My shit could be on your wall – an’ I ain’t talkin bout no dirty protest!
Mister Seal (Oil on Board 9″ x 12″)
I studied painting for long enough back in the day to come away with a decent degree. But then I came away from painting altogether for a long while. After many years of lip service to a sometime return, I recently picked up a brush again on something of a mad whim. The move was precipitated by my proposed crowd-funding campaign, whereby I felt I needed a unique selling point for my reward bases.
The responsibility of this pledge drive produced an adrenalised terror that prompted me to spontaneously charge my credit card with the cost of oil painting materials – an act that generated contradictory emotions: the guilt of improvident spending coupled with the long-forgotten joy of worthy acquisition. I justified it to myself with the assurance that at times like this one really must spend to gain.
So, in the last couple of months I’ve made considerable headway creating small works for partial rewards that may also appeal to those primarily interested in my musical output. They are all oil paintings on board and box canvas, (so far) no bigger than 10″ x 10″. I intend to create a reward option for the commission of larger works, however.
Although it isn’t strictly necessary, having a theme or subject in mind before approaching any creative endeavour makes the act of commencement easier – for me in any case. A college mentor of mine used to say (and probably still does) that in terms of making work, “it’s the easiest thing in the world to stop”. The converse and contiguous assertion is it’s (one of) the hardest thing in the world to start – the old fear of the blank canvas.
Although, prompted by a pragmatic consideration, this new beginning was also in part fired by my indignation upon learning about a fracking proposal made to the Irish Government by a multi-national conglomerate called Star Petroleum. This proposal to speculate for oil reserves off the coast of Dublin Bay is currently being reviewed.
As a coastal dweller, and someone who has always considered Dublin’s bay to be its shining feature, not to mention as a local sea swimmer, this proposal parented some very real and dreadful visions. The proposed rig would be positioned just off the Kish bank, within easy reach and view of Dalkey Island, sight-able even from my beloved Forty Foot bathing place. I love our cold and mostly storm-grey waters and all of the wild lives that fish and frolic in them. The thought of this visual blight and looming environmental threat is scary and abhorrent to me. So, I decided to paint about it.
And it’s surprising how available these wild lives have been in my pictorial memory. The painting I’ve shown above is one done completely from recall, without any associated visual reference. I have used photographs for some, but the seals of Bullock Harbour have got me by the bullocks – it seems those etched and ancient characters are psychically engraved, down to their impudent whiskers.
Where painting is concerned, both Dios and El Diablo are in the details, so I thought I would post some close-up photos of the work’s minutiae. Here’s Mister Seal’s head in close-up:
The oil rig of nightmares in bigature:
And finally, the distant headland with a (why not) yellow Martello (Martyello?) tower:
And so it goes: that’s the first post of my finished works of which more will follow over the coming weeks. Because they are small they’re not excessively laboured but this has brought an expedience and decisiveness to the work. And yet there is still the magic of paint, that allows the working over or working back (with the medium of turpentine). So no mark is ever wasted.
No mark is ever wasted.
I think that might be a good life motto – if you can think of your life as a series of made marks and you as the brush-holder. Sometimes it goes tits up but as long as there’s still more paint in the tube… different and new media…. a fresh piece of ground when the last one is finished. Until the last bolt of canvas is worn through from the working back and over, we should all make a point of bringing to mind what we have made and making it call for small celebration. Because the devastations take care of themselves.