The Last post for Two Steps Backwards “Finishing Touches.”

You can find me on Twitter: @ruthrandom


Finishing Touches.

“If you want a happy ending, that depends of course on where you stop your story.” Orson Wells

In the beginning…at the start of the blog I could only think about the next post, blinkered by embarrassment, I kept my focus on drawing, unable to give much thought to the blog as a whole or as to how long it might take. By post #3 I was hooked and the blog began to take on a life and purpose of its own

“I have to keep working not to arrive at finish; which arouses the admiration of fools…I must seek completion only for the pleasure of being truer and more knowing.” Paul Cezanne

When I look back at some of the weird stuff I came out with, especially in the early stages I realise now that the blog allowed a greater mental freedom while enabling a suspension of self-criticism. I took myself in hand much as I would a student suffering from burn-out. The prescribed mark-making soon worked its magic.

“My pictures really paint themselves.” Howard Hodgkin

I liked working within the comfortable constraints of 700 words and 5 images per post, I liked too the research and quote gathering that became part of my weekly ritual. I will miss it. However at times it did feel as though the blog controlled me and that I was having to run to catch up, forever going onto the next thing at what felt like a considerable pace.

“It is difficult to stop one gets carried away; I have the strength to stop, it is the only strength I have.” Claude Monet

What I had never bargained for was re-discovering a deep emotional connection to drawing and painting and an understanding that it is absolutely essential for my spiritual well-being. By post #11, I fell back in love with paint and back in synch with myself and the flow of life.

“Did you stop because it was good enough, or could you have done more – but then maybe ruined it too? Sometimes you finish because you’ve gone too far.” Bruce Nauman

During post #13, I knew instinctively that I was moving forward into uncharted territory which was both exhilarating and fear-inducing. The strange “portraits” need processing which requires time and reflection, the perfect place to stop.

“What do drawings mean to me? I really don’t know. The activity absorbs me I forget everything in a way that I don’t think happens with any other activity…” John Berger

Of course it isn’t really the actual end, just a pause while I take myself off to Lyme-Regis for some reflection and disciplined rule-based working, before starting my next blog: Playing By The Rules. I hope you will still be here when I get back-and thanks for reading.

“In my end is my beginning.” T.S. Eliot


I Can See a Rainbow

“Any colour, so long as it’s black.” Henry Ford

When I said watercolour portraits at the end of the previous post, I imagined that I would paint as I had in the past, a face-to-face intimate two hour session much like these: http://www.ruthgeldard.com/travel-portraits/waterc… and I had someone in mind, my new friend fine actor and all round splendid person, Beverly Hills. However Beverly said no, and after three more attempts at trying to persuade her, I knew she really meant it. I thought about asking someone else but it doesn’t work like that for me, I am a one model at a time person and I couldn’t get her out of my mind, so…I had to find a plan B.

“There is no model; there is only colour.” Paul Cezanne

The blog has lead me back into mark making non-figurative territory and inspired by this tweet by Emily Speed ‘”Creation is impossible if you’re forever looking over your shoulder.” Yup.’ and so I decided to be brave (ruthless even) and try to paint Bev like a musical variation, with colour and pattern-non-figurative but somehow still representational.

“Who told you that one paints with colours? One makes use of colours, but one paints with emotions.” Jean Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

And so I began with small pieces of paper and test strips and lots of thinking hair twiddling and cups of tea. It took quite a lot of false starts but eventually an idea began to form figs. 1 & 2. As usual as soon as things started going well I managed to go off on one (or two) and made some embarrassingly horrible images. I took myself in hand for fig. 3 and kept to the rules and am quite excited by the results. All this has had the effect of my owning the work as my feeling response to the model.

“If one says ‘red’ – the name of the colour – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” Josef Albers

Of course I am still feeling my way in the dark, this is a new departure for me and I realised with a shock that I am not actually going backwards anymore-this is actual new work.

“All colours will agree in the dark.” Francis Bacon

Fig. 4 I felt the need to test this way of working and try again to make a “variation” of another friend, Sarah and this image does feel very different. It also feels like my own work, a free expression, inspired by the model, not dominated by them and not a literal illustration either.

