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A cosy natter

I needed to change the size of my canvases. Working on  a set of ten 41 X 56 cm canvases to suit the spaces where I am going to exhibit them later this year is a corrective discipline  because I feel more comfortable with larger formats.  Half way through the series this was a break out and the width seduced me into painting a group of people. The group itself came into being as I sat back one evening with my sketch pad  just letting lines  shape themselves, then got reformulated in the different proportions of the canvas.


I started by thinking of them gathering for a coffee, but then I thought they would have  wanted to indulge themselves a little bit, so a half bottle and three 125 ml glasses appeared on the table. I won’t tell you who these three are, they know…


This is the last appearance of the cat because he died as I was painting this. He will be pleased that the red rug which he liked to sit on made an appearance too, even though it has never been worn like this.


Although I have been making pictures since I first picked up a crayon, it wasn’t until I went to secondary school that I took art seriously. My art master once wrote in my report that I would become a good artist if I would “forego the easy wins of the modern masters.” Well, here I am still referencing the ochres and blues of Picasso and Braque that had caught my imagination, as you can see.  The women were going to be dressed in punchy colours so I did not want to use neutral tones for the space around them; I started with the ochres dividing the picture roughly a third and two thirds vertically  to imply a corner space and then went over to the dresses of the three ladies before working on the blues of the carpets and the shadows.


The other ghost  I feel haunting the composition is Otto Dix, whose work I first saw at the same time as  I was copying French Cubists in the Art Room at school. I have said before that German and Flemish Expressionism have strongly influenced me and that may in part be due to the pictures I could see when I was on holiday. Cultural choices offered, in retrospect, were interesting. The British Council offered Laurence Olivier as Henry V and talks on Morris dancing, the Americans wowed us with tall blondes  in skimpy costumes on skates dancing on ice, which really was sensational when it was 45C at night, but the Germans had the Goethe Institut which had an amazing collection of books on German painters.


Chauvinism, sex or painting. Look where we are now.


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