me one day My dog is here and here to stay
Then came Going Grey, which is much less about actually going grey than I thought it was going to be, but I'm quite relieved really. I think I've done enough stuff about getting old in the traditional sense for now so something a bit less obvious was called for and welcome.
Going Grey Like a comfy chair Like a favourite sweater I'll wear you Take this skin These bones
And put them on And call them me Like a cozy café Like a favourite walk I'll bear you Take this weight These stones And cast them off And call them he Like a precious song Like a favourite book I'll share you Take this hand These thoughts And wrap them up And call them thee
This one's moved away from the anal retentive rhyming I normally do and has got a bit freer, both in imagery and in structure. I think the poem's a bit opaque but I decided to leave it that way, that is, open to interpretation, as opposed to a simple story with a clear beginning, middle and end. As to who the various characters or images are, not even I'm sure. The me, the he, the thee, these are all there to be absorbed and spat out in any way the reader sees fit.
Going Grey did start out in my mind about just that, but then moved on to something rather different, which I'm pleased about. A bit like when a painting takes a new direction despite your best intentions, and almost seems to speak to you and say 'No, not that way, this...' I'd like that to happen more often, it's an interesting thing.
Taking my own advice, I've 'just started' a couple of new pictures, having painted a couple of old ones over in black and in white.
I then attacked, with the intention that the results would tell me where to go next, and you can see the results below.
The black one, with the purple and green, looks like I just needed to put some extra paint somewhere, but at least I'll be able to see what placing those transparent colours mixed with some heavy gel on black looks like. The problem is it dries much darker and ends up not looking very purple or green at all. We'll see.
The white one, which isn't really white as a lot of the old disaster is showing through, is another story.
I've drawn a wiggly line design on it, which I will then colour in, just like a kid at school. Sometimes I think I'm back in school, but a quote I read in Art and Fear recently is good:
"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, 'You mean they forget?'"
Not only do they forget, I'm afraid, but they are scared to learn again and just give it a go. Witness all the angst I'm having over every picture, and even the purple and green thing above. I can't just do it - I have to defend or disparage it myself before anyone else does. I envy those who can just do anything they like without worrying about it.
Honestly, when I look in my art anthologies and see some of the stuff some artists have done, well, you think, really, if he can get away with that... then you can get away with anything.
And yet he's in an art of the 20th century book, and I'm not.
In the end, and this has been my theory for a while, one of the most important things isn't what you do, but that you do it first. These days it seems quite difficult to actually do something first; there always seems to be someone who's done it before. Either that, or there are so many people currently doing so many weird and wonderful things it's difficult to believe that anything little old we could do could equal it.
This must be faulty thinking, of course, because civilisation and all of art isn't going to just stop tomorrow because all possible art has now been created. But the challenge can still seem overwhelming. Faulty thinking.
I guess this is all about me still looking for my 'thing' - the style or approach or gimmick that will set me apart and make my stuff unique. I still don't think I've found it yet.
But anyway, as I was reading recently, one of the most important things is to produce and continue to produce, which is what I'm endeavouring to do. Produce as much as is humanly possible, as long as I think there's some worth in it, that is, even if just for myself.
I'm starting up my self-portraits again after a long break - I wonder why that is; the break and the starting up again... Maybe something is calling me again. Maybe it's the grey hair that's done it. Someone remarked that I've aged a lot recently. Does wonders for your confidence and self-image, I can tell you!
So here is a new shot of me, and hopefully one of many to disgrace my pages over the next few months and years. I've wittered on about the ramifications of having a self-portrait project before so won't bore you here, but suffice it to say it's hopefully not vanity. I'm more interested in gruesome or at least brutally honest portraits of myself than flattering ones to be honest. And again, I'm the only willing subject I have with me, 24-7, ready to take part in my latest absurd narcissistic photographic enterprise.
I actually think it's fairly brave to face oneself getting older. Look our mortality in the eye and flip it the bird, as it were. A bit what poetry does too in the end.
When in doubt, black it out, that's what we're not supposed to do, isn't it, according to shrinks?
