Thursday, December 31, 2009

Notes from an Easel-part 60-The Passenger

It feels oddly fitting that this should be the final piece of 2009. A fiery grinning skull, emerging through brimstone and steam from a black hole tunnel, on track-as it where. My wife came up with the title-'The Passenger', which also holds more than a hint of sardonic irony since its something I am no longer prepared to be.
If the noughties began with the heady promise of a new, spectacular life, which they delivered by degrees, then they have collapsed beneath the weight of my own expectations. I am so done with being undone by my own disappointment.

2010 then-and perhaps its setting oneself up for further disappointment from the offset, but I am going to anchor the years turn to the churlishness of resolution.

Which seems as good place as any, to wish everybody a safe, happy and prosperous Twenty Ten.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Head Candy-Old Scores at Years End.

Generally I avoid year end reviews,so hungry am I by this point to look forward rather than back, but in the limbo that is Christmas and New Year, I feel the need to purge the last twelve months with what amounts to a final enema.

2009-In which my 42nd year never really got off the ground. It didn’t really have a chance if I'm honest, stillborn from the first, working in the most toxic environment of my career as a graphic designer, for
what barely constituted a wage.
By the median of the year I was emotionally exhausted and hoped to fare better as a gun for hire, little anticipating a diminishing economy and a string of con artists and time wasters who would ravage my accounts and my patience further. By mid November, it was clear I no longer held an appetite for the vocation that has been 27 years of my life.
Still, if there was a sterling silver lining, it was in the fifteen or so shows I exhibited at this year-notably at the Hive in LA and my debut at Comiccon. And whilst I can’t boast huge purchases at any of my openings, the few token sales felt like a triumph when they did occur.
There were other personal highlights, from the twenty days respectively that I spent with my children Thom and then Emma, to the trips to Sequoia and Big Bear with my wife.

In my friendships too, there was a turning point, distinguishing those who are merely fair-weather acquaintances from those who honestly care. I have no time to give to those who only take anymore.
I saw my dear friend Nedda marry our new friend Aaron in a beautiful ceremony, and we acquired a new cat called Ronin, who is a demon with an angels face-albeit a furry one.
As with the whole of my life, my art has been a haven from the travails, a journey with all of its own highs and lows that never dissipates, whatever is happening. Of the dozen or so pieces I produced this year, I think three of them are my best work ever-defining a voice for myself and a direction which has felt elusive throughout my life. If there is a shortfall, it’s the same one that vexes me every year- the never ending search for a break, recognition, a living.
For the moment, I am content that this wretchedly disappointing year is coming to an end.
Here is the ever alluring Kate Bush from 1980 singing December will be magic again to celebrate:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Notes from an Easel-Death of Winter new painting by David Gough

Title: 'The Death of Winter' (2009)
Size: 15" x 30"
Medium: Oil on canvas

Inspired in parts by a recent sabbatical to Big Bear,the cold dystopia of Cormac McCarthys 'The Road', and the result of listening to Brett Andersons 'Slow Attack' album continuously, it is a counterpoint to all those Kinkaid style depictions of cosy Christmas card scenes, and relates symbolically with the end of the solstice, the death cults relationship with seasonal transition, and the intangible feeling one gets of ones own mortality, looking across a frozen lake in the clutches of winter.

A number of signed prints are available in a variety of formats:

Death of Winter Prints

Friday, December 18, 2009

Notes from an Easel-57-Death of Winter

Despite the finality of my signatures flourish, I shalln't be able to tell if the piece is complete until it's dry. Diffusing the black point's to grey, really gives it a nice depth of middle ground. I'm pleased-its a rather delicious counterpoint to the candy-cane, force feeding of the seasons sentiments.

That said, I am not completely, curmudgeonly about the graces of Xmas, so to set the mood, here's something cooler than chilled eggnog- Bowie and Bing singing 'Peace on Earth, Little Drummer boy' back in the good old days of 77:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Notes from an Easel-56-Death of Winter

Brushes are growing threadbare again, and a journey to the art store to replenish my fine sables is one of the few things that hinge on me completing the piece in time for the solstice. I find myself in that plateau place where my hunger to progress to the next piece is making the completion of this one feel like an epic struggle.

Unrelatedly related, I read something artist Terry Rodgers said in this months Juxtapoz, about the difference between American and European audiences being that the latter are a little more comfortable with difficult subject matter. Speaking of Americans he says that they 'live in an isolated fairyland and are subjected to amazing religious-based fantasies.' I can concur, although his penchant for painting large photo realistic scenes of debauchery set his mettle a
little more in the camp of extreme than my own, it's something I've contemplated a lot of late. For all the peer back slappery I enjoy, I am still not commercially in favor here. It seems all about becoming a name and a gimmick, and perhaps it being the season, I am feeling the draw of Europe because of chronic homesickness, but I do imagine that my art would sit more comfortably in a gallery in say-Vladivostok-than Malibu. The grasp of the human condition is simply surfeit here, the enduring grasp is for the superficial, the contrivance of emotion without feeling-that thing of being constantly connected through Twitter without ever connecting, the paranoid narcissistic horror of aging annihilated by the bronzed skin pulled back across every botoxed cheekbone.

I get lost in the romantic notion of living and working in a studio loft in Berlin or Amsterdam, and wonder if I could make more of a living from my art, in a place where the ravages of suffering are written in the pockmarks and shrapnel pits of the landscape.

Unrelated, I had to laugh today when I read about a progressive church (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) in New Zealand, whose vainglorious attempts to appeal with the unholy masses, extended to a billboard that has the church up in arms (when aren't they) and would give Ron English a run for his money:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Object D' Art-Eliza Rickman

I first became acquainted with Eliza Rickman's very unique musical prowess when I was showing at the Hive earlier this year-accompanied by a miniature piano called a Schoenhut, and looking like a beautiful Burtonesque, Victorian, porcelain doll, her fragile allure belied the set that followed.
Kicking off with a potent version of Dear Prudence, she sounded somewhere between the mellifluous tones of Mary Hopkin and Siouxie Sioux, fed through a worm hole that plays the balmy side show static of tinkling pianola. This was to be no obscure karaoke act however, the retinue of songs that followed-with self penned titles such as 'Black Rose', 'Lily Love', Over Cold Shoulders' & 'Cinnamon Bone', revealed a delicate, haunting quirkiness to sanguine themes of bittersweet longing and friendships past.
She also posessed the kind of bohemian black eyed enchantment of every willowy French girl who ever sat outside a cafe clutching a Sylvia Plath novel that I was captivated by as an art student, with the exception that this lady had acres of true talent, actually read all of those books and was and is a true starlet in waiting.

Guild the Lily-her debut cd is available to download, and she is also playing here at the Ruby Room in San Diego on the 18th of December.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Notes from an Easel-Death of Winter work in progress part two by David Gough

There is something 1970's panoramic about this piece-my mind keeps projecting Hockney, Led Zeps 'Houses of the Holy' LP cover, and the backdrops of 'Watership Down'.

As a kid of that era, it's all too telling.

Despite the fact that the scene is from Californian vistas of Big Bear, there is something really parochially English about the work.

As a kid of that country, it's all too telling.

Another thing, as simplistic as the composition appears, distinguishing the indestinguishable has been a tremendous challenge-trees obscured by a blizzards guaze have meant rendering oil paint as thinly as a watercolorist-layering in light washes.

I'm getting there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Head Candy-I design for life

I scanned an article somewhere recently, that said in times of great economic upheaval, artists flourish not financially, but creatively. The edict being one supposes, that freed from the constraints of commerce, the floodgates of Dionysian proportions are open. Given that I feel like I've been tapping the vein and catching the mainline to subconscious central for a few months now, I can concur that my creative spirit is high on the cocaine of the palettes whim, whilst I am literally on the bones of my skinny arse. Not for a want of the work however, no-nothing so more mundane than a stream of delinquent debtors, stretching my patience and my accounts to dust.
Madmen indeed.
Even on such dark days, the small act of working a few strokes on canvas, on something as ephemeral as a snow flurry or a clutch of scrawls in my sketchbook can raise my Titanic, reminding me that I was born to be an artist. There go I but for the lack of a living.

What a treacherous year-the shows are wonderful,heady even, but the betrayal of never selling anything leads me gaping over the precipice of ever wondering if at 42, the dream isn't just that-a dream. When I wonder, does one come to the cul-de-sac end of realising the devils of ones own failure? Smell the bitter coffee of defeat? I imagine when rejection siphons the soul of its last vestige of hope.

I recall something of an in joke at one agency I once worked (although they all merge into each other now) which went something along the lines that when ever there was a shortfall for a decent strap line, the words: " Time for a change:" would be a well placed warhorse.

Indeed-food for thought, but not on the table.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Notes from an Easel 53-Death of Winter

Fridays are my only concession to the mundanity of the working week, which is only ever punctuated in the evenings by occasional ruminations at my easel. On other days, I still feel like I'm merely faking it, a Sunday afternoon hobbyist inauthentically posing as the real deal, because the drag of scratching for a living at every other time, leaves me with a clutch of hours, fighting total exhaustion late into the dying candle of the evening.Fridays I afford myself the afternoons,locked in my studio-five hours of uninterrupted contemplation of paint-its like a enema for the soul.
With, the wintery timbres of Brett Andersons latest offing, en loop in the distance, the paint flowed like alchemy-I'm loving the new piece so much, it touches the innately unpronounceable chasm of living with a knowledge that someday it will all end, the awe of the nature and the passage of time. I can't wait to finish it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Notes from an Easel-Part 52-Death of Winter

Having laid down a light wash, and distinguished the details, I started to work in the background because I feel that as with the Valley piece, the geography for this piece,carries the same weight as the message. Previous deaths head pieces have been more informed by the concept, the background seeming something of an afterthought, although not entirely.

Its a process I'm learning to embrace more and more, I think for the longest time-perhaps too long, I've held a general mistrust of the real, believing that feeding entirely from the subconscious was the purest form of expressing-that to draw from life somehow diluted the idea. I still think that's the case-certainly with someone like Dali, the more technically he drew from the real, the less his work seemed informed by the surreal, but for me it feels like the work is becoming more cohesive and focused, evolving a germ of an idea into an entirely different animal. Its hugely exciting, and I've even taken to carrying a sketchbook everywhere and sketching, which always felt like somehow an attempt to elevate the mundane, but its something I am enjoying again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Notes from an Easel part 51-Death of Winter

the smaller study for this piece has gone through something of an evolution, certainly inspired by our weekend sabbatical in Big Bear, and having seen 'The Road' the other night. Despite the minimalism of this scratchy pencil study, putting flesh on those bones perse, is a hugely exciting prospect for me, encompassing everything I've longed to express about the bleak disquiet of winter, peering into murky icy waters seeing your breath dissipate in the cold air, and feeling the goosebumps through your soul.