An open . Monday November 30. 2015
Reproduced from the ‘Our Community‘ page in the top menu.
I’m writing an open letter because you’re almost impossible to find. I think it’s vital that the environment in which we live contains art. We have plenty of places to eat. We can drink buckets of coffee. There are lots of shops where we can buy provisions. We have great pubs, enough accountants and enough solicitors and many estate agents. We all live together and share this locality.
What we have very little of is Beauty in our environment. Why not do what you can to make this place look better. Little things matter a great deal: just take a look at what Terenure Office Supplies do with their fabulous window displays for the children around Christmas and other significant occasions during the year. Magnificent. They deserve our full support.
This does matter. This activity brings joy -and that’s what will motivate people to turn up to our village centre and maybe even buy stuff -or rent our vacant properties!
Here in Terenure, (and indeed all over Ireland) we have lots of empty commercial buildings. Some have been vacant for many years. Why not use Art to show how a village could look? Just a thought. Use Art to create a buzz around the place. Show how the buildings look when in use and lit brightly. Give something back to the people who we rely on to support the businesses in our locality.
Take a moment to think about how it could be if we all pull together. Of course, I’m asking that this be done as a community service. I don’t have any money to pay for premises. I hardly have the money to pay my own mortgage; I just have my art, my enthusiasm and great connections to many wonderful, joyful artists with global reputations. I’m willing to muck in and organize a fantastic show for nothing; including sourcing print, putting together an opening party, publicising the event and manning the show for the duration of maybe a month. Will you muck in?
Have a look at the splendid video below, produced by the wonderful Sophie Spendel who’s over from Holland, a country where they celebrate creativity and beauty and community activism. It’s hard enough when the economy bursts -and then the clouds burst above us as they’re doing as I write. Why don’t we just celebrate life? Create something to see that takes us outside of mundanity? That’s why we work, isn’t it? To fund our lives outside of work.
I didn’t set out to write a letter like this; I was only going to have this page for the video but I became moved to do so after so many rejections and expressions of indifference. We owe this to ourselves, because we all have to live here. It can’t be that difficult.
086 247 0737
6 Pack Dublin City from Sophie Spendel on Vimeo.
The best place to start with a project like this is the café. Rathmines, inevitably; in the calming surrounds of Café Moda. Of course I forgot my sketchbook, so I had to run in to the Swan Centre to find a cheap one -and a pen.
This is more or less how I approach any applied art project. I used to just write lists of words which may or may not lead me to an idea. In recent years, I find this a better way of generating at least something. In the end, I went for a bird theme with a peacock, as you can hopefully see in the third picture. I’m in an avian groove! I should start tweeting a bit more…
I used a posca marker for that white line. I felt I needed to see how it will work at full size on the instrument itself. As you can see, it’s now completely covered with a spay-coat. This will just serve as a toned ground on which to work.
Oh and by the way, I’ve just invested in a new airbrush! Yup. I had one many years ago when I used to paint murals on scooters. I just can’t remember what happened to it. I most likely left it behind when I upped sticks and left London in 1988. Strangely enough, I brought the compressor with me, which I still have. Bananas. I’m going to use the airbrush for the general shapes in order to keep the job as flat as possible. The detailing will have to be done with a brush -but I’ll be using Golden liquid acrylics which will stay pretty flush.
When that arrives sometime next week, I can get down to the real work.
Do comment, if this project interests you; I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I received a communiqué [well -a comment] from somebody who asked why I’d stopped posting to this blog recently. ‘Tis true -I have only posted seven times in the whole of this year.
The reasons for my lethargy were that I thought no-one was reading this stuff, for a start; so that’s one reason! It’s truly gratifying when I discover that someone is listening to my outpourings -especially when the comments are as cheering as yours. Thank you.
More importantly though, I’ve been through some challenging times, shall we say, along with many. First, a sudden and dramatic fall-off in editorial illustration work forced me to rethink how I should be directing my efforts; and really about how I should be living my life. What’s true is that I had become increasingly dissatisfied with life as a jobbing illustrator and there are several strands to this: The constant but fruitless promotional efforts [I had a database of well over a thousand two hundred names that sat in my computer ever accusing me of not contacting them].
The work that I really enjoyed ; illustrating for the Irish Times Business on Friday section was cut and I was left with one last editor who had the authority and desire to buy in my illustrations. However, the editorial approach was too heavy-handed for me and I gave it up. The only ‘work’ I enjoyed doing was sketching and posting them up on Creative Ireland
The reality is; the problem has been mostly me. I don’t like being told what to draw or paint. Sure, most people who dislike their jobs just turn up at their workplaces and do their daily duties but the whole point of striving to be an artist is that you mustn’t compromise your soul and that’s what I was doing. I’ve been involved in too many projects where some cardboard-brained pillock has taken over and ruined a good idea. Furthermore, I’m brutal at negotiations and almost always short-change myself. The one piece of advice that I can offer to those wishing to make a profession of their art is: Don’t make your hobby into your job as I did. A good artist is an amateur in the real sense of the word. If money comes in as a result of my artistic endeavours, that’s great -it’ll allow me more latitude for art.
The upshot of all this navel-gazing is that I started teaching painting in my studio. That’s my day job. I turn up to work four times a week on two days and earn my wages. You can take a gander at my Art Classes Ireland
site, if you like. In fact, teaching ticks many of the boxes for me:
- Time. I work 12 hours a week -the rest of the week is mine, to do as I please. That includes the following: Painting my own compositions; taking on an illustration project from decent and respectful clients; staring out the window of a favourite café; playing the fiddle; doing raised-leg farts; organising paintings for exhibitions; thinking; farting while jumping up in the air and clicking my heels; catching up on my neglected blog[s]; meeting colleagues in cafés -and jointly staring out of the windows.
- I meet great people -my students come to me because they like my work, so they want to be here.
- I now know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing on two days of the week -that hasn’t happened for the last fifteen years. I’m the last person who should be left to organise my own week!
- Choice. At long last I feel that it’s an easier prospect to reject offers of work by clients who I know won’t suit me.
To finish; currently I feel about as happy as I could be. I’m painting for myself. I’m not so pressured that I snap at my family. Sure, I don’t have much money but I have abundant other riches. I’m awash in a sea of love rather than swamped in the corrosive bilge-water of commerce.
Thanks for asking. How are you?
I’ve just read Marketing Magazine and saw the reference to Michael O’Doherty’s Sunday Times interview. I didn’t read the original article unfortunately. O’Doherty is quoted as saying that the one thing he’d change in Irish tax system is the artists’ exemption. “Seriously”, he’s quoted a saying, “why is it that someone who writes a crap book doesn’t have to pay tax, simply because they have a beard, whereas a team of well-groomed people who produce a brilliant magazine, do?”.
I do suppose that the man was joking [although it does start with the word ‘seriously’] or else that quote would win the Double Take accolade for being, witless, peevish and ignorant all at once. I do understand that people who pay tax regularly may feel aggrieved that a whole section of the workforce seems to be treated favourably [including myself; I’m a registered artist under the exemption scheme although I do pay tax on some work]. O’Doherty’s glib comments aside, it’s worth examining the system as it stands. First, the scheme for the much greater part, covers people whose income would not rise to the level where it would be taxed, anyway. [There was talk of capping the scheme: Here’s a quote from Visual Artists Ireland’s report on how the scheme has been adjusted: “The scheme therefore does not represent a cap of €250,000 on the artists exemption scheme but rather a cap on the percentage of total income that can be exempted from tax which applies to those who earn over €250,000. High earning artists whose total income is comprised of up to 50% of creative earnings and 50% of non creative earnings (from performing or merchandising for example) will not be effected by the new proposals no matter how much they earn. This is a significant difference to the implementation of a straight cap that was initially reported.” The likes of U2 are always thrown into the ring as an example of how this system is unfair but anyone working at that level of income has the motivation and resources to move their taxable status anywhere around the world.]
Art should be different from commerce; it shouldn’t follow the same rules -ie. produce at best cost -then sell for best price. Each artistic endeavour is only ready when it’s ready. Inordinate amounts of time and effort and research may go into a single production which couldn’t be charged for with at any reasonable hope that costs may be recouped. Paintings stay on easels for months or even years being re-worked, sculptures remain unfinished, plays undergo constant rewrites, all because it’s about a process which culminates in a finished unique work. It’s all about the endeavour and not about the pay-off which for the large part will never come. If the bearded artist’s book is crap, there’s a good chance it won’t sell; however, if the bearded artist’s book is brilliant, there’s still a good chance it won’t sell. In most cases, Beardy has to continue working in the day job -and pay tax.
Artists, live in the hope that one day, the fruits of their creativity will be appreciated enough to provide an income, or even just appreciated. The Irish tax system allows artists some hope of remaining as artists. Now imagine Michael O’Doherty of VIP, producing magazines month after month for years on his own before his magazine is recognised for its brilliance, merely because he felt inspired, thought it was important and he needed to put it out? Then, after a period of modest success, it falls out of favour with the public who have moved onto something else, with no other reason than the public is fickle. Most artists produce work for long periods of their lives without ever earning a living from it.
Further to all that, this visionary system attracts foreign talent that combines with our own, hopefully creating an environment that increases the cultural capital and therefore, the international profile of this country. We have to compete, culturally, with countries that plundered many of their treasures from defeated peoples during imperial wars. In comparison, I prefer the way we’re doing it. Under this system, Irish-born artists gain by having outside influences arriving at their doorstep, rather than having to leave these shores to seek them out. The fact that there are a few extraordinary and lucky characters that have risen to stratospheric levels of income is just the price we have to pay for this generally excellent scheme. And you may even find that they pay a certain amount of tax anyway.
All this is true, provided that art means something to you, of course. If all you really appreciate is superficial splendour and the trappings of financial success, then I could see your point.
Personally, I find that since the cabal of recent governments and business have made such a hames of the economy during the credit bubble, we need authenticity and creativity more and more. It’s through art that we can transcend the dreary repetition of day-to-day living and through creativity that we can control something in our lives. In other words, art is vital.
Being shown the gracious interiors of celebrities’ cribs and the revelry of the well-heeled month after month was always a somewhat vapid proposition and now seems somehow matted with irony and just a little embarrassing.
Finally; what’s wrong with beards anyway?
I’ve branched out somewhat and commenced painting classes in my studio. My inaugural class was last Tuesday morning when I had six students along and I started them off painting a single apple. My aim is to keep compositions simple, with perhaps a single object.
I’ve seen many students in art classes, who may not have much experience, try to take on large compositions and become overwhelmed by the task they’ve set themselves. The philosophy at Art Classes Ireland is to gradually build up knowledge and confidence. The second principle is to have fun while learning -the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial. You can see the Art Classes Ireland web site here
I recently completed an illustration project for Brandever, the specialist brand developers for the global wine industry.
wished to create a series of circa 1900’s fruit wine labels that celebrate the old fashioned style of Fruit Crate Label art. With ten different wines currently in production at this winery, each line would feature a different illustration produced by nine different illustrators, other than me.
This blueberry dessert wine, called Sweet Nothings, obviously suggested a love theme and I sketched out various ‘love’ scenarios, including a Romeo and Juliette scene and swans, the symbol of fidelity.
You can click on the illustration below to see a reasonably sized version of the final illustration without the branding. Once you’ve done that, we can go and sit in my aviary and have a glass of how’s yer father.
In my on-going quest to rediscover the pleasure of just painting, I blundered upon a large and growing internet-based art movement; Daily Painting. Apparently only going since 2006 as a informal, blog-based idea, it works on several levels. It’s an education to see other artists’ set-ups, thoughts and working practices -often along with step-by-step demonstrations and explanations of techniques.
For the artists, it’s an encouragement to practice every day. They can then sell originals by availing of several internet outlets, such as Etsy
or just through the blog itself, with a link to PayPal. It’s a super way for the general public to buy reasonably priced original artworks, with no gallery fees. Most of the resulting artworks are small, since they’re only studies -often around 6″ x 8″.
My own favourite is Peter Yesis’ Daily Painting Practice
. He loves to share knowledge and his good-humour and modesty comes across in his writing. Like all the daily painters, his output is prodigious. Another is Carole Marine’s
. I find her style captivating -a great sense of colour with a beautifully spare technique that belies the amount of skill and work that goes into each piece. For the same reasons, I like the work of Qiang-Huang
For my part, I have set up my own Daily Studies in Oils
blog. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to paint with no art director or client to comment or make changes -just me and a blank canvas. It’s also surprising how different the required skills are from illustration. It’s going to be a long haul but I’m going to enjoy every minute. Now, before the light goes…
Agents Associé, the organisation for French artists’ representatives will hold their first biennial group show in Paris’s Les Arts Décoratifs -a part of Le Louvre complex. I was greatly honoured to be selected by a panel of industry jurists to exhibit three artworks for the show, which is entitled: ‘Les Trésors Cachés de nos Artistes’. In other words; self-promotional, work otherwise unpublished or made purely for the pleasure of creation. The show runs for one week from 29th March to the 4th April and is located in the Louvre museum’s western wing, known as the Pavillon de Marsan.
Above is one of my artworks that will be on show. I’m delighted that this was one of the chosen pieces. It was created for the promotion of the Illustrators Guild of Ireland in a postcard campaign -and it also won the Best Self-promotional Illustration gong for 2006. It fits perfectly into this exhibition and gets the message across: The craft of illustration needs a superhero to join the battle against the depressing mediocrity of stock imagery; and who better than the childlike Pencil-Boy, the Hand-made Hero?
It’s also interesting to see the difference between the French and Irish attitudes to illustration -even amongst industry insiders such as illustrators and agents. There’s a much greater acceptance of illustration’s cultural significance in les payes francophones [perhaps it’s true for the rest of Europe, though I’ve little experience on which to draw]. Go to any French bookstore or hypermarché and there will be an abundance of bandes dessinées on display. There’s a thriving publishing industry of graphic novels and an appreciation for the artists who produce them -with an important festival dedicated to the art in Angoulême. I’ll come back to this topic in later posts. It’d be interesting to have an exhibition of bandes dessinées in Ireland; perhaps our own mini-Angoulême. Would that interest you? Hmm?
Meanwhile, Marie Bastille, my representative in France is currently very involved with organising the Trésors show -great credit to her. Vive Pencil-Boy!