Well, that's what I've done here. I had some horrible splashed canvases telling me nothing at all, and in the end, after some consideration, I thought I had to start over.
One got painted white, and the other black, as you can see here. All that remains now is to put something interesting on it.
I've decided this one is going to be a real abstract experiment as nothing else is calling me as I type. I'll just get some inspiration from a book of abstract experiments I have and take it from there. Something's telling me I shouldn't be this aimless but something else is telling me that's exactly what I should be and that the best thing to do is just start painting and see what happens.
Just start is a recurring theme in my life and my investigations into creativity and productivity. If there's one idea that's probably more powerful than almost any other it's the idea of just start. Just do it is very similar, but the emphasis on starting is what's vital, even when you're not really sure what you're going to do.
The thing is you need something to react to, and if you are staring at a blank page or canvas it's very difficult to be inspired by anything at all except despair and despondency. As soon as you place a mark, or a word or a stroke you have something to assess. Either you like it, or you don't. Either it inspires you, or it doesn't. But actually doing something generally tells you that you either like it and want to continue, or don't like it and would prefer to do it another way. In either case, there's a very strong call to action and thus paresse is banished to the back of the studio where it belongs.
Don't get me wrong - there are times when I simply stand and stare at the canvas (with a coffee in hand, mind you) for what seems like ages. Then leaf through a few books. Then do some more standing and staring, before I feel anything like lifting brush or pencil. I think this is a necessary part of the creative process, but the danger is it goes on too long and fear and doubt set in.
So here's to action and just starting, and seeing where it leads. Usually it's to an interesting place in my experience.
Continuing in the simplistic-but-profound theme I mentioned last time, I invented Election Fever on my dog's walk last night:
Election Fever The Right are on the right And the Left are on the left But what I'd like to know Is who's right and what's left
It's not as good or clever as I'd like but the spirit of where I'd like to go more often is in there if you can see it. There are plenty of masters of this pithy wordplay so I've got a lot of role models and a lot to learn but it's a start, although I have done a few of these little one versers in the past.
Then something seemed to take me over on a sleepy Sunday afternoon and evening and two more poems fell out of the neurosphere - amazing - where did they come from?! I guess I was just in the mood.
Spelling Bee probably needs honing (honeying?) still but it's quite cute as it is:
Spelling Bee You say your in luv Think about me every nite And I think your alrite But you cant spel for toffee When you buzz me on the fone Tell me that your all alone Your my badly speling be Put sum hunny in my coffee
This came from a song I was listening to on the radio where I misheard the end of a Marina and the Diamonds lyric 'You've been acting awful tough lately' as 'toffee' and it went from there, simple as that.
There's a concept in English teaching that the learner has to first notice the mistakes or the structures before they can correct or master them. Similarly, as an artist, photographer or poet you have to be constantly and actively alert for creative opportunities or the stimuli will just pass you by and the inspiration won't come, or will come less often.
That's the mood I was in yesterday, feeling quite open, a bit like in my poem My Room, and the words did indeed come.
Then, on another walk with the dog, incredibly, another idea came to me. This one was a bit darker, all about dying, can't quite remember why. Oh yes, I'd been reading about Roger McGough's latest collection of poems where he hints at it so my mind was on mortality. I wondered what it would be like to die tomorrow, as we all will one day, and what some of the consequences and unfortunate circumstances might be. A bit like getting run over with dirty underwear, every mother's shameful nightmare.
Moving On was much trickier, because longer and more complicated and the need to find suitable lines once the initial inspiration had been absorbed meant a bit of brain-racking.
