Friday, 25 September 2009

Self Portrait

A THIRD DECADE BEGINS! And in need of some "proper" painting practice, I decided to set my last day of twenty-nine in oil paint. I have painted three self portraits in my life, as well as a few drawings, and mainly do so because I love to paint people and their faces best of all, but have not had any other face than my own that would sit there patiently long enough! I paint from a mirror, and, I have just noticed, always seem to sit at the same angle, probably because I'm right-handed. I leafed through a wonderful tome - 500 Self-Portraits - full of artists' depictions of themselves from antiquity to modernity, and was inspired. Here are a few of my favourites:

(click to enlarge)

1. Vincent van Gogh. 2. L.S. Lowry. 3. Albrecht Dürer (at age 13!). 4. Rembrandt van Rijn. 5. Hans Holbein. 6. Filippino Lippi. 7. Käthe Kollwitz. 8. Vincent van Gogh. 9. Gwen John. 10. Edgar Degas. 11. Giorgio Morandi.

Such beautiful work, that I could only hope to emulate. My recent attempt I am fairly pleased with, and thought it might be interesting to compare it with my earlier self portraits!..

Rima Staines - Self Portrait at age 18.
Oils on board

Rima Staines - Self Portrait at around age 24.
Oils on board

Rima Staines - Self Portrait The Day Before Turning Thirty
In A Garment Of My Own Imagination
Oils on board

This last is painted on a piece of hardboard with no undercoat, and I've purposely left it rather scrubby. I took stage photographs which I thought folks might be interested in seeing..

(click to enlarge)

I wear a "garment of my own imagination" - made from all the faces of characters that fill my world, drawn in pencil..

And here are some close ups..

It is a strange thing stepping into a new decade. In our heads I think we all feel around the age of 21, or thereabouts, the age at which we got to some inner point of knowing ourselves. As I age I find that the age of others has become pretty irrelevant to me, which is quite in contrast to the aeons that seemed to separate me from older children in the class a year above me at school.
It is just another day after all. And a splendid day I had! My mum sent me a home made birthday cake through the post, there were beautiful cards and gifts from friends old and new, and Tui and I took good food and wine and lamps and a blanket down to the woods for a fire, to see in my turning One Score Year And Ten...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A mountain song for my wordless son

I HAVE PAINTED a new painting, four inches tall this time, and containing the most bent of bodies I have yet portrayed: A mountain song for my wordless son. It is made on the slice of wood that lay directly up the branch from the slice on which the blackberry wedding pendant was painted.
I cannot explain what it is about, see in it what you see...

There was a sitting-up-til-midnight to finish all the Telling the Bees artwork, which is now swimming amid the cogs at the printing mill. It is always lovely to make a work for myself after working on a work for somebody else. But I've started to go cross-eyed with these ever diminishing paintings, and get cross with the tiny hairs of the paintbrush that at this minuscule level seem like tree trunks to a beetle. The next painting will be bigger!

*POST SCRIPT* Prints available here.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Acorns and Blackberries

ALL ALONG THE LANES the brambles are fruiting. In between jagged stems burst little black juicy clusters, each day bearing another nearly ready berry. Our long walk to town is slowed by these waylaying roadside treats. Some blackberries are small and still too sour, others fall apart to a sauce in our fingers. Some are crunchy with seeds or beasts. For the perfect king berry, hardest to reach, we must compete with feasting wasps. Some say you shouldn't pick blackberries after Michelmas (29th September) for the devil comes down and wees upon them. Perhaps we should make a blackberry crumble soon.

And I have been painting, a tiny work, wrapped around with blackberries for an approaching autumn. This is a wedding pendant, commissioned by Anna and Justin who we met at a fair. They are to be married this month and wanted a tiny painting for her to wear on the day. It measures about 3 inches in height and will be worn with a forest green dress. On the back I painted their initials and the date of their happy day (All full of nines like my own date of birth!). There's a smoking rural cottage and hills, and in front of it a two handled lovers' cup. I hunted my books on folklore to find a nice image for a wedding, and found that two spoons on a saucer means a marriage approaches.

Blackberries are not the only fruits in my work of late. There are acorns in the album artwork for the second Telling The Bees album which I have been working away on busily with my 0.3mm pencil. Most of the main drawings are done, but I still have all the smaller work for the interior to do as well as knotting it all together with words and layout.
For those of you who haven't seen it before, you can see my work for the band's debut album here. We were delighted to finally meet Bees' songwriter Andy and his missus Nomi last week as they travelled past our Dartmoor field with bagpipes and mandolin, and tea and biscuits and talk were enjoyed.
This time the artwork includes a sort of wayfaring musician, coming out of the forest, who is at the same time some old oaky symbol of England. He carries a barrel organ / cabinet of curiosities, that displays an object for each song. I shall leave those discoveries until the day when you hear the songs. They are delightful. On the CD circle leap those three hares again.

I found this oak berry and leaf in the grass here the other day. Though the trees are still green, the morning airs feel different. We are remembering the time of year when we used to light fires before breakfast, and can smell the leaves thinking about browning. I always find the turn of this new season hits me like a memory of all past autumns in my life. Soon I will turn thirty which is a bizarre thing indeed...