“Who told you that one paints with colours? One makes use of colours, but one paints with emotions.” Jean Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

So, now that I am going forwards, I know that this blog has somehow set me on the right path and helped amalgamate various facets of my practice. I now feel the need to start a new blog, and have found the perfect subject. The title of the new blog is: Playing by the Rules and will be a documented attempt at me trying to work on specific projects to specially designed sets of rules. I am hoping this rule based approach will discipline focus and constrain my practice. I have just read this back and it immediately makes me want to behave very badly…

-describing a minimalist colourist painter…
“He is all palette, and no painting.”
Peter William Brown

This is in fact the penultimate post for this blog-I am going to write a plenary to round off, as the last post. Happy New Year to all!


Back at the Kitchen Table

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” Gaston Bachellard

There is party anticipation in the air, or more accurately P.M.T. party-music-tension. My live-in Technical Advisor is ensconced in his room and having trouble with his mixing. I am painting at the kitchen table, wet-in-wet sploppy, dribbly watercolours, jewel bright and luscious. I have stolen this small piece of time, snatched this moment. I should be hollowing out fifty potatoes, micro-cleaning the toilet and freshening the dog. But I’m not. I am in a blissful reverie, a liquid meditation that pours onto small sheets of watercolour paper. The doorbell, rings daughter and granddaughter appear and charge the air with chatter, seasonal segued music wafts down the corridor, “Not Jonah Louis” we shout in unison. The unattended dog wees lengthily onto the washed floor.

The studio is less important than other things, like the burning desire to paint. If you don’t have this disease, you can’t catch it from a nice studio.” Warren Chiswell

I make coffee and Neskquick, we sit sipping and verbally unpack minor crises. The girls watch the brush moving and the paint spreading outwards in feathery lovliness: Life Blood lll. The pace of the chat slows and watching the process of Life Blood 1V daughter says “Hmmmm…tax discs, nice.

“My studio has a personality of its own. It can be a monstrous clutter from one end to the other or, at times, the very model of simplicity”. Harley Brown

The kitchen table has been nourished over the years with spilt food and various art materials that have leached into its old bones. Like the dog it is elderly and infirm but sentimental attachment prevents us from the relevant terminating options.

“Once in a while I don’t know why the ‘ease’ in easel seems a lie. For there are times when I find more ease holding the canvas on my knees.” John Engle

I have a perfectly good studio and I do use it for special large or particularly messy projects but often end up migrating back to the kitchen, the hub, where life flows along with all its attendant irritants, distractions and humannesses. My work needs this life force to run through it, around it and occasionally to overwhelm it even, but is as necessary as (life) blood.

“I thought the only way you can get into things is… through the basement… exactly where my studio was … I could creep upstairs and snatch at things, and bring them down with me… where I could munch away at them.” Paula Rego

The studio is for reflection, retreat and sanctuary but if I was there all the time I would dry up and my mind would become entirely impractical and float away on over- intellectualised ideas.

“A studio is a good place to smoke your pipe.” Joaquin Sorolla

Of course the studio is a mental space (in both senses!) and can be wherever I am. Since I started painting again all this seems so obvious. My blog did that.

“I am braving the cold again and walking the 100 yards to my studio, where I will turn on the heating and head straight to the nearest cafe…” Brian Crawford Young

A very happy Christmas to you and yours.

Next-watercolour portraits, yes really.


The Joy of Painting

“All art is erotic.” Gustav Klimt

I should say right from the off that this post is interactive and demands your concentration. When reading the quotes, it will be necessary for you to on occasion, mentally substitute the word “painting” for the word “sex” and then all will become clear. In reconnecting with my graphic past, I re-visited all my old painting heroes including Emile Nolde and Schiele whose works on paper I have much admired. With a view to painting again I sent for two books as inspiration. When the Egon Schiele one arrived I was surprised to find his brilliantly graphic and highly erotic images, not the ones I remembered. At the same time my insatiable paint lust kicked in after a long dormant and what has begun to feel increasingly like (in painting terms) a period of cellibacy.

