Sunday, January 31, 2010

What makes a painting...a Painting!


Sorry, I've been a bit busy...filming a pilot in Bangkok that may interest the airlines. If you are signed up for my newsletter it'll be in there along with a heap of other stuff that we've been up to in the last few weeks. This IS going to be a busy year folks!!!
Now back to my book and what makes a painting..well a painting! Something that is very much in  my line of fire these day.....

In other words, the psychology of connecting to the viewers emotions.

 …….and here


a psychology based on respect, honesty and relevance.

What ALL my Paintings have?


I’ve selected these 2 from many to drive home the point of honest painting- paintings that keep faith with the origins and purpose of art yet are contemporary and fresh.

They are both simple figurative paintings depicting an everyday event.An event that man has practiced over the last 14,000 years.

Their appeal is to almost anyone and everyone. The story is passive and commonplace-one that is known to everyone. Each offers multiple connections to viewers from all walks of life.

In no way are the messages challenging, tumultuous, marginal, obscure, extreme or sensationalist.

Does that mean then these paintings would be condemned by mainstream art gurus? Yes and yes again. I painted both and found joy and excitement in doing them. I thought about what I wanted to paint, then what was to be included and for what purpose and then the mood I wanted to impart.

Did I think of the viewer? Not really. The mere fact that I lead a life much like others and enjoy the simple and honest things in life is enough to tie me to society at large. My life experiences are much like everyone else (perhaps moreso) and my passage through life much the same as others with events, loves, moments of despair, occasions of extreme excitement, challenges, passions, mortgages, taxes, school fees, football, holidays and so on. Just like everyone else.

This is where these 2 paintings and all others I do have their origin and connections.

If I wanted to use my painting skill for political purposes or to challenge religion or highlight an hypocrisy I could, but I just haven’t seen the need yet. It doesn’t mean I have no axe to grid about such issues-I do, and very fervently so-but not to the extent that I feel the compulsion to paint the conflict.

Does this mean I haven’t matured as an artist or as an individual whereby my conviction must find expression in paintings as well as words? No, it’s just that I feel my passion of belief best expressed in words and action rather than art-at this stage. It’s a bit like accusing another who believes strongly in an issue lacking true conviction by not walking the sidewalks with a protest banner! What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another? There are many ways of ‘skinning a cat’! Maybe in the future I will paint my political objections and become a societal activist artist. Some artist do this, some don’t. Some people walk with a limp, some don’t. Just because it’s fashionable and politically correct to walk with a limp or not doesn’t mean that I am wrong not to be part of that movement or cause. My convictions or my personal sense of honesty guides my actions. Not the pursuit of recognition and peer approval. So I paint honest paintings.

The two paintings above are honest paintings. They depict scenes with which I have close affinity and empathy. I have seen both and liked both and want to paint both. That they connect to others is comforting and supportive. It  reassures me that I am part of the human race and not one man out- not that I need that, in any deep psychological way, for those who want to query me and go in that direction. It is simply good to know.

If the connection is such that the viewer wants to live with it and separate it from me and asks me to give him or lend him or he chooses to buy it then so be it. That action is an action in isolation and is part of another process- generally known as the market process. A sale doesn’t detract from the honesty of the painting-as many would like to see it.

The act of acquisition has its own set of circumstances and influences totally separate and independent from the inspiration, conceptualization and process of painting.

For the mainstream drive-by gurus of art, art that is honest and sells is somehow less, while art that connects to the few and the extreme is somehow more. It the end the final arbiters of what is valid and worthwhile to society is determined by society and not a handful of  marginal misfits who propagate and celebrate the extreme. For those of you out there who have trouble with where art is take comfort in the fact that honest art survives the test of time.


There is respect in both paintings. I respect human endeavor and dignity. I respect where we all are now, how we got where we are and the gift of life. To paint anything that fails to treat humanity with respect is fundamentally flawed.

