Monday, 30 January 2012

Barney the Springer

Barney the Springer - Oil on canvas panel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

This is a painting of Barney, a Springer belonging to friends. This is part of a commission. I also painted his pal Danny (a Border Colly).

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Life with Picasso by Françoise Gilot – Book review

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – January 2012. 

I have read several books by and on Picasso, but “Life with Picasso” by Françoise Gilot shades a very different view on the artist’s life.

Françoise Gilot, as painter, brings an artist’s view on Picasso’s life, like the photograph Brassaï did when he published a book on his encounters with Picasso. She can give an accurate description of Picasso’s technique for paintings, lithographs or sculptures.

Sunday Times' article reproducing the interview from the Sydney Morning Herald

The striking difference with Brassaï’s knowledge of Picasso is that Françoise Gilot was one of the women in Picasso’s life. She lived with him from 1943 (when she was 21) to 1953 and they had two children together: Claude and Paloma Picasso. She also left him. As she put it in an interview she gave in 2011 to the Sydney Morning Herald: “I am the only woman who didn’t sacrfice herself to the sacred monster.”

On the artistic side, Picasso acted as a mentor to Françoise. He would set her some exercises and direct her research in new directions. She admired his great focus and commitment:

“One of the qualities I had admired most about him was his intense power of self-concentration to unite and direct his creative energies. He attached no importance to the facade of living. Any roof would have suited him, so long as he could work under it. He spent no time on "entertainment": we almost never went to the theater or the movies.”

This intimate portrait of Picasso shows a deep apreciation of his work but also describes how manipulative and cruel Picasso could be.

Pablo had a prima donna attitude to life. He liked to have people around him and be the centre of attention. A notable exception was his relationship with Matisse. Both men showed mutual admiration and respect. Françoise Gilot explains it clearly in a few words:

“Pablo had almost a reverence for Matisse because Matisse's manner reflected an inner balance, a calm that brought peace even to a man like Pablo. Also, I think that Matisse had eliminated from his thinking any sense of rivalry, and this made their friendship possible.”

The book contains some interesting quotes from Picasso. Here are two examples:

“God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He has no real style. He just keeps on trying other things.”

“If a sculpture is well done—if the forms are perfect and the volumes full—and you pour water from a pitcher held over the head, after it's run down, the whole sculpture ought to be wet."

Related resources and articles
Buy the book

Other blog articles on Picasso

Friday, 20 January 2012

Notes on sculpture - Henry Moore

Henry Moore, Large Four Piece Reclining Figure, 1973, cast bronze - San Francisco

“It is a mistake for a sculptor or a painter to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work. By trying to express his aims with rounded-off logical exactness, he can easily become a theorist whose actual work is only a caged-in exposition of conceptions in terms of logic and words.”

Henry Moore, in “Notes on sculpture” (“Writings and Conversations” – Edited by Alan Wilkinson)

The Book

If you are in the US (Amazon affiliate link)

If you are in the United Kingdom (Amazon affiliate link)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

From cards to labels

You received plenty of Christmas and New Year cards from friends and family. Comes the time to take them down. Stop: don't throw them away... they can have a second life as labels.

A few labels from this year production - Abstract and stylized designs work well

I just use two card punches I found in a craft shop. The first one (below) cut out the label.

I then use a second one to punch out the small whole for the thead.

These labels are large and good for presents. But you get the idea and possibilities are only limited by your imagination: smaller labels as price tags, large labels used as "thank you notes", etc.

Friday, 13 January 2012

David Hockney – A bigger picture

David Hockney has a new exhibition title A bigger Picture at the Royal Academy in London.

The big pictures are made of multiple square canvasses painted on site by the artist. He did this first for his 2004 exhibition. The exhibition also features a few pictures from the sixties.

David Hockney is a special case in the art world: he is a representational painter in an era where conceptualism gets all the hypes. He is proud to paint all the works by himself. No assistant holding the brush… His painting is anchored in tradition. Like Constable, he goes outside to paint. Like Monet, he captures the seasons and comes back time and time again to the same spot in Yorkshire.

David Hockney is far from retrograde. He makes good use of technology:

  • for his large works composed of multiple canvasses, he uses a computer to see the whole picture as he could only get ten pieces at one time in his studio.
  • He has been painting on his iPad® for a long time;
  • He also put together a battery of nine cameras mounted on a car to capture a global view of the Yorkshire countryside. He got the idea from the way he built larger pictures using nine canvasses (three times three).
David Hockney gave some interviews around the show. In particular, he talked to Andrew Marr on BBC4 Radio. Here are a few good quotes from this interview:

“I am interested in depiction, meaning what does the world looks like, what we think it looks like.”

“An artist can support hedonism, but he can’t be a hedonist himself, because artists are workers – by definition they work.”

“Things look green when you are looking at them here but on a bigger scale, it is a calmer green isn’t it? It’s a herd colour to use a lot of. (…) Turner avoided greens. Abstract painters don’t use green, because it evoques landscape.”

Related resources

The page of the Royal Academy for David Hockney’s exhibition

David Hockney’s official website

Entry on David Hockney in Wikipedia

Start the Week with Andrew Marr on BBC4 Radio: David Hockney Special 26 December 2011.  Andrew Marr visited the artist David Hockney at his studio in Bridlington.

Books on and from David Hockney

If you are in the US (Amazon affiliate link)

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford

Secret Knowledge (New and Expanded Edition): Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters by David Hockney

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture

If you are in the United Kingdom (Amazon affiliate link)

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford

Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters by David Hockney

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My new temporary studio

Here it is: my new temporary studio. We moved house just before Christmas and, until I get a proper studio built in the back garden, I will use the conservatory as a temporary studio.

It's great to have a space where you can leave the work in progress on the easel. It is a little bit cold at the moment and I look forward for the day becoming longer to get more natural light.

As you can see below, my art supply, frames and framed works are stored in there for the moment. I need to hang a few pictures in the house and get the storage organised.

The view into the back garden is nice. However, my table is turned the other way, so I don't get too distracted.

I will need to do some research on building an artist studio and I will share what I can find on the blog.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Contemplation - Oil on canvas panel (8" x 6") by Benoit Philippe

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy 2012

I wish you all a wonderful 2012, full of art, artist friends, great art exhibitions and all you wish to accomplish.

After a pause in the last part of 2011, I am returning to a more regular schedule for painting and posting. See you all on the blog. Happy new year to all.