Moving On This dying business is a bit of a pain I've just bought the damn tickets for the train That last poem I wrote was utterly vain I'll be blowed if it doesn't look like rain This bloody timing does in my brain & if she has to do the ironing again She'll kill me If I'd known in a few hours I'd be gone I wouldn't have left the heating on I guess I've been looking kinds of wan But I'd never have had these pyjamas on If she feels likes she's fallen for some sort of con She'll kill me This fading away is a bit of a bind I hope the bank manager doesn't mind It might sound like I'm being unkind But if she finds out I went and left her behind She'll kill me I never thought I'd be off tomorrow There's so many things I still wanted to borrow & if she gets stuck with the brunt of the sorrow She'll kill me
It's funny how things turn out. I'm quite pleased with the way the poem itself starts to fade away, starting with a seven-line verse and finishing with a four-liner, but this is pure chance, not artifice. I had all the verses at four lines then decided to move them up to five to fit in a few more images but couldn't find a satisfactory rhyme for tomorrow, borrow and sorrow so had to keep it at four.
Again, I'm sure it could be tighter, funnier and cleverer, but it'll have to stand as it is for the time being as my brain has moved on and I'm wondering what to tackle next on my creative agenda. I'm pretty much all poemed out after yesterday, so we're looking at pictures of some sort, either another photo analysis over on Nikon and Me or actually getting my hands dirty (and cold) down in the garage with some of those stubborn pictures waiting to torment me in there.
Knowing me I'll procrastinate a little more with some photo chit-chat and then finally hit the studio.
Thanks, dear diary, for letting me get all this off my chest, and may the muse hit you all - and then hit back!
Managed to churn out two new poems since my last epic here on Abstract Mystic.
The first one, 5 Minutes, is a pretty classic listing of funny little things he does all tied together with his current favourite bedtime phrase.
I'm in a phase where I'm desperately trying to actually get away from rhyming every poem, believe it or not, just not managing very well as yet. There's something about me and poetry and rhymes - I find it difficult to make the transition back to none rhyming stuff, much as I try.
Then again, I'm quite pleased with the simplicity which is coming through in these two pieces.
5 Minutes It's getting late, the hour's come To sleep, perchance to snore But when I say it's time for bed... "Just 5 minutes more!" In the wardrobe, magic lift Rolling on the floor And when I say it's time for bed... "Just 5 minutes more!" Jumping on the sofa Hide behind the door But when I say it's time for bed... "Just 5 minutes more!" It's story time, we're in the jungle Lions leap and roar And when I say it's time for bed... "Just 5 minutes more!"
When the poem's about an innocent subject such as a child I think the language should reflect that - nothing too complicated or fancy - the language of a child in fact.
I recently tried a couple of single rhyme poems and I've just realised 5 Minutes is another one, with only snore, floor, door, roar and more doing the deed. The last two lines of each verse are also the same, increasing the simplicity of the thing as well has hammering home the refrain, as it were.
Sometimes I worry about the 'babyishness' of some of my pieces, but then I look in a random poetry collection from my shelf, and discover that "When all else fails, [new line] Try Wales" (To a Friend in Search of Rural Seclusion, by Christopher Logue) merits an entire page, along with several other four-line pieces by the likes of Wendy Cope, Ogden Nash and Roger McGough, and confidence returns.
Maybe brevity is the mark of a real master, in a similar way to minimalism being a distillation of years of learning and unlearning for some painters.
This second piece, My Room, similarly took about half an hour and was sparked off by simply lying on my bed in relative peace and quiet as all hell broke out downstairs with partner, child, dog, father- and aunt-out-law slogging it out over various banal issues and it just struck me that I was floating on a little oasis-like cloud above it all and looked for words to synthesise the sensation.
My Room Here in my room There are no walls For me the wide horizon calls Here in my room There is no ceiling Leaves imagination reeling Here in my room There is no floor I'm going deep where there's no law And down the stairs And far away I hear kids' cries And traffic's hum And distant sighs And someone's mum Feel fading day Sense shady lairs But here in my room Windows are wide The door's open Nowhere to hide For up in my room There are no walls There is no ceiling There is no floor Yawning wide the windows Always open is the door
It's idealised, of course, and I sometimes cringe when I read poems (especially my own) which seem to be smuggly setting me up as some sort of spiritual mastermind. But that's poetry I guess. Inventing other, often idealised personas, or just trying out a few new ones for a few lines.
