Saturday, June 20, 2015

Official! Painting Commission - The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons

I am very happy to say I have received a painting commission!

It will be the Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, which is this painting:

on this piece of wood:

As can be seen, the canvas presents some interesting challenges in terms of execution: the 'canvas' has a few fissures, including one that's 2 or 3 inches long. As well, the surface is not even - creating a lot of interesting texture that can be an obstacle when a lot of detail is involved. Thankfully, this particular painting is not as heavy on details as many others of Turner's, such as the Battle of Trafalgar:

my version Battle of Trafalgar on old barn door

The commission is a housewarming gift for a woman who is a great Turner scholar and talented painter in her own right. She has this to say about the Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons:

"Turner has a unique way of capturing how lovely a fire can be. He always has signature bands of smoke and long streams of light that create amazing colors and movement! '"
A great way to see this is not only from the painting itself, but from many of the watercolour studies for this painting and other fires that Turner created, and which live at the Tate:

 From Turner catalog:

"The present Tower study is notable in being the only one of the nine to incorporate gouache: a touch of white is combined with scratching out to render a bright light through a window of the towers silhouetted towards the left. This may be an effect Turner observed or imagined, or perhaps the report caught his attention."

 From Tate catalog:

"This one of the most atmospheric and least detailed of the studies, but there are slight indications of the cuboid, turreted form of the White Tower to the right of the centre, suggesting that the view is from the north-east.
Addressing the sequence of studies in the context of the traditional former 1834 identification, Katherine Solender felt that the ‘fluid colours’ of this work, D24849 and D27852 ‘suggest burning architectural forms within an atmospheric setting, but these cannot be related to the fire at Westminster with any certainty’
From Tate catalog:

"Addressing the sequence of studies in the context of the traditional former 1834 identification, Katherine Solender felt that the ‘fluid colours’ of this work, D27848 and D27852 ‘suggest burning architectural forms within an atmospheric setting, but these cannot be related to the fire at Westminster with any certainty’.1 " 

From Tate website: 

"Here Turner appears to represent the roof and clock tower of the storehouse relatively intact, with crowds picked out at the edge of the moat at the lower left. The roof and clock tower fell at an early stage, and this study is possibly a fanciful view of the fire at the point when it was spreading from the Bowyer Tower, where it broke out, to the roof. On the left in the distance appear to be buildings on the near side of St Katharine Docks to the south-east." 

 From Tate website: 
Addressing the subject in the context of the traditional former 1834 identification, Katherine Solender nevertheless noted that this and another of the studies (D27846) ‘contain shapes alluding to classical architecture’, with ‘suggestions of columns and entablatures more closely resembling Greco-Roman structures than the British Houses of Parliament’,1 comparing them to the Turner watercolour, probably of the middle 1830s, known as The Burning of Rome (Tate D36232; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 370), inferring the possibility of an ‘allegory’ of political decay.2 The close-set vertical features seem rather to be the narrow brick walls between the Grand Storehouse’s tall windows, with the pattern of alternating fire and brickwork repeated as reflections below. In his extended catalogue entry for Turner’s painting The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons, 16th October, 1834, exhibited at the British Institution in 1835 (Philadelphia Museum of Art),3 Richard Dorment presented a sustained interpretation of the this and the other eight watercolour studies in terms of a sequence reflecting the topography and chronology of the 1834 Westminster fire; he noted crowds watching along the bank.4
Fire at the Grand Storehouse of the Tower of London 1841 Watercolour on paper
 From the Tate website: 
This watercolour study was originally one of nine consecutive leaves (D27846–D27854; Turner Bequest CCLXXXIII 1–9) in a sketchbook. They have previously been documented with varying degrees of certainty as showing the 1834 fire at the Houses of Parliament beside the River Thames in central London, but are here identified as representing the similarly large and dramatic fire which broke out at the moated Tower of London on 30 October 1841, destroying the late seventeenth-century Grand Storehouse (see the Introduction to the sketchbook for detailed discussion). This is one of the least architecturally defined studies, but the White Tower may be shown just to the right of the fire, south of the incandescent Grand Storehouse, and there seems to be a hint of pale buildings receding beyond the moat to the south-east on the left. Compare the equally elemental treatment in D27853.