That the endeavor in the beach painting connects is because it is accurate to the particular endeavor and the related circumstances -boys netting and catching fish and generally having fun as a group with a dog with interest from circling seagulls. I have done this and seen it done and been on many beaches like this so I am familiar with these circumstances and events and feel qualified to accurately  and faithfully depict such a scene with due respect.

By studying the behavior of marauding beach birds and their actions with fishermen I can faithfully construct an engagement composition that is realistic and valid. By studying the actions of laying out a net, preparing to net, setting a net and generally handling a net I understand and can accurately depict a scene where individuals are attempting to net fish from a beach.

Each posture conveys an action directly related to the process. I respect that posture by being faithful to its correctness for without that the process of catching fish by netting would be flawed. The action would be wrong and so to would be the painting. It would be no more than a parody.

It is incumbent upon me to respect the subjects by being accurate in detail and in action.

To paint a seagull flying up side down would be a glaring mistake. As an artist of integrity I am letting down the many great artists of the past who have given their life and time to developing the science of aesthetics to the point we are now. To paint a seagull up side down is to be disrespectful to my forbearers and to the science of animal behavior as well as my fellow man. The running dog in my painting is faithful to the actions of a dog in full flight-the legs are correctly positioned in relation to each other, the neck and head is correct in extension and size as is the sweep of the torso and the streamlined tail. And he is correctly enacting a scene common to a seagull and a beach dog.

There is due respect to each element in each painting. The man who builds my house respects the science of construction and complies with the protocols therein and builds me the latest high tech dwelling my budget will allow. 14,000 years of experience in construction is guiding him. And I get the result of that. He goes about his work with respect for the science, for his fellow workers, the client and the budget. Just as I approached the young lady with the geese. There is accuracy and respect for the young lady’s figure and my painting of her, accuracy and respect for the geese in terms of their position near her and the suggested direction of their wander plus accuracy and respect for the mood as set by the colors associated with a setting sun.

The exciting part is to be able to do this with verve and a sense of spontenaiety such that the accuracy and respect is seen as that, but is in fact a series of finely tuned well thought out accidents. An impression in other words. But first and foremost we are as artists the visual technology carriers of 30,000 years of learning. What our individual contribution to society will be  is largely determined by how well we have absorbed, understood and been able to synthesize this information with the circumstances of living today.

Too true....on with the show.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Truth V's Rubbish....

1 comments we beg the question, what is art or painting in I sound pretty serious in all this and I am but its 3 years since I wrote this and I am a bit more forgiving now...just a bit tho'!

So I’m going to try to put sense back into art. We have got to have order, steps and a grid to advance. We saw in the previous section that to construct an assembly of marks(=painting) with merit, we need to do it such that it has a clear capacity to connect in a logical, rational and understandable way.

The science of art is like any other discipline. There are rules to be followed, skills to be learnt and challenges to be overcome. Same as learning to drive a car or studying to become a brain surgeon.

Becoming an artist is no different. Imagine applying the methodology of ‘new’ vision art which has as its fundamental starting mandate -‘expression through emotion’ to the surgery of removing a tumor on the brain.

Situation in hospital operating room:

Doc, “Wow, I feel good today, Sally found her lost ring and the little green frogs have returned to our pond and the cat ran such funny circles this morning…I think I’ll try this surgery with my new fishing knife rather than the old scalpel as I’m feeling sooo.. good, and maybe go in thru the ear rather than the regular way because its more exciting and I feel so up and away….and so much part of nature and in touch with the throb of life….and”

..and…well that’s sort of where these people are! And I don’t care what they say to defend themselves-that is where they are and what they are. Away from reality and all bullshit!

To counter that and to put you on the right track I’ll dismantle that big fog machine that the wackos have been using for the last 80 years and show you a clear, uncluttered and easily understood way forward.

I’ll show you and how to build a painting-step by step.