For me, repetition is a vital part of a lot of my poems, allowing a theme to be reiterated towards the end of the piece to strengthen it. This is very similar to repeated elements in a photo. Although it's a random example, the picture above happens to contain several birds (Jérôme Mesnager's, not mine) and two doors (mine and the architect's doing), which strengthens the composition considerably.
In 5 Minutes the repetition is in the five rhyming words and the constantly repeating pair of lines at the end of each verse. In My Room I've brought all the elements of my imaginary dream room together in the final verse, all of which had already been mentioned, to tie up the lose ends and remind the reader of what the poem was about and what my magical room was like.
Not all poems (or pictures) have to have these repeating elements but they can be a powerful tool.
Welcome to this richly illustrated article in which I intend to talk about... absolutely nothing. Yep, that's what I've got lined up for you today. No new pictures, no new poems, just blether about who knows what. And putting off getting back in the studio, except to take the shots you can see here.
I'm pretty impressed with them actually. My good old almost brand new Nikon D800 on ISO 6400 in a gloomy garage churning out some very acceptable results indeed.
Thought I'd show you the mess I'm surrounded by at the moment. Here you can see where I am on a couple of lost paintings which didn't make it to the Bastille and are still living in a dubious hinterland between initial idea and completion. Basically, I'm stuck. On the super-shaded one you can see in the first picture in any case. I have no idea where it's going.
I was going to write
T H I
S I S
A R T
in big letters scrawled right across the nine squares at one point, or something more negative, but have held off so far just in case.
The pic you can see in the second shot isn't much better, but has the advantage of being at a far earlier state. In fact, the dripping and spreading out attempt I was making didn't work so I'll probably paint over it leaving it as a long forgotten background fail from hell.
It's a shame, because I was quite excited about it, but the colours didn't spread out as I expected them to, despite having dampened the canvas with soapy water beforehand. And the running paint had an annoying but inevitable tendency to disappear down the first joint every time I tilted the picture on its base... sigh. So, a right mess, yep, another one, waiting to be rescued, but then again, that's all part of the fun I guess.
In the picture on the right here you can see what's left of the end of my garage artist's studio now that I've emptied the car boot after the Bastille exhibition. Another right... you guessed it - mess, I'm sure you'll agree.
You can see some of my fabled self-portrait cubes under wraps there - I still don't have proper pictures of them, and the took an eternity to make, I'll have to get that sorted out one day.
And as for my poetry, I have a mess of a poem, with a seed of an idea which is going absolutely nowhere fast.
Just for fun, and not really believing anyone will have been interested enough to make it this far, I'll through up my notes so far here, which is, nevertheless, an incredibly rare thing for me to do...
Losing Face What sayeth the Book of Face, my lord? When it's ten past two And you're all alone And the coffee's cold And you're tired and bored "It says I am liked and have many friends" You reply And cry to the fluorescent plastic stars And smash your fist down On the keyboard Sending snearing spiraling cyphers Sneaking through cyberspace Beware the Prince of Goog, my grace For he is fair And all that's false Bring me the Bird of Tweet, by god That I may break its bleating beak And smash its spindly legs Through my screen of ineptitude
So you can see my problem. Or a few of them. The idea is there, but the images aren't coming together to say the least. It's pretty weird to put up something in such an early stage but it's in the spirit of this new-look Abstract Mystic blog so there you go.
It also helps me to look on these ideas as another might coming to it fresh. It's amazing what a few hours or days reflection and distraction can do. You look at what you initially came out with and see some embarrassingly kitch and clichéd images. And then again, some of them still seem ok.
As far as Losing Face is concerned, I may continue in the direction it was trying to go or I might head off on another tangent altogether if no good ideas come to me soon; it's starting to bug me.
In this last pic here you can see what isn't even a background. I was doing another picture's background and got some splashes on these virgin canvases and decided to carry on splashing them as I went along. No idea where this one will go either though.
There, I told you I was in a mess and now I hope you agree. My current creative decision now lies between making another cup of coffee, critiquing yet another photo for Nikon and Me, or actually getting off my but and throwing colours at canvas again. Or even words at willow (or something). I'll keep you posted.