 From Turner CATALOG site: 

"Here, the tall windows of the Grand Storehouse are lit by the fire within, and are shown from the north-west across beyond the moat and the dark masses of the outer defences. The composition is comparable with that of Destruction of the Small Armoury in the Tower of London, on the Night of 30th Oct., 1841, a lithograph after William Collingwood Smith (1815–1887) published on 8 November 1841, and the similar view in Destructive Fire at the Tower of London. October 30th 1841, a colour lithograph after J.L. Marks, a more graphic, unsophisticated rendering, enlivened by agitated crowds and galloping horses (see the Introduction for other comparisons between Turner’s studies and contemporary prints)."

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament c.1834–5 Watercolour and gouache on paper
The Turner catalog does not go into detail about the above sketch, which is a pity, because it looks just fascinating. The gouache adds a remarkable amount of white detail. In particular I love the dark masses on the top left and the bottom right. The crowds and details of the building are very apparent. A wonderful textured layered effect is apparent everywhere.

What I saw above demonstrates the way he can accomplish such luminosity, even with watercolours that did not use gouache. One obvious way of accomplishing this was through adding that remarkably heavy, dense dark blues and greys so that the areas he left white or washed over with yellow really stand out. This was occurring in all these sketches, but in particular the last two I posted really demonstrate this to me. Many more sketches, some just in charcoal, exist on the Tate website and I may have occasion to discuss them later.

This will be the first time in three years that I get to work on one of these delightful Turner works on wood, so I am supremely excited. The nice part of this one is, since I will only have one to work on, and a few weeks to prepare it, so I will have some time to really plan it well. I may succeed in achieving a depth of process that was only approximated when I was needing to churn them out within a 10 or 15 hour period! Hopefully I will not be working on it at the dead of night!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Potential Wood for New Turner Project

I am as I had stated before prospecting the possibility of working on a new Turner reinterpretation on wood. The painting to be done is called The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons 

This painting in particular looks like it has a very compelling history. It was not part of my original 93 because it does not belong to the Tate collection, being instead housed in Philadelphia. Gives me something to look forward to, if I'm ever in that neck of the woods.

Now I have to sample the sorts of wood available for the project

We picked way many more than were necessary, but figure a choice is a useful thing to have at times. Clearly due to the nature of the medium, the shapes are a bit weird, but there it is. I will label them all by number so they can be referred to in that way. Warning also that it tends to look pretty unappealing when it' not appropriately prepared, but that a lot of potential is available. The wood really is best when seen in person, no getting around that

1) clearly a piece of barn or something 47" x 7.5"

2. This one has a nice eye in it, as well as ragged edges 31" x 10"

3. this piece of wood has 3 nails sticking out of it! It can be removed, of course
It also has a very rough working surface - 28"x 7"

4. this one has a light blue coat on the back of it - 2 are like that, actually - 28"x 7"

5. this has a very promising shape but posibly too long - 24"x5"

6. this one has great texture, and is bowed on the other side - 29" x 7"

7. This is a very special piece of wood. It stands on its own. and is a pleasing round shape. Measurements are for biggest area - 15.5" x 13 x 5.5

8. This one is really super special - it is made of weathered plywood found in the river, which has created great shapes and colours to it. It actually has sort of a burnt appearance. At one point Jim burned a poem onto it: "Any man who hides secrets in the closet of his soul will have a basement full of terror in his psyche - to soar his life to the heights of his dreams, he must somehow set his secret free." It is very subtle and almost invisible, but it is there. 22" x 16"

9. This is a fun wedge wood - I love working with these round shapes. The dark is moisture stain as opposed to fire/charred. Still some bark attached to it. 15" x 11"

10. This one has funny fissures and is not quite flat. Also in general a smaller canvas. Fun to work with, though, probably. 17" x 6" on longest edge.