Plus I’ll show you how to make it grab the passerby. Grab attention through logical rational human behavior rather than through exploiting sensationalism, extremism and the way out. I’ll show you how to put ‘connection’ back into painting.

As I review this now, 3 years after starting this book, if you want to see the translation of this notion of 'connection' from a written assembly of words to a video take a look at the romantic

That these people have been allowed to get away with this nonsense for so long and have it included in the school systems of the world amazes me. Art based on dysfunction, the weird, the outrageous, the crazed has its place(?) but to institutionalize and embrace it as the mainstream is a distortion and a fraud on the masses.

If our ancestors of the caves of France or our modern day aborigine artists of Australia were taught this as the fundamental for image making they would see it for what it is-absolute rubbish. Image making to them(=painting), and the many others who have such passion, is a serious business with important spiritual and philosophical fundamentals.

Human emotions and behavior is closely linked to stimuli. To distort or discard the rationality and logic in the stimuli is to distort the direction of individual life and, in a wider sense, the community. The aborigine never approached the process of making marks-whether it be on cave walls, bark hangings or body decorations with confusion. Every mark had a meaning anchored solidly in who and what they were as projected through their rich and unique mythology together with their recent life experiences. Art, or the making of marks, is as important a part to the life of the aborigine as the air they breathe.

When an aboriginal artist paints a kangaroo or fish he does so with deep reverence and respect. It is given acknowledgement and origin. It is executed with care and deliberation. Subjects have meaning. They connect at many levels and over time beyond the artists’ life. The artist is part of the philosophical and evolutionary process and respected for this.

The greater his skill at giving imagery to the processes and meaning of life the greater his stature and memory.

That art has been hijacked by a band of ‘Johnny come latelies’ is a travesty of order and an insult to the present generation and an even deeper insult to the past generations and every other artist who has approached the craft with ‘due respect’.

The ‘Bullshit Brigade’ of ‘Johnny come latelies’ claim to embrace the noble origins of imagery with lengthy wordy analyses and appreciations of the past art while at the same time extolling the great virtues of emotionalism in art. On the one hand they recognize and acknowledge the importance of philosophy and spirituality in art while on the other singing great praise and celebration for fleetingly transparent quirky imagery that has roots non-other than, ‘how I feel’! Hypocrisy, of the extreme. And it doesn’t matter how many times I look at a hole cut in a roof of a State Museum and titled ‘ Passing Clouds’ it is flimsy, childish, irrelevant imagery and an insult to the public.

So we are going to go back to some basics in imagery or mark making and try to communicate with honesty, reverence and respect with the imagery we produce. For if we don’t base our art on these criteria we are no better than the fakes with the fog machine! Touché!

………this is where we are heading...........

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Croc infested waters..and art


 Ok still they say 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'...well that simply acknowledges the fact that we all see things differently...but how differently is the intriguing question....

What if 100 intending bathers looked at the assembly of marks individually and 90 returned to the shade of the trees instead of entering the water? The message got through is the answer-for the 90! The other 10 went in the water and became dinner. The message didn’t get through in this case. The maker of the mark failed to project his marks to their reality. His message was lost. Of course if 100 Martians had never before seen the mark ‘STOP’ they would have all gone for a swim. Work that one out!


Whichever way we look at an assembly of marks, the fact that it exists tells us something-it exists- but no more than that.
If we then connect, in some way, it earns merit.
If it connects in many ways it earns greater merit.
If it connects to many viewers, in general, it earns even greater merit.
If it connects to many viewers, in general and over time, it earns greater merit.
And the connection has to be logical, rational and understandable.

Now lets take this into painting and discover a few truths……

True Painting V’s the Bullshit Brigade!
Connecting with honesty, respect and relevance.

Wherever I turn I see paintings that confuse me being celebrated while those to which I am drawn, derided and belittled. Blobs of paint extended and  interrupted by bicycle tread marks, overlaid with pieces of cow hide with half a monkeys skull suspended above it on fishing line with surround sound from an obscure Tibetan musician –all in the name of art confuses the hell out of me and brings insecurity to my urgings to create.

These offerings of ‘art’ need to be put aside and ignored. They have effectively marginalized 99% of the population and given the name of art the smell of rotting fish. The craft of assembling marks that have meaning, are logical, rational and understandable has been hijacked.


The science and forms of aesthetics have been kidnapped by crank-pot wackos at just about every level of art. The school systems in most western countries are a fraud. The greatest disservice a parent can do for their creative child is have them enroll in art in secondary school. A couple of years of  art wackoism from a failed artist posing as a teacher of art and a champion of  the enlightened ‘new’ vision will sidetrack, just about forever, any chance Johnny has of doing something about his gift of being able to draw anything ‘like it is’!

 You may care to comment on some of this as we are heading into areas where individual preciousness will emerge and I'm sure some of you might get a bit upset by where I'm going...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Once more into the breach dear friends, once more.....

OK, back into this know one reason I claim this book to be the book to end all books is because its PRACTICAL and LOGICAL and based on KNOWN HUMAN BEHAVIOR as I have found it over my lifespan of 145 years.....or so it seems....

Now let’s explore a bit further.

Pic 1

Long curved lines, short compact marks, rectangular shapes, angled lines, semi-circles stroked on with warm light grey, dark blue grey, black, pastel blue then left thick and some thin makes the assembly energetic, pulsating, vibrant and random to the eye. But does it communicate anything? No. Does it exhibit skill and knowledge of the craft? Yes, there is certainty and sureness in the marks and in their application. There is strong indication of a skill hand. The assembly seems to have a message!

Pic 2

The dominant mark is the line. Drama is created by intersecting lines rising and falling to the right. Some thick and some thin, some weak some strong. The backdrop is bland and relatively lifeless with seeping coolness imparted by a changing soft blue/grey without definition.

Short marks and dots of white, high yellow and blue impart a sprinkle of light energy. There is no message.

Pic 3

More marks of variety making for large blocks of a dominant color. Again the shuffle of grays in the background hedged in from the left by thick vertical lines composing a rectangular area of a middle tone blue grey. The deep grey yellow is composed of a series of marks aligned in an off the vertical direction left to right. Short lines of blue and white haphazardly break up the uniformity. Nothing is communicated. But there appears to be certainty and purpose in the execution and control of the diagonal high key yellow separating the dominant yellow area from the dominant blue area .The seems to be meaning in a greater projection of what is shown.

Pic 4

Ah hah! The 3 pictures are part of another painting. In isolation the three groups of marks convey no comprehensible message. They are a jumble of marks without clear meaning. If each was framed, lit and given pride of place in an important location there would be an inferred value awarded by its embellishment however there would be no value through the painting’s propensity to communicate a clear message.

When viewed in a total context these random extracts make sense and have recognizable meaning as they join with other marks. They become marks with a purpose. Each and every stroke on the canvas had deliberation, thought and direction which only become apparent when viewed at a distance and in total. Had the strokes not had these qualities the painter would not have succeeded to the extent he has in communication with his fellow man. The greater the knowledge, skill and dexterity the person who makes the marks has the greater is his skill in soliciting an emotional response from the viewer.

Hold on-is that right?

Here we walk back into the crocodile infested waters again. Can the skill, dexterity and knowledge of the stroke maker be that good, or that bad that his assembly fails to communicate? At what point does it change from good to bad, or bad to good? The answer is above. In the 3 outtakes I sought to find merit and meaning. I identified what I thought were aspects both technical and emotional but discovered nothing that connected to anything I could recognize or relate to. There was no emotional response to any part of my life-reality. If I was disposed to finding, in my imagination, some sort of meaning then I suppose I could-if I was so disposed!

Let’s go a bit further and look at some marks on boards that could be one form or another.

This mark has meaning STOP- Crocodile Infested Waters

This mark has no meaning $^8H )+bRQ mmmmY KUYTR

Yet it means the same thing- according to the maker of the mark!

It doesn’t matter how long I look at that as a picture(assembly), on a board attached to a stick in front of me, and the clear blue water it is sitting in, it doesn’t give me enough meaning(=warning) to prevent me from going into the water for a dip! Even if I was the best symbologist, code breaker and art critic in the world any meaning I was to extract from the marks would have no meaning unless that meaning prevented me from entering the water.

So there is a point where bad mark making is simply that-bad mark making; doesn’t matter if the marks were technically well done, showing great skill and dexterity. As an assembly there was no relationship to any circumstances or experience that would cause the viewer to respond by not entering the water. Of course this is predicated on the assumption that the viewer is not suicidal!

Maybe the message is partly revealed with the ‘mmmmY’ being somehow a code for ‘STOP’, in which case the viewer might not enter the water. In other words a connection is made and a response is solicited- an association is made between ‘mmmmY’ and the water in which the board stands. So the mark has relevance. But only if our viewer doesn’t enter the water. In other words the marks must generate a response that is logical, rational and predictable.

If another viewer was to happen along, look at the assembly on the board, shake his head and enter the water what can be said of the person who made the mark? If 100 people were to do the same, what can be said of the sign maker? Whatever is said of him would be the same irrespective of the apparent skill and finesse he had executed the marks with and irrespective of the adornment surrounding the board!

Did the message get through, that is the question?

Well...its getting interesting now and I hope you are enjoying the direction I'm leading you....

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 2nd....survival its called!

Well I hope some of you liked that episode. If you had trouble seeing it all let me know! There's a couple more done that are pretty handy for entertainment and to pick up a few hints on my painting technique. Let me know your thoughts on this one if you have a moment.

Anyhow, with much difficulty I survived the slide out of the recession wracked 2009 into, the hopefully more promising, 2010 with a slight hangover! Those around me did much the same with much the same outcome to their personal well being. So its into a new year with power, purpose and promise!

Ok, first its another installment of that chapter in my book. This book is the book that it claims to be. Believe me. The real drive behind being a successful artist is being able to connect to others, visually. And that gets down to understanding human nature-specifically, the psychology of human behaviour.So the parts I'm putting up at the moment are a prelude to this nitty gritty material.

Here we go.......

A horizontal line (1) for example is associated with a stationary or sitting image and a feeling of tranquility while that same line turned on its end in a vertical position (2) suggests impending activity and a feeling of confidence, steadfastness and pride. Shapes like squares, circles and triangles likewise suggest other feelings and evoke another set of emotions. The square (3) is masculine, abrupt and mechanical while the circle (4) is feminine, passive, and a symbol of harmony.

Even how I have filled the shapes in suggests something. The variation in stroke length and the switch in angle is associated with activity and energy. The tempo of association imparted by the shape can be altered by the technique of blocking in! Every mark has a meaning.

What do we make of this? Is it uphill or downhill? If your first language is English it is uphill; if Chinese its downhill. (English readers read left to right while Chinese are right to left.) If this is a defining mark in a painting the painting’s meaning can be affected depending on the language orientation of the viewer.


These marks in full assembly constitute a drawing of a friend of mine-Spanner; simple case of marks working together. There is energy in the message though, through the variation of length, angle and weight of the marks. The marks were done with a black pen. The tone was pretty much the same for each mark left by each stroke however by working the density of the marks I was able to shift the tone and thereby create shape and contour and give definition where needed. By staying with one instrument of one color and thickness I limited myself to exploring the subject by moving across only these 2 properties.

By going into color and using more tools the possible interpretations of a subject is expanded enormously. All the properties are explored. The only limit to the assembly is in the skill, technique, knowledge and imagination of the painter.

More later.....