“The artist’s experience lies so unbelievably close to the sexual, to its pain and its pleasure, that the two phenomena are really just different forms of one and the same longing and bliss.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Buying new paints, and poring over paper samples was painfully exquisite and excitement began to mount at the prospect of painting again. I chose a time when I had the house to myself and laid everything out with military precision. And it really is like riding a bike; you don’t lose such an engrained and loved activity easily. I spent the next seven hours oblivious to everything except my hand holding the brush and the feeling of a cycle, previously broken, knitting up and beginning again.

“Sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which they cannot perform for any motive but their own enjoyment.” Anne Rand

These new works were intended to be mark making exercises, process driven but felt more like automatic drawing in paint, where the work seemed to have its own agenda and all I had to do was let it happen.

“Sex is a spiritual experience.” Deepak Chopra

The paintings opposite are a selection of that evening’s work-evidence of my renewed love affair with paint. The works were all constrained by rules in some way like for example the number and length of strokes in batches and the lines having to interconnect and bleed in to each other. However the use of colour was unrestrained random preference.

There’s nothing better than good sex. But bad sex? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than bad sex.” Billy Joel

I used a disciplined approach with the idea that constrained rule based work followed by working with no rules, would enhance freedom of expression. Things didn’t quite work out like that however as the latter pieces (not shown) became chaotic. I still went to bed in the early hours feeling elated and satisfied with a knowing certainty that the flow would come back in its own time.

When people read erotic symbols into my painting, they’re really thinking about their own affairs. Georgia O’keeffe

Today I have a new but very familiar callous that has recently appeared on the second finger of my painting (left) hand, I will make sure that it never goes away again, through lack of contact with pencil or brush.

“When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are the ones between the ears.” Dr Ruth Westheimer


The U Turn Portraits-Part 3

“There are very few honest friends–the demand is not particularly great.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

One of the greatest consequences of the blog and drawing people again, is the realisation that an awful lot of those “people” were my friends. During the four year drought apart from making one or two new uni friends, it is true that in keeping my head down and surviving the rigours of study I managed to temporarily “mislay” some of the old ones.

“ A true friend never gets in your way unless you are going down.” Arnold H. Glasgow

It was an unexpected gift from a uni friend and the stoking up of old memories by the drawing that made me nostalgic for coffee and DM’s (deep and meaningful chats). Hayley (aka cloud girl) was always posting pictures of clouds on FB. The images are amazing and at some point I suggested that they would make a great book, not thinking that Hayley would actually make a book and actually send one to me. It came out of the blue- (no pun intended) on a grey miserable day when I was feeling distinctly overcast. Well-it was like the sun coming out! Each page an ethereal and fiery manifestation ripe for projection-I see Turner and Tiepolo. It is now one of my most precious possessions.

Yes’m, old friends is always best, ‘less you can catch a new one that’s fit to make an old one out of. Sarah Orne Jewett

Fig.2 Newish friend Timandra relaxed which enabled me to-no posing just chatting. It is interesting how when someone isn’t posing, they might move around a bit but repeatedly fall back into habitual and familiar (for them) shapes.

“Friendship is a harmonious blending of mutual, private bigotries.” Edward Ashenhurst

Sarah one of my dearest and oldest friends (the friendship part not her age) lives a long way away but fortunately we have a great phone relationship, punctuated by occasional face to face visits-all too far apart. Although she knows me very well she never takes advantage of my weak spots and also never gives false praise but occasionally says things like this: “Ps. love the drawing of Kyri, even if it wasn’t a portrait of a much loved it just has that essence of young boy.”(See Fig. Post ) I could probably tell her anything.

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies.” Woody Allen

So this week Sarah and I met in London and found: some Rembrandts, a couple of Van Gogh’s a Manet and a Monet, all old friends-but re-visited, re-evaluated and re-instated, just like our friendship. We ended up speaking in hushed whispers in the hallowed halls of the Tate Modern with another old friend, Rothko. Seen through another lens now but just as dear to me.

“Go often to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Coming soon, actual watercolour.