11. This is the 2nd one that has the blue paint on it. Also a fun fissure on the short side. 28" x 7"

12. This is a great one that is probably too square, but is old barn wood. 11" x 10"

13. This is another fun one that stands on its own; it also has a flame-like shape. 10" x 12" x 2"

This is the best of what we could find to be available.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lots of Weird Turmoil, a Change of Pace, but Always the Art

This blog looks remarkably sad right now, but a series of unfortunate events beset me sometime between December 9th and April of this year - in no particular order

1) user error meant I ended up deleting a chunk of photos which I used both in this and the blog - this is what happens when a person relies too much on Google +

2) a house fire the day after my birthday meant that the hard drive where the photos were stored, as well as the paintings themselves, not to mention the stuff we need to live day to day, ended up a bit sooty though blessedly undamaged, and now is all housed in a storage disaster area

3) a weird winter frost made our car drive off a cliff and, aside from almost losing life & limb, we almost lost a vehicle. Blessedly, neither of the above was the case.It was not fun times though. From what I hear, many people had ice/winter misadventures this year

4) the various venues where we were doing our art selling, throughout 2014, dried up or went away - and that includes Hot Springs. Meanwhile while this was occurring Jimbo & I transitioned to making a living off writing, which all became a convenient segue that the writing came in just as the art was heading out. I made a halfhearted effort to create & promote an Etsy site, but my heart & talents do not reside in the promoting realm, so I was happy to let it go. One of the last places we sold was the Marshall Farmer's Market, and even though I still am in charge of the website upkeep, the distance has made us not sell again there this season.

Some good things too, though:

1) as stated, we were able to successfully produce various writing pieces for a project of Guardian Media, Contributoria, thanks to reader support. Our very textual, political, and informative output can be found here and here

2) a wonderful patron came to visit us a couple of months before the fire and bought ten of our larger pieces. This is a wonderful art collector who used to be established in Asheville but has been living in Portland for some time.

3) we have found a wonderful new home in a commune situation in Bat Cave NC where I have once again found an opportunity to explore nature, gardening, etc.

4) in spite of having been the world's worst promoter, I have received interest from the internet in viewing the Turner project!! Very exciting, just to hear from a new friend of art, and to know that there's hope and life for a project I had placed in the back burner, though not completely abandoned.

5) in a wonderful full circle/closure to living in Marshall, Elizabeth Topper, the artist who bought some raw wood from us a couple of times & the first time right at the time of this Turner painting project, came the very week we were vacating the blighted property at Riddle Farm Rd/Hwy 25/70 for good, and purchased more raw materials.

We still have lots and lots of the coolest wood on earth for sale, of all shapes, sizes, and for all purposes. We are storing the raw wood with a friend in Madison County, but will most likely soon consolidate it all towards a storage unit somewhere

6) I have had the opportunity to work on two barn quilt successfully already - these are those lovely quilt blocks one sees on the outsides of buildings now & again. Am successfully finishing my 2nd commission of these. The fun thing re working with these is that they are very geometrical, therefore all the creativity functions in terms of colour combinations. I also like that a predetermined set of lines, and established patterns speak to a larger quilt canon. This is my convoluted way of saying "I enjoy working on these, y'all!"

As can be seen, I am still in the drawing phase. This one will be 2x2, and I've yet to hit on a colour scheme, but I hope it ends up as lively and interesting as the other one.

I am charging $250 for this, and I have found that my prices are very competitive because I do not place a limit on colours or patterns available. If anyone is interested in having their own quilt barn - or in buying wood, as mentioned earlier - please leave a comment.

One of the last times Jimbo and I had an opportunity to set up as Marshall Artists (which is the rubric under which we had been operating, as many in Hot Springs and West Asheville know) was at a recent fun event organized by Move to Amend & REAL Cooperative, called the Corporate Person Birthday party - we made one princely sale though, probably more importantly, we got to share our vision and message with plenty of likeminded folk. Some pictures to follow (until I manage to delete my G+ folder again, ha ha)

minding the booth

a very interesting bus

happy birthday corporate personhood!

Jimbo with his epic hair!!
that interesting GMO car I've been seeing around town for years

So, in the end, it has been a fun & interesting time. Hope that everyone's doing great, and would love to hear from some folks!