Drone II

How might it feel in my home town if we walked under constant surveillance from a kilometre in the sky?

If those remote eyes guided missiles?

If any male over 18 years were defined as a legitimate target?

If any gathering of more than three people were viewed as terrorist activity?

How might we live our lives, buy and sell, celebrate and mourn, work and learn, protest and be free in fear of sudden, targeted, guided but blindly lethal attack?

How much or little might our society have to change for this to be thinkable?






Experimental drawing: shards

The chosen reference for our experimental drawing workshops  is the work of Anselm Kiefer.

His work is carried out on a large scale, constructed thickly with paint, clay, ash, straw, metal, glass and the written word.  The images constitute a dialogue, perhaps more an argument with recent history, art and culture.

Responding to his art challenged me.  Paint combines with solid materials stuck to the surface.  Is this collage or mosaic or painting or a display of found objects?  Are the components iconic or, like individual pigment granules, devoid of individual symbolism?  Other than scale, what distinguishes this art from a child’s picture of glued autumn leaves?

In my first layer, I blocked in a silhouette of my home town in acrylic rose and phthalo green.

Weeks then elapsed.   I returned with toolbox, a hammer, glue, white porcelain plates,  bark, feathers from a predated corpse and tarmac gathered from a surface disrupted by a root.

I suspended the shards and granules in a sea of glue and swept into shapes using a plastic blade.  In my mind, there was a direct link back to this earlier work in charcoal (https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/swarm/).

Two more weeks have passed since.  Paint and glue has dried.  This week, I spent some time drinking coffee, just looking and thinking.  Then I tried to recreate and expand the obscured cityscape, painting into and over this surface.  I will post that next layer sometime soon.

I have only seen Anselm Kiefer’s paintings as photographs.  I cannot find an example displayed in the UK although the Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland seem to have archived a number of pieces.  I did not know of him earlier in the year when work was exhibited at the White Cube.  My knowledge of him to date is largely gleaned from the internet, including http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anselm_Kiefer

Fine artist Chris Wood comments below and introduced me to the work of Julian Schnabel.  I post the link here so anyone else interested in this theme can follow it.  http://www.julianschnabel.com/category/paintings/plate-paintings

Experimental landscapes III: between breakfast and homework

Bridging the gap between breakfast and homework this morning, we folded a piece of purple typing paper to create a book with panels as numbered pages.

Unfolded, we took turns drawing a continuous line across the panels aiming to create double pages in the book from the discontinuous panels.  We began with a dinosaur theme but the middle pages got hijacked by a fairytale castle and somehow the last ones became cityscapes.  We wanted to colour it quickly and the paper would not take paint, so we used thick chalk pastels, too big for the job.  No finesse here.

I refolded it, sewed the spine and cut the pages .  Here is the sequence of pages, with pretentious words added.

This quick game was based on the method suggested by Greg Poole and described in the last post.



I arrived in the class last week with the sounds and images from the London Underground imprinted on my brain.  Straight away, I tried to depict these is charcoal and paint, as shown in my previous post.

However, this meant that I neglected the works begun the previous week (https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/chicago/).  In the last half hour, I was encouraged to go back to these and work in a new layer.  Painting upside down (the picture, not me) I picked out and strengthened pre existing textures and tones.  I tried to maintain a balance between abstract and illustration.  Here is that next version, still drying.

The reference point for all these recent works has been a book of the work of John Virtue.  This British artist works only in black and white, eschewing even greys, building land and cityscapes in which recognisable features emerge from smoky abstraction.  Google images have a great selection to peruse.  I found a page in an academic blog which sets a landscape by Virtue in the context of his contemporaries: http://paintingowu.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/some-contemporary-landscape-paintings/

There is much more to develop on this theme.


These sketches were done in the two hour class last night.  They are still drying – I took these shots on my phone.

The constraints put on us were to use just black and white, avoiding half tones.  I built in heavy charcoal and then put in white gouache and cheap acrylic ink that had settled like swamp mud at the bottom of the jug.

At this stage, I am just exploring shapes and tones, contrasting painted white, white pixellated with carbon, the virgin white of the untouched paper and the bone white scars left by shredding the surface.

I used a photograph as a reference.  I think I was looking west up East Wacker Street.

I’m back in Chicago in a few weeks.  I’ll bring charcoal and brush.


One summer, when I was a student, I rented a room in the attic of a vicarage.  Answering my own sense of isolation, this seemed a grim outpost of the empire of bleak.

When I first came to enquire, the landlord, an ex-naval chaplain, refused to receive me until the end of Banns Hour.  We sat in silence, for there were no couples seeking their banns to be read.  In that joyless place, I doubt there were ever couples attending during Banns Hour.

The atrium of that building held an ornamental table on which sat a very large ornamental pot.  It was filled to the brim with rubber bands.

From the train, this part of London appeared still as it had after being re-modeled by the Luftwaffe.  Grey narrow streets were surmounted by a huge residential block with sparse slit windows like loopholes in the walls of a fortress.  This image stayed with me over many years.

Recently, I tried to capture this, setting the weight of the opaque paint against the grey transparent watercolour.  However, the balance I saw in my mind’s eye was only achieved by digitally manipulating the brightness and contrast.

Here is a further attempt, now setting the distant tower blocks against a dark sky.

I had been brought back to this, strangely, by a recent news item.

That summer, I resolved my loneliness by rejoining the Labour Party.  There was a by-election and we fought against the odds against a bitterly homophobic campaign.  Three decades on, I read that the winner of that election and now long-serving parliamentarian was wishing a happy 60th birthday to our unsuccessful candidate.  A few years ago, he had apologised publicly for the tone of his winning campaign.

Why is this of interest?  I read with increasing amazement the way in which the Republican primaries appear to being fought over narrowly defined sexual politics.  In the UK, I think and I hope that electoral polarisation over such issues is confined to the dustbin of history.

mmm … on reflection this sounds smug, like I’m suggesting UK politics is somehow better than democracy in the USA.  That’s not my point – both systems are much more complex than this.  It is simply a narrative – the coverage of the Republican Primaries made me reflect on changes in UK politics over my own lifetime.  Along with a picture that had some distant relevance.

Its just